Fasten Your Seat Belt …


That's the idiom we use when we are in for a bumpy ride.  It makes me think of the old joke that can be used for any profession or grouping: "When the lawyer (banker, gardener, dentist, chef, teacher or nurse) finds out that most car accidents happen within 1 mile of home…they move."

I don't know how that is connected to any of this.  I was desperate for a little joke, a shred of levity, and something (anything!) that doesn't have COVID-19 or Delta Variant in the sentence.

Some news regarding the virus remains roughly the same, and some changes daily or even more often.  It's exhausting, and quite frankly, we're sick of it. Every time we turn around, we hear more about COVID: not enough vaccinations for the planet, the booster, the variant, increasing cases, and changing demographics.  What hasn't changed is that the virus continues to infect, continues to cause acute illness and hospitalization, and is still taking lives.

COVID-fatigue is real.

As a culture, we do pretty well in crises.  After big New England blizzards, big coastal storms, power outages, and other assorted disasters, we band together.  We aren't exactly as friendly as the Midwest, but we can pull it off in a pinch. Admittedly though, our friendliness is time limited.  After three or four days of shoveling out foot after foot of snow, the neighborhood banter turns to a growl.

We are weary.

As the old saying goes, "after three days, fish and company begin to smell."  We are well into our three hundred thousandth day of COVID.  I remember when the word "epidemic" was terrifying.  "Pandemic" seemed to be something from an apocalyptic horror novel.  Many of us are experiencing COVID burnout.  Unfortunately, we are also a culture of a very short attention span.

We reveal our NOW orientation when we're impatient in the drive-up line, beep at the first glimpse of a green traffic light in the event the car in front doesn't take off at warp speed, or when we demand faster service at an ice cream shop (that requires the owner to post, "Be nice to the workers or get your ice cream elsewhere").  We want things fast, accurate, and cheaply.

The "law of threes" tells us we can have it two of three ways:

Fast, accurate, and expensive;

Accurate, cheap, and slow; or

Fast, cheap, and inaccurate.

In the time of COVID, we want all three ways.  We need all three.

Most of us do not work in the pharmaceutical industry, CDC, or Congress.  This, of course, limits the personal power we have to effect changes in the way COVID is managed or the restrictions in place on Main Street.  So we are, in a way, at the mercy of the decision-makers.

For me, keeping up with the scientific evolution and lifestyle response has been very challenging.  Our management and treatment of COVID-19 evolves and changes as the critical research continues.  Mask, no mask, hydroxychloroquine, antivirals, convalescent plasma, corticosteroids, interleukin, monoclonal antibodies, anti-coagulant, or kinase inhibitors… What's the truth one day is outdated information the next. It's a head spinner, even for us in the medical world, let alone those who are not.

We want something to believe in.

We want facts.  Many people who are not in the "wide world" of healthcare sometimes don't realize that the field of medicine is largely trial and error.  True, we have the sciences of hematology and microbiology, for example, that give us definite results and helps navigate highly accurate treatments for identified illnesses.  However, for brand new bugs (aka SARS-CoV-2 and its descendants), we are starting from scratch.  It's like relying on a brand-new fire truck at a 10-alarm inner-city blaze.  A heck of a time to be trying something new.

I have no pithy suggestions about managing anxiety and worry, the real-life plans like flying kids to college, sending children back to school, going to a concert or show, or daily life.  What I have to rely on is that I know that my mask is my best defense.  So, I wear my KN95 mask for most things and my N95 respirator mask when I am more concerned.

Sadly, I'm looking to the Fall and realizing there are social engagements and plans I will have to undo.  Admittedly, I do not claim any special knowledge of the vaccine's inner workings other than that I have chosen vaccination and encourage it for all. But I wonder if the turtle's head is retreating and fear we will be too.

It might happen quickly, even though the numbers are not staggering right now. Reminded of the skills I learned in 2020, as much as I had thought it was a lesson learned and cataloged, you have learned those coping / life management skills just like me.  The wisdom will be in knowing when and how to implement these interventions.  I will air on the side of caution and continue to use my developed skill of staying calm during this unprecedented time of Global Health Crisis.  Yikes.  Wish me luck.

hydroxychloroquine, antibodies, pharmaceutical industry