After Dorothy's house kills the Wicked Witch of the East liberating the Munchkins Dorothy soon realizes that her journey has only just begun. She'll encounter many obstacles and uncertainties before finding her way back to normalcy. So it may go with our initial success in suppressing the Corona Virus--Covid-19. As we venture out we're finding that the Corona Virus is resilient and entrenched and is forcing some of the public access we worked so hard to gain to shut down again. Dr. Fauci, America's Director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases warned, on June 30, 2020, that we are not in control of Covid-19 yet but he expressed hope that we still have time to avoid a greater public health disaster. This isn't just an American problem other countries are struggling as well though several have found their way to virus suppression. It's possible. That path involves widespread mask wearing, national contract tracing programs and sufficient testing. America is still far off that goal* and cautiously walking the long yellow brick road to safety.
Listen, readers, as we follow the yellow brick road please try not to fall asleep, as Dorothy does, in the dangerous field of poppies. After staying at home and practicing vigilant hygiene, it's easy to let down your guard. If you or someone you live with is over 65 or dealing with underlying medical issues such as: diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure your risk is still high. Please, stay alert to the dangers and protect yourself and consider staying home from large gatherings. Exercise great caution if you live in a state with high positive tests. We hear that up to 80% of the people that get Covid-19 don't have a severe case and may think the numbers are on our side. However, we now know that among that 80% are many people who are asymptomatic carriers--they display NO symptoms as they interact with us. Alarmingly 8 out of 10 people that do not survive the virus are over the age of 65.
Risks for the over 65+ cohort aren't just related to getting the virus either! Circumstances caused by Covid also put us at risk. Some are delaying necessary medical visits or are forced to postpone elective surgeries. Runs on drugs and staples are creating hardships for those among us who are least able to compete for goods. "Senior shopping hours" address product availability by giving people over 60 first come first serve advantages yet many of those events are crowded and require extra caution. Some are retiring earlier than planned because of health concerns or lost revenue. Others may remain unemployed for months. Medicare Corona virus Fraud scammers are duping us into exposing our Medicare numbers. And how about loneliness? Covid-19 isolation can cause multiple health and mental health conditions. High blood pressure, heart trouble, inflammation, increased hospitalizations, stress, and depression are a few conditions originated or aggravated by loneliness in advanced age. We must take this health crisis seriously. We can get through it by working together to stop the spread and remaining vigilant.
Dorothy traveled with the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion. Each of them were lacking something essential but they gave her a sense of protection. So it goes for us. Using a mask, hand sanitizer, washing hands for 20 seconds or more with soap and warm water, and social distancing are the basic tools for keeping safe yet none of these are a guarantee. There are no shots or drugs that prevent or cure the virus though some drugs appear to aid recovery from severe cases. Make sure your hand sanitizer has either 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol alcohol so it's effective against Covid 19 and beware toxic sanitizers on the market. Stay 6 feet away from others with special attention to distancing yourself from people without a mask. Use these precautions with your family and friends especially if you or they have an underlying health condition or are over 80. A bandana or scarf may be better than going out of your house or apartment with nothing but you can upgrade your protection by using a mask with a filter. Masks with several layers of thickness may be the most protective but mask wearing is primarily preventing the spread rather than ensuring your safety. Surgeon General, Jerome Adams, says a mask adds to, "...your freedom because it allows us to open up more places, and it allows those places to stay open." Holding up his mask he told The Today show, "This mask, this face covering, is actually an instrument of freedom for Americans if we all use it."
New to wearing a mask? Masks can be purchased online at Etsy and through many other companies. A Google search for masks should give you all the resources you need. Read the reviews on masks for info on fit, comfort, and actual length of time from shop to ship. Now is the time to buy a mask as the spiking numbers of cases in the U.S. and mandatory mask laws in some states could create shortages. Wash your mask EVERY time you use it and try to avoid touching the mask while you wear it because it's a surface that collects viral droplets. Position your mask so it covers both your nose and mouth. Take it on and off by the straps.
Before Dorothy arrives at the Wizard of Oz she's captured by terrifying flying monkeys unleashed from the castle of the Wicked Witch of the West. Likewise if you're attacked by symptoms and think Covid has captured you-- call your doctor within 24 hours. Don't wait. Covid is a grueling way to go so I encourage everyone to take full precautions and seek treatment for suspected symptoms. If your doctor recommends testing please call your insurer or your testing center to learn what cost you'll bear. Tests can vary considerably in their price. In addition to causing difficulty breathing those who survive Covid-19 may struggle with medical expense, disturbing delirium during the course of their illness, and extended recovery time. Doctors are also increasingly worried that Covid damages the brain thereby impacting neurological health and every major organ in the body. Survivors of Covid may live with permanent lung damage, chronic fatigue, advancing dementia and lingering symptoms.
When Dorothy finally reaches The Wizard of Oz he is ultimately ineffective. "I can't come back. I don't know how it works," he says while floating away in a balloon gondola that Dorothy thought would take her home. Similarly, the lack of a coordinated national program for testing and contract tracing means states are variously protective of their residents and more or less effective. Each state has to design and fund a plan to cope with Covid. There's no one system and no significant national collaboration to end the virus. Consequently it's our individual responsibility to make safe, cautious decisions that protect our health and benefit our community. As the Surgeon General says in the video below, "Covid stops with us."
Corona Virus/Covid-19 is very real. There's no "click your heels three times" process to deliver us out of this nightmare. Yet we will eventually return to a new normal. At 65+ we're at highest risk for catching Covid and dying from it. By keeping in touch with family and friends we can support our mental health and by using masks, hand washing and social distance we do the best we can to stay healthy. May we all wake up one day soon as relieved as Dorothy was knowing that these perilous days are behind us and sure that those we love are well.
* Wondering why America is far off the goal of getting back to normal? In response to Covid the U.S. disbanded/reorganized our Pandemic Response team months before the virus came ashore, our funding for the World Health Organization that heads an International effort to stop Covid was withdrawn at the height of infections. We wasted time fighting over whether or not Covid is a real threat or perhaps a Democratic hoax, we made mask wearing VOLUNTARY nationally, and we politicized mask wearing. Our top government vaccine expert was fired as Covid raged because he opposed promoting cures without scientific proof and both the CDC (Center for Disease Control) director and Dr Fauci came under attack by the President for contradicting him thus weakening their ability to guide a national Covid policy. We argued over who the national stockpile of ventilators belonged to, we were slow to start testing, still haven't rolled out enough tests, and do not regulate costs for the tests. Conflicting information throughout the crisis caused fear and anger responses that blurred our thinking. Lastly, the Federal Government left the states to fend for themselves creating multiple ways of fighting the virus, and, as some states are now making mask wearing mandatory, a faction of citizens are fighting the policy arguing individual rights. This month America leads the world in Corona virus cases.
Update July 2020
Scientists begin to be concerned that covid-19 is a disease with lingering cognitive impact.
Update Pew Research looks at opinions about coronavirus