Making Sense of COVID

 

With the current Corona virus pandemic, how do we be practical and pragmatic in our approach to living with it?

It probably  would be remiss of me to not touch on something that affects everyone right now, and that’s coronavirus (or SARS-CoV-2 if you must use it’s full name). Probably the only time in living memory I can honestly say that everyone I know, everyone I grew up with, every relative, every friend, every patient, that is alive today has had to deal with an onslaught of change, fear, information, and disruption like nothing else. For the first time in living memory, we are all in the same boat. I read a lot and boy has there been a lot of information on coronavirus out there. Here’s my distillation of what I think is important. I’m not a virologist, nor an epidemiologist, I’m not an expert economist (although I did pass that grade in my MBA!) but I a physician and trained as a scientist . I know how to look at data and how to look at the big picture.

This is probably the only time in history as we go through what we could all call a worldwide disaster that we are exposed to an overload of information updated by the minute. Lots of conflicting reports. It’s like watching every second of a football game and trying to predict the final score and result. We knew it is pretty contagious, it effects more older people than younger and mainly men. We also know young people can get it and you can die. This is not just a disease running through nursing homes and it’s a disease best avoided. The information gets confusing. Masks work. Masks don’t work. It stays sometimes for days on various surfaces. No it doesn’t… Chloroquine is bad. It’s good. It’s bad again.. You get my drift. The information goes to and fro.

The death toll in a short period of time has been spectacular- more than the Korean war, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. It’s been a real pandemic and in the US,  100,000 lives is a lot.

 

 

It is important to remember, as humans we all die, and every years millions of us die. The infographic below shows what the last few months have been like:

 

 

This has been a bad pandemic but NOT the worst:

 

 

Our responses to COVID really have dichotomized people’s responses into those who value individuality and those who are community minded. I’m in the latter group. No outcome was going to be good and there would always be a price to pay, whatever we did. As healthcare workers we were more exposed than the general public:

 

 

Below are the key takeaways that I think are consistent.

 

1. Three Things to Do Today

It’s better to never get COVID than to get ‘immunity’. We don’t know how effective antibodies are and how long they last. Avoid it until it either peters out, or enough people get it that it cannot jump to you (herd immunity).

  1. Wash those hands. A lot. 20 seconds in warm water. Soap does wonders and try avoiding touching your face if you have contact with for example a gas station petrol pupm
  2. Wear a face mark. There are a lot out there. The analogy is if you and the person next to had no pants on, they could urinate on your leg. If you were pants, you get a little wet. If you both wear pants it protects you. I prefer masks with filters. You can buy them cheaply on places like Etsy and others . Their turnaround time is a few days. They sell filters that should be changed every week. You can also use HEPA filters from vacuum cleaners and cut those up. Buy a couple of masks. Leave the dirty mask in the sun for 6 hours to disinfect it. Wash masks when they get dirty. Filter change each week. Done. Oh- remember to wear it everywhere there are people. If you work in a high risk environment, the a UV-C sterilizer can clean your keys, glasses, watch etc when you get home for about 200 bucks.
  3. Socially distance. Keep going. 6 feet. Do it for the next 6 months.

 

2. Planning for Winter

This is coming back in winter. We got lucky it hit us at the end of Winter in March. Next winter may be a long one. We will have the cold back and this is probably where the virus thrives, the added flu burden and no heat to help us burn the virus

  1. Stock up a little. Wipes will be on the shelves in June. Don’t go toilet paper crazy
  2. Get your masks ready.
  3. Make sure your internet speed at home is ok. Kids get bored. More people are online.
  4. Don’t make travel plans yet.
  5. If you can’t get hand sanitizer, make your own.
  6. Make you own wipes

 

3. Things to be Grateful For

We have all slowed down this past few months and no one should discount the death and misery. A lot of jobs were lost. A lot of loved ones died.

Here’s what we can be thankful for:

  1. Pollution is at  an all time record low (well, modern industrial time). The world needed a break.
  2. We got more family time
  3. Some of us learned to cook better at home
  4. Our kids got to experience our childhood. Home most days. Make your own fun. Of course they have the internet and Netflix
  5. Teleconferencing and telehealth are here to stay
  6.  We may all work more at home, if possible
  7. We probably spent less money and saved more.

 

 

4. Something Out of Left Field

Copper. Yes copper.  I have read about copper as an antimicrobial in the past and revisited this. This got me thinking. Here is an interesting article on the effects of copper on COVID and the effects as an antimicrobial are profound. Epidemiological evidence suggests that copper workers resisted multiple plagues. There is something to it, it’s cheap and relatively accessible. I wear a $15 copper bracelet (on my ankle so it does not affect hand washing), have a copper drinking cup and copper key-shaped thing for ATMs and elevator buttons. What’s to lose?

 

5. Putting into Perspective

We all die. Every day that  we are alive is a blessing.

If, right now, you have a job and you don’t have COVID, you’re blessed.

We have a great summer ahead. This year may go down as a home year with less travel, more savings and less social activities but it’s good to be alive. Soon, we can add it to our list below. Be safe and community minded. Think of others. Think of those who may have lost jobs or loved ones. Work harder to be nice. We are all in this together. As a community we can do it. A mask and a little social distancing is not asking a lot.

In a few years we can “Monday morning quarterback” the pandemic, but for now be kind, safe, smart, grateful and communal.

 

6. Keep Smiling

 

Anyway, those are my opinions and thoughts, honest and unfiltered with some degree of authority or experience, call it what you will. Do you agree? Like? Dislike? If you have something to say I missed or agree/disagree, please feel free to comment and I will reply.

 

 

 

 

 

Author:

Lali Sekhon, MD, PhD, MBA| Father | Husband | Neurosurgeon| Hockey Fan | Innovator | Inventor | Educator | ΒΓΣ | Health Care Leader | I'm a neurosurgeon (MD, PhD, MBA, FRACS, FACS) who has been a physician for over 30 years. I'm also a tech junkie and a cynical optimist. Having completed a medical degree, a PhD and an MBA, I can give you an honest opinion on anything related to medicine and health care with tips and reviews and commentaries. Some of the topics are related, others, somewhat related, but all for the layperson: honest, simple and practical. It's not brain surgery!

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