Tag Archives: lockdown

Where we are now.

Could not find a direct source – this is the 24 mile bridge crossing Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana We have a long way to go..

Late last year, a nasty bundle of RNA began to invade the people of Hubei province. It was a swift and deadly invasion and the authorities responded with a resolute desire to contain the outbreak as quickly as possible. This is the lesson of history as each time we are faced with a virulent host we find time and control is of the essence; regardless of where or why the invasion began. The 1918 influenza, Ebola, Swine flu, SARS, MERS, all had different places of origin on our globe, different paths to becoming transmittable between humans. Yet the answer was the same–buy time until researchers can get solid science to deal with the invader. Or, you could just let a lot of people die.

If we are to beat this newest tiny monster, there are some actions we need to take. Actions that are working elsewhere and which we, in all our individualistic, me-me society, need to get a grasp on. First, a few facts. No, the media is not inflating the numbers, if anything the numbers are under reported. We do not have the materials, lab capacity, and healthcare professionals to do the testing required to truly know the scope of the pandemic in the United States. And that was our first mistake. As of now we are aware of seven strains of COVID-19. Four are relatively mild, three are deadly. Effective testing means we must be able to differentiate between the strains, especially when there is reinfection, or reemergence.

Yes, isolation has “flattened the curve” and although there are places in the country (such as New York) where the cases are still rising and health care workers and first responders are at their limits, there is also evidence that we are beginning to bring the infection rate down. That does not mean we can all rush out and do a group hug. If, however, we are to be successful in an attempt to restart life with some amount of success (news flash, things will not be “normal” for a very long time), then we need to find effective ways to accomplish three things: test (as noted above), track, and treat.

Some of the states are already forming coalitions and coops to accomplish goal number one: getting enough supplies, materials, and equipped labs to test every single person and to do so more than once using reliable protocols. Say, on a periodic basis, or after or before a possible vector encounter. Testing is how other countries were able to hop onto outbreaks quickly and effectively. Our country never really bothered to get started, and as of this date the United States is reporting 29% of confirmed cases worldwide, and 22% of the fatalities. COVID-19 hides. Even if you don’t have so much as a sniffle or a slightly elevated fever, you could be carrying the virus and be fully contagious. This is one of the reasons this beast is so difficult to control. You don’t know you are risking others (hoping, here, that you care).

Tracking means that when we know someone is infected, we find out where they’ve been and who may have been exposed. This is a critical step for the same reasons given for testing. You don’t always KNOW you have this virus. Depending on which strain you have and the health profile of the persons you interact with, any number of levels of severity can result from your casual need to, say, visit the beach.

Treatment is an issue that labs around the world are working on. Even if we can’t kill this thing (yet) we may be able to find palliative ways to reduce the impacts of the virus. The earlier such treatments can be started, the better the chance of survival. Such treatments could also reduce residual complications. Survivors are showing evidence of damage to the lungs, heart, kidneys, and liver. These problems can mean a lifetime of health care which may or may not be covered by insurance. Another financial bomb on families already stressed from loss of income and a possible drain on any economic recovery.

These three things can buy us time to develop a safe and effective vaccine. Something that will protect us from this family of viruses. I won’t go into any arguments about vaccines on this blog. I can tell you I grew up in a time when measles could be deadly, when polio could kill on infection or years later, when scarlet fever could damage a heart for life. If we do the right things to give the researchers the time they need, any vaccine developed will be tested for safety, side effects, effectiveness, and dosage. The published target is 18 months. The fastest we have ever developed a vaccine was for the mumps and it took four years. The good thing is that the best labs in the world are collaborating on this effort. Such an effort is historical in scope. No, we can’t all stay on lock down for four years, people would starve, and things would get really ugly. That is why the three points mentioned above are so crucial: test, track, treat.

This means that you should support your local governments in the formation of plans that make sense and protect lives. Some industries (such as folks that work outside and have little contact with others) could restart, offices could further develop remote work models, healthcare can rely more on telehealth and telemedicine. Rather than trying to cram as many bodies in one space as possible, we can learn to spread out, wear masks, wash hands, be aware of fevers and coughs. We need to look seriously at payrates, sick leave, and employee protections. People need the option to go home when they are ill. Things will not “return to normal” in a month. We must find a new way to grow and sustain our economy. For that we need leadership.

This is part one of my COVID-19 outreach. Both are long winded but weeks of watching this catastrophe build has driven me to state, and stand by, a position. Maybe this virus started in a lab, maybe not. The only thing origin gives us now is more knowledge which may speed up a response. Beating up on a Chinese neighbor is not going to stop the pandemic. Wishing the disease on the people you feel responsible (or irresponsible) will not stop the pandemic. What will conquer this tiny foe is cooperation, compassion, mutual support. We can build a new society, one that is healthy and economically sound. But it will take us all. Every one of us.

 

 

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Filed under Humanties for the Unbound Mind, Natural Sciences from the Observation Deck, Personal Journeys

Lock-down.

Here in Washington State I woke up this morning to lock-down. All nonessential businesses are ordered to close. If necessary, they have 48-hours to get things in order. That means I have a non-producing client for the duration. Doesn’t mean I won’t get the work done, but, well, we all have some sacrifices to make.

Photo by Luke Insoll on Unsplash

Update on worldwide numbers this morning is showing the US in a solid third place just now with 46,158 confirmed cases and 583 fatalities. At this point only 35 are confirmed recovered. I know China said they were good, but the reports are showing an increase of 1.78 percent in the last 24 hours. We are far from done with this — and yet we still don’t get it.

I am one of the lucky ones. My day job is connected to an essential service and I can work from home. We have spent the last two weeks planning so that everyone that can be remote is and those who have contact with our clients can do so through phone connections. I am proud to be part of such a team. And I am greatly blessed.

