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Friday, July 17, 2020

COVID-19, July 2020

So here we are, several months after the start of the pandemic, and where do we find ourselves?  There is far better and insightful stuff written on this topic, so I'm probably not going to add much to the conversation.  That noted I'm going to try.  Here are two things that are pinging around in my head related to these days we all find ourselves in:
  • The Politicization of a Pandemic
  • How COVID-19 is harming mental health
On to the stuff.


My intent is not to make this an overly political posting...there will be time for that as we get closer to November...but one basic fact strikes me about the current administration's approach to the pandemic:  They treat it primarily as a political, rather than a medical, problem.

Let that sink in and then ask yourself how many times the current administration has released commentary supposedly about the pandemic but which actually seemed more about things other than the health of Americans?  Yes, we all want a thriving economy.  Yes, we all understand that unemployment creates a tremendous amount of stress for folks (I can personally testify to that fact).  Yes, kids learn best actually in school, and I mourn for those kids who need extra help in school but will likely not get it because of COVID-19.  But consider, for example, that it was only a few days ago from the writing of this posting when the president was publicly shown wearing a mask (thank God, as he was at Walter Reed Medical Center).  Couple that with the legion of comments he has made over the past few months about how the pandemic was going to disappear very soon and you get a distinct impression that actual fact-based medical concerns are not driving public policy.

No more is this self-evident than the president actually re-tweeting a one-time game-show host spewing conspiracy theories about COVID-19.  Not an epidemiologist.  Not a micro-biologist.  A game-show host.  You can link to that HERE, as I'm not going to give it any of my space.  Again, let that sink in:  The president is actually taking the word of a game-show host over that of medical and scientific experts at the Centers for Disease Control (reference HERE).

All of this is even more remarkable when you consider that the first non-politician president in a very long time is probably the most politically focused president in my lifetime. Nixon's obsessions about his re-election have nothing on this guy.

Lastly, the best example of the sum of these actions has been the refusal of some on religious and/or supposed freedom grounds to wear a mask while in an enclosed public place.  I've personally witnessed confrontations in stores about this very topic.  It takes all of my self-control to not walk up to someone not wearing a mask and ask them the last time they fought against the tyranny of having to wear a shirt or shoes while in a grocery store.  And that comes from someone, me, who has asthma.

Here's my sad prediction:  As long as White House decisions about COVID-19 continue to be driven by politics and political optics geared towards the president's "base", rather than the actual health of all Americans, we will continue to see cases roller-coaster across the country.

I was talking to my wife about how many obituaries there seem to be for younger people these days.  Maybe that's not supported by actual data, but it seems to be the case as I observe it.  That conversation then went down the road of how difficult these times can be for those who are already struggling with their mental health.  It's a kind of parallel health crisis track that doesn't seem to be getting much in the way of press.  Call us, as a culture, consistent though in that actually talking about mental health isn't something we do nearly enough of in this country.  The media, in particular, needs to elevate this conversation.

On a related note, as I was planning this posting, I had the opportunity to talk to an actual mental health professional the other day about this topic.  This person is an experienced, licensed clinical social worker.  One issue that they raised was the fact that with so many patients being "seen" via phone call appointments, mental health professionals miss out on a key data point, namely the facial expressions and body language of patients.  So now we have the under-care of mental health being exacerbated by the pandemic.  Make this reason number 987 why we need a decisive, national strategy to deal with COVID-19.

* * * * * *

Here's to hoping that a vaccine is ready by the end of the year.  Then we can start fighting the "anti-vac" crowd.

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