Posts Tagged ‘COVID-19’

Beating the Pandemic

September 21, 2020

Covid-19 has upended our lives and our society. It’s a pandemic that has affected people all over the world. I’ve heard many conspiracy theories about it. At times, it seems like more of a political issue than a health issue. I definitely feel that it could have been handled better. I believe that our attempts to contain the coronavirus have actually prolonged the pandemic. Consider the following equation:

E(V)-I=R   (This is not an official equation. As a health professional, this is how I see it and I believe most other health professionals would agree with the basic concept of it. I don’t know how to assign actual numbers to it. It’s simply to demonstrate the relationship between these concepts.)

In other words, exposure times virulence (or severity/contagiousness) minus the level of immunity equals the risk of getting sick. If you look at whether and how much you’re exposed to an antigen (virus) and how contagious it is, it’s an indication of how likely you are to get sick from it. Covid-19 is apparently a very severe and contagious virus. That’s why government and health officials have been putting so much emphasis on minimizing exposure through social distancing, wearing masks (another controversial issue), and so forth. However, there has been very little mention of the other part of the equation – that of immunity. Everyone is looking forward to a vaccine (yet another contested issue) to address the immunity issue. Even if you’re one of those who are anxiously awaiting it, it will take time to get the vaccine and get it distributed. Another possible solution that we’re looking forward to is called herd immunity. That’s when enough people in a community have sufficient immunity to a disease to make it unlikely that anyone will get sick from it and therefore spread it to others. Of course, we first have to build up immunity, which I don’t think is happening very much, which I will explain in a moment.

So, what’s wrong with focusing on limiting exposure? There a number of problems associated with focusing too much on exposure and not enough on immunity. First, we can never be perfect in preventing exposure. Some interaction is necessary. We need to eat, make a living, and so forth. When the pandemic first began and restrictions were being placed on social interaction, we thought it was going to be very short-term. I heard estimates from a few weeks to a few months. Now we’re several months into it with no end in sight. It’s like a wolf is at our door. So we retreated back into our home as we waited for the wolf to go away. Now it’s been so long that we’ve realized that the wolf isn’t going away. We’re at the point where we can no longer hide away in our house, even though it means facing the wolf. In this case, we can’t kill the wolf. So what’s left? We have to protect ourselves against the wolf. We have our own shield. It’s called immunity.

How do you build immunity? To create specific antibodies to a particular virus, it requires some degree of exposure. A vaccination is supposed to be a form of controlled exposure, which will then prompt your body to produce the appropriate antibodies. However, there are possible issues with vaccination, which I will not address here. For the most part, we build antibodies through simple, routine exposure. This creates a huge question for this coronavirus. Do we just go about our normal lives (without social distancing or masks) and hope that it doesn’t wipe us all out before we can build immunity? Government and health officials are obviously working to avoid that. It’s complicated. I believe that even the statistics that we’re getting are not reliable. From what I understand, it’s rare for an otherwise healthy person to die from COVID-19. People with serious health problems are definitely more at risk, but then that’s the case with any disease. The controversial question here is whether or not this coronavirus is the deadly killer disease that the media has made it out to be. Does it justify the fear that surrounds it? Perhaps not, although I can’t prove it. However, if we avoid exposure too much, we delay building specific immunity, which could prolong the pandemic.

Consider the simple hug. On the one hand, it’s the opposite of social distancing. Outside of coughing or sneezing in someone’s face, it could create one of the highest degrees of exposure. On the other hand, I believe that a hug can boost your immunity. Social distancing is isolating people and increasing stress. I believe that this is driving down immunity for many people. So, it’s not just that the immunity part of the equation is being largely ignored, but the efforts to minimize exposure may be actually hurting our immunity.

When the immunity is low, then when exposure is increased at all, the chances of getting sick go way up. In our area, now that the kids have returned to school and college classes are back in session, we’re seeing a huge increase in new positive cases of COVID-19. The knee-jerk reaction of many health and government officials is that we need to limit exposure more – that the social distancing and masks are not enough or that people aren’t following the guidelines. From their standpoint, to a certain extent, this may be true. However, when you look at it from the perspective that I’ve explained, I don’t think that this is the lack of social distancing, but rather the backlash of the social distancing that we’ve been doing. I believe that the social distancing, the fear, the general disruption of our lives and our economy have driven down our immunity. Without building our immunity, this wolf will never go away. I feel that the best approach is to get back to normal as soon as possible (the old normal, not the “new normal”).

I know that there are strong opinions about this both ways. If you’re pro-mask, pro-social distancing and so forth; if you’re convinced that this is a killer disease that requires every bit of avoidance that we can muster (no matter how long it takes or how much it affects our society), then I’m sure you will disagree with my position. I respect that. I would just like to ask you – have you stepped back, away from the fear, and examined the situation from both sides, or have you just taken the media’s word for everything? Think about it… That’s all I ask.

