Posts Tagged ‘Pandemic’

Pandemic of Contention

March 21, 2021

If you haven’t already read my last blog entry, “The Partial Illusion of Free Will”, please go back and read it now. It lays the foundation for what I’m writing about today. I’ve been dealing with a lot of people who are very stressed out. There is a lot of conflict in the world. There always has been, but we have new issues that we’re not used to dealing with and don’t know quite how to handle. I’m seeing a lot of discord and contention between groups of people. There are always lots of issues to disagree with, but there are two categories of issues that are currently at the forefront that I wish to discuss. This isn’t so much about the issues themselves but more about the contention itself. These two categories are health and politics. I am not neutral in these areas. I have some passionate feelings about both of them. However, the purpose of this writing is not to convince you of my way of thinking. I will do my best to set aside my feelings and look at the overall problems objectively.

Politically, in the United States, we have a wide division between liberals and conservatives. People have always leaned one way or the other, but we mostly got along with each other. Today, especially leading up to and right after the last presidential election, I see huge amounts of bad feelings on both sides of the aisle. I read comments from both groups about how horrible and illogical the people in the other group are. It can be difficult to understand why people even think the way that they do. That’s why I suggested reading my previous article before this one. Even if we try to be compassionate and understanding, which not all people do, we cannot see the world through another person’s eyes.

Let’s look at a simple example. I’ve always wondered why foods that I find very tasty some people can’t stand, and vice versa. Why do I have a favorite color and you have a different favorite color? What I’ve wondered about a great deal is whether or not my experiences are the same as yours. Our eyes pick up a certain frequency and we’re taught that it’s orange, for example. Am I seeing exactly the same color that you’re seeing when you look at the color orange? Does catsup taste the same in your mouth as it does in mine? We can’t know what that experience is unless we are somehow able to occupy another person’s body and brain.

What does that have to do with politics and health issues? Every person experiences the world in their own way. This characterizes their viewpoints and causes them to react to situations in their own unique ways. When we see or hear something that is in alignment with our view of the world, we tune into it and are drawn toward it. Sometimes that even makes us oblivious to other information that does not conform to our reality. People like to claim to be objective, to weigh both sides and draw a logical conclusion from the facts at hand. I say that’s rare, if not impossible. Everyone naturally tunes into data that fit their viewpoints and understanding and naturally tunes out information that doesn’t fit. As we progress through life, our stances on politics, morals and other values become more solidified as we selectively gather more and more information that fits our reality.

In our current society, opinions on politics and health have become very intertwined. As I talk with other people about hot topics related to the pandemic, I have quickly realized that it’s not so much about health facts as it is about political persuasion. Liberals tend to look at our healthcare policies and how the pandemic has been handled one way, while conservatives tend to look at it in a very different way. The basic facts are the same, the pandemic is the same, and yet people see it very differently. I realize that it’s not all black and white and that there is some crossover, but I have seen very definite divisions along these lines. Both sides seem to have plenty of information to support their viewpoints, but there doesn’t seem to be any definitive proof for either side, though emotions can make it seem like there is no question of the validity of one’s opinions.

So, what is my purpose in all of this? I am calling for compassion and understanding, and most of all, mutual respect. Differing opinions can be so loudly pronounced that it seems at times that we’re on the verge of another civil war. To get down to the nitty gritty, mask wearers should not come down on people who don’t believe in wearing masks. Those who don’t believe in wearing masks should not ridicule those who choose to wear them or refuse to follow mask policies in businesses that require them. Anti-vaxers should not ridicule those who believe in getting the vaccine. Those who are in favor of the vaccinations should not come down on or mandate vaccinations for those who don’t believe that the vaccinations are necessary or healthy. I realize that there are many people who feel that the only way out of this pandemic is to get everyone vaccinated and to make sure everyone keeps wearing masks and practicing social distancing until the pandemic is completely under control. No matter how strongly people feel about this and how much scientific evidence they believe exists to support this belief, it’s still only an opinion, not a proven fact.

Again, my purpose here is not to show which approach is right and which is wrong. All I’m saying is that neither group is evil or stupid. The contention and division in our society could become more damaging than the pandemic itself. You don’t have to agree with someone else’s viewpoint to treat them with respect and courtesy. We just have to understand that we all see things our own way. If you see things differently than I do, that doesn’t make you wrong. It only makes you human.

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.