I hear, though, that there are those who think that our economy is more important than our lives. That, perhaps, we can sacrifice those in our population who are old, have underlying conditions, or too poor to keep the engines of industry running without risking their health. That the 40% of Americans who are living paycheck to paycheck just don’t count enough to protect or support. After all, there’s always more where they came from, right? A fresh supply sits crammed in camps and detention centers on either side of our southern border.

There are several problems with that plan. You can’t control a virus by age group, socio-economic status, color of skin, or (obviously) nationality. The numbers coming out of California show a bubble in the 18-65 age group. No matter how good our models are, we can’t always predict the direction of a disease; especially one that can mutate in order to do what it does best – infect. Even those who flit about in the stratosphere of our society are testing positive.

Also, the United States, against any internal delusions to the contrary, is not an island. A search for photos for this blog ended in a barrage of photos of major cities around the world that were filled with deserted streets. There is no “business as usual” just now, so wake up from that dream and deal with reality as we find it.

I have grown weary of the mantra that flu kills tens of thousands of people a year, why are we so upset over this? First, those tens of thousands are people, not statistics. People who mean something to someone. In 2015 one of those statistics was my husband, those numbers represent real losses. Nor does anyone understand the full extent of the economic impact of flu season as workers show up to work because they have no choice if they want to pay their bills, eat, and have shelter. When they show up at work, several other folks get sick, and the cost in productivity, health, and financial stress on the economy continues. The fatality rate of the common flu is .01%. So far COVID-19 is scoring higher than 4%. You don’t have to know math to figure out that is a big difference.

Let’s take an example. During the 2018-2019 season the CDC classified the impact as high severity. From the CDC:

CDC estimates that the burden of illness during the 2018–2019 season included an estimated 35.5 million people getting sick with influenza, 16.5 million people going to a health care provider for their illness, 490,600 hospitalizations, and 34,200 deaths from influenza [Table 1]. The number of influenza-associated illnesses that occurred last season was similar to the estimated number of influenza-associated illnesses during the 2012–2013 influenza season when an estimated 34 million people had symptomatic influenza illness.

So, high severity season and there was a fatality rate of .0963% (34,200/34,500,000). These numbers are for the US only. Let’s convert that to COVID-19 math. 34,500,000 people infected X 4% fatality rate is 1, 380, 000 people. That is a lot of living, breathing souls, most of whom will never see a medical professional or receive care of any kind either because there is none available to them or because our health care system is in triage mode; Italy has been there for days. An article published by the AMA on March 19th makes it clear that protocols are already being developed in expectation of limited resources. Protocols that might mean someone you care about does not get a ventilator or even a hospital bed.

Granted, these are broad, back of the envelope, numbers which are impacted by a myriad of influences depending on local or regional health care systems, access to basic needs, underlying health conditions, and duration. Even yet-to-be-quantified elements such as how fast this particular brand of bug can mutate to protect its survival and continue to infect. They are, however, an illustration of how incomprehensibly naive our society is about containing this under “business as usual” scenarios.

Have we become so brazen, so uncaring that we really don’t care about the repercussions of our actions? What changes in your life style are you willing to make once the people who serve you at the drive through, pick up your garbage, help you at the store, the bank, the wherever there are folks stumbling along on a minimum wage with no benefits, are no longer there? Was your trip to the beach worth infecting the next person you met at the grocery store who may be taking care of an elderly relative at home? Really? By the way, have you thanked the people who are still out there delivering, cashiering, making life tolerable for you at the risk of their own health?

I have written a book about my hero, Job. It is currently in the process of being published, although I’m not sure how the current situation will impact the release date. I’m not sure even my publisher can know. Then, of course, having a book out is nice only if folks can get one. As of now even Amazon is focused on essential supplies and book delivery dates can be as much as two months out. I’m now looking for other ways to get those ideas out into the world. My firm conviction is that we are called, whatever our faith or ethics, to help each other. To become informed and to act in responsible, compassionate ways.

You do not need an advanced degree in biochemistry to understand pandemics. You do need to kick conspiracy theories and “hunches” out the door. You do not need an advanced degree in economics to understand there are people hurting and you – yes you – may be one of those that can help. You may feel protected in your faith. You may feel like the end is near and you have a front row seat. You may be one of those who think a lock-down is a great excuse to do the spring break gig you never had in college (or had too much of). I am here to tell you that whatever your vision of yourself, you are not being brave. You are not being smart. I suppose if the only people affected would be those who chose hubris, willful ignorance, or selfishness I might be willing to shrug and walk away. Might. But, I can’t. I still must try to get people to think through their actions and how those actions impact themselves and others.

Please, find the sources that know what they are doing. If you have a medical question, seek out the medical profession. There are any number of places that have solid, actionable information regarding this current crisis. Check out the CDC, NIH, and WHO. Your state or local health organizations have information on what to do and where to go (or not) if you think you have a problem. Many states are already gearing up to support small businesses and hourly employees. Be informed and act accordingly.

And above all, see what you can do to help. If you are one of the privileged that still has cash flow and a reasonable assurance it will continue, then find ways to help your community. Pay your barber, hairdresser, or any personal service provider what you normally budget for that service. Support local restaurants that are providing take out or delivery. Add a bit to your utility bill or donate to the charity pool so that others can keep the lights on. Keep after your representatives to make sure they make the right decisions to protect us as a people and a nation. If they lose a sense of priorities (as so many have) – then they need to move on.

Most of all, keep your heart safe. Do not allow the urgency of the situation drive you to distraction and cause you to hoard or jump on every rumor. Be safe.

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Filed under Giving Back, Humanties for the Unbound Mind, My Journey with Job, Personal Journeys