Coronavirus Controversy

April 26, 2020

CoronavirusCOVID-19. Have you heard anything about that lately? If you’re like me, you probably hear about that more than anything for the past several weeks. This coronavirus has changed life for the entire world. It’s getting more difficult to maintain patience as we wait for life to return to normal. Personally, my impatience is leading to great frustration, and I’m not even one of those whose life has been totally upended. I’ve been very blessed to keep my business going during this time when so many other businesses have been put on hold. Part of the frustration comes from the growing feeling that the extreme measures that we’ve been subjected to may not have even been appropriate. I’m not suggesting that COVID-19 is not a big deal and should have never been taken seriously. My heart goes out to those who have and are suffering from this horrible illness, and especially to those who have lost loved ones to it. This is not your standard, everyday flu bug. I hear estimates from twice as bad to ten times more deadly than normal influenza. Some see this as something very unique, while others see it as just as a particularly nasty strain in an ever-increasing list of viruses. Whichever the truth is, I believe that it’s time to return to normal life and that perhaps this massive disruption should have never occurred. There are two main reasons for this.

First, when all of these restrictions and social distancing came into play in early March, I don’t believe that we were at the forefront of the pandemic, but rather at the tail end of it. Here in Utah, I’ve been watching the statistics for COVID-19. Every day, they report more and more cases of the disease and usually a few more deaths. Sometimes it seems like the pandemic is getting worse, in spite of all of the social distancing. However, there’s one statistic that shows otherwise. That is the percentage of positive test results. That number is not increasing, but is starting to decrease. In fact, those numbers have been flat ever since they started tracking it. It’s been consistently around 5% of all tests for COVID-19 have come back positive. Now it’s down around 4%. This tells me that it’s not the disease that’s increasing, but rather the number of people getting tested. However, the most interesting part of these statistics is that the percentage has been basically flat all along. In a pandemic where the disease was actively and rapidly spreading, I would think that you would see the percentages going up significantly, at least at first. Then you would hopefully see the numbers start coming down as a benefit of all the social distancing that has been put in place. The fact that the numbers have always stayed flat suggests that perhaps the pandemic has been going on longer than we thought, and now, it’s pretty much endemic across the population. To me, that would explain the flat numbers. Therefore, the pandemic already occurred before any of the social distancing guidelines began. Perhaps we closed the barn door after the horse has already escaped, as the saying goes. So, if the damage has already been done, why are we going through this huge economic and social disruption? Many thousands of people die from the flu every year. However, that’s considered “normal”. We don’t shut down our entire society for it. Viruses will always be there. I suspect that newer, more deadly strains will come along from time to time. Where does it end? We can’t just all stay home all the time. For this current pandemic, I don’t believe it’s growing and spreading. It’s the awareness of COVID-19 that’s spreading. Before (when I believe that the pandemic started a few months ago), we didn’t know to test for it. People were getting sick and dying, but it would have been attributed to regular flu and pneumonia. Now, as more and more people are getting tested, the numbers keep rising. But if the disease has already infiltrated our society, you would expect to see more and more cases as time goes along, even though the percentage of positive tests aren’t increasing.

My other point is that, especially in light of my previous point, is that this may be one of those cases where the cure is worse than the disease (looking at the overall situation of our society, not the disease itself). The social and economic costs are too great. We need to work, to earn money, to interact socially, to do group activities, etc. Schools, churches, and many varieties of businesses are important parts of our culture. Our economy relies on people getting out and working – not only to provide for themselves and their families, but to produce goods and services to enable us to thrive. One thing that’s especially confusing is that during this health crisis, many forms of healthcare are virtually shut down. Most forms of elective healthcare, including surgeries, have been put on hold. I spoke to my podiatrist a few weeks ago and was told that he had cancelled or postponed 35 surgeries. People don’t have surgery for the fun of it. People need care. But it goes beyond that. What about the nurses, medical assistants, and all of the other healthcare workers that would be involved in those surgeries? And it’s not just their pocketbooks, but all of the other products and services that they would spend money on, thus continuing the flow of money in our economy. My daughter is a medical assistant. She’s on furlough because their clinic has cut back to only the most essential services, thus making it unnecessary to have as many workers there as usual. Again, people don’t go to the doctor for entertainment. All of the restrictions and press regarding this pandemic is creating more physical and emotional stress for people. One of the biggest deterrents to having a healthy immune system is stress. So where is the logic in reducing healthcare and creating more stress during a health crisis?

I’m very concerned about the long-term effects to our economy. People are going into debt, using their savings, and going without many goods and services. The government has stepped in to help – sending money to almost everyone and providing loans to businesses. What I don’t hear people asking about is where this money is coming from. Didn’t the United States already have a huge amount of debt? Did they just have trillions of dollars lying around that they didn’t know what to do with? I don’t think so. That money has to come from somewhere. It will need to be made up. They can print more money, but that lowers the value of the dollar. Doesn’t that lead to recession? There will be backlash. And all of this came about, not as a direct result of the virus, but because of our reaction to it.

Not all of the consequences of this social distancing have been negative. I’m sure many people have avoided getting sick (from all the viruses, not just COVID-19). People have become more aware of how not to pick up or spread pathogens. They have learned how to cope at home and prepare for emergencies. Some have learned more creative ways of caring for other people. And even if this whole exercise in social distancing was an unnecessary mistake, we don’t need to expend a lot of energy pointing fingers and finding blame. However, I believe the time has come to return to normal life. What about spreading infection and causing the pandemic to flare up again? If the coronavirus has already spread through the population, as I suspect it mostly has, it won’t change the pandemic very much to return to normal life and interactions. Let’s get back to normal now!