Without a universally accepted voice of reason and rationality guiding our way, pretty much everyone has become a Public Health Expert. Everyone “knows” the truth and what is going on concerning COVID-19 and their “informed opinion” invalidates yours. Especially if your info, no matter the source, contradicts theirs.
In this time when we need clarity, communication and leadership, the question, “is it safe to come out?” is a legitimate one. The uncertain answer to that is bringing much anxiety to all given that there may indeed be a true killer lurking around every corner. Of course, we must “re-open” our economy, our business and our lives, but HOW should it best be done? What each of us do as individuals to keep ourselves, our family and society safe?
It is hard to find factual information concerning this. This is partly due to the unprecedented nature of this crisis. The other is that our national leaders have been responsible for sending politically loaded mixed messages that further worsen our fear and anxiety. We are on a ship with no one at the helm. Couple that with the divisive misinformation being advanced via social media and fringe “news” sources, it is not surprising that so many are so confused.
Interestingly, what we do know about the pandemic has not changed. We remain vulnerable to a lethal form of virus that continues to spread across the globe. The virus is not racist. It does not practice politicism, or is of any other persuasion. It is a virus, an infective agent that typically consists of a nucleic acid molecule in a protein coat, and is able to multiply only within the living cells of a host, and it will infect any human it can to continue its’ survival.
Many argue over its “lethality” but that is not the main issue. This virus is particularly “catching.” So many more people will get it than say, the often-cited flu. However, unlike the flu and any other previous virus, once caught, it may manifest in different ways in different people. In fact, many who contract it will never develop an illness.
However, these people will still be carriers of this potentially deadly pathogen. For others it can cause acute health issues that may lead to permanent damage of the respiratory system. For those with pre-existing health concerns it is particularly frightening. Though many discredit the numbers, this virus and the disease cause by it (COVID-19), is potentially lethal. it will cause death, after an agonizing battle, for even healthy individuals.
Another accepted fact is that the simplest way to be exposed to it is by gathering in close proximity in large groups. Groups of over 10-people being the defining number. Current social-distancing protocols such as washing hands, not touching our face, and keeping a health distance (6-feet or more) are the only known actions that help us REDUCE the rate of infection. It will NOT stop it. The simple reality is that until a vaccine is developed, we will be cohabitating with this virus, as we do with so many others, for some time to come. Therefore, it is incumbent on each of us to take precautions moving forward.
The Politics Of Wearing A Mask
One simple, yet controversial preventative, is wearing a mask. Wearing a mask will not stop one from inhaling the virus. The particles are too small and will penetrate all but the most high-tech of respirators. The main reason to wear a mask is to protect others from infection. Especially, if you indeed have COVD-19 and do not know it. There are asymptomatic carriers of this virus. People who never get sick, but who do, unwittingly, spread the disease to others.
Unfortunately, this seemingly simple precaution has been politicized. If you wear one, you are “brain washed” and being controlled by a nefarious state. If you do not, then you are exercising your Constitutional rights and a patriot.
“It is extremely important to understand that viruses cannot be politically defied. They don’t have the ability to choose who they infect. One cannot reason with it, shoot it with a gun, shame it publicly or scare with political ads.”
One can almost predict political tendencies by observing who is, and who is not, wearing a mask. It is extremely important to understand that viruses cannot be politically defied. They don’t have the ability to choose who they infect. One cannot reason with it, shoot it with a gun, shame it publicly or scare with political ads. The virus does not care about anything, it is not capable of caring. It just does what it needs to do to replicate and survive.
Republican or Democrat, black or white, rich or poor, if you are a human being, you are susceptible. If you find yourself becoming angry at the virus, politicians, professionals, celebrities, etc., this is only a projection of our own insecurities and fears.
Though a form of venting can be a healthy thing, ventilation of anger by projecting your angst onto other people is not. This tends to translate into worsening of communication and problem solving. Such behavior increases separation and decreases cooperation. The latter being the single most important asset in our fight against this threat.
It has been an accepted legal concept that, in complete application of the First Amendment (Freedom of Speech), it would not be illegal to yell “fire” in a crowded theater. However, common sense, morality and concern for the safety others compels us not to.
One could apply this concept to wearing a mask. Though one has the “right” not to wear a mask, human decency tells us that none of us has the “right” to infect other people. To reiterate: we do not wear a mask to protect ourselves. We wear a mask to protect others. So, understand the “why” of mask wearing before you make a personal decision to wear one or not.
Since many locations are pushing to re-open earlier than the CDC recommends, it would behoove us as a community to protect ourselves and others. Venturing out of personal lockdown is not a decision of the government, politicians, or economists.
It is an individual risk management decision. How you behave and the measures you take while “out” could have serious effects. The decision should be addressed like any risk management decision. It should be based on the known facts and available data. Most of my clinical co-workers and physicians still look to the CDC for this vital information. And, yes, we all wear masks.
One of my professional roles is as a Medical Director of a Psychiatric Hospital. I treat many suicidal patients, often children. Parents will ask me if their child is going to kill him or herself after they leave the hospital. The short answer is “I don’t know” because I cannot predict the future. However, I can tell them that their child is at-risk of dying by suicide based on what we know about their illness and pre-existing risk factors.
Therefore, we always recommend a take-home plan that addresses all those realities to reduce the possibility of suicide. We can say the same about someone who has had any critical health issue such as a heart attack, a stroke or kidney failure, etc. What plan we have to reduce the risk over time?
We, as individuals must use the known facts to develop our own family and personal risk management plan for this health emergency. Each of us need to take precautions based on our personal risk factors as well as those of the people with whom we work and live. If a person chooses to wear a mask, great. It they do not, they may be risking others. However, that is their choice. However, the rest of us need to address that we may then interact with those recalcitrant individuals.
What we do will also change as the pandemic continues. Our personal plans must evolve as new data arrives and as we individually are placed in areas of greater risk such as at work, going to a health care provider, and as we begin to socialize once again.
A mask is a personal choice for personal protection and the protection of others. Try not to judge or ridicule. Instead, strive to understand and accept their decision as they should yours. Whether one chooses to wear a mask or not, we are still on in this together.
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