He organized a Zoom call with an ICU director in Wuhan and within a few hours, they had about 50 ICU pulmonary, critical care and infectious disease doctors joining.
“I like to be proactive,” said Ciment. “I reached out to Chinese hospitals, calling them up and saying, ‘What’s helping you, what are you doing?’ What I found out was that I don’t speak Chinese.”
But through English-speaking residents, Ciment found key information, including the severity of the disease, the potential risks of intubation, and what the treatment options were for what became known as COVID-19.
Among those listening to Ciment’s findings was a friend, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber.
“In February and March, he was telling us that we needed to prepare for a storm of infections,” said Gelber. “He was convinced, unquestionably, this was coming our way, and I took his advice.”
Ciment continued to communicate with Gelber as the pandemic progressed. As a result, Miami Beach was one of the first cities in South Florida to implement a mask mandate, set up testing sites, and later on, rent the deep-freeze freezers to store the vaccines.
“[Dr. Ari] has been absolutely awesome, not simply in his work as a clinician, but really in the community telling people what they need to be doing, promoting healthy practices, and really being a voice of informed reason,” Gelber said.
Ciment also has served on an advisory committee for the Hebrew Academy in Miami Beach, which goes from preschool to 12th grade, and taught the Orthodox Jewish Nurses Association about vaccines, protocols and medical ethics related to COVID-19.
At the start of the pandemic, members of his synagogue traveled to a convention in New Rochelle, N.Y., where he knew one of the first COVID-19 patients in the country had been. He also knew the group was coming back to attend Shabbat, the gathering that begins on sundown Friday to celebrate the Sabbath.
“Literally one minute before the Shabbat, I called the local rabbi and I said, ‘You got to do something; you got to shut down the synagogue because these guys are coming and they were exposed,’ ” he said.
The rabbi did not agree at first, but after Ciment went to his house to discuss it, he asked those who had been at the conference not to come to synagogue.
“Before anybody knew to shut down stuff you were ostracized,” he said. “Initially, you really had to be aggressive about your preventative measures, and with that came a lot of resistance, unfortunately. But actually, all those people that were critical, at some point came to me for advice about their family members who were hit by or struck by some form or manifestation of the disease.”