How We Handle Panic in this Pandemic

Cartoon by marshall ramsey

New Zealand Vs. the UK: How these Countries Measure up During COVID-19

It’s been almost a year since COVID-19 appeared and sent the world into mass chaos, but now that vaccines are rolling out, it almost seems like we’re out of the woods. In retrospect, it’s easy to critique how worldwide governments have handled the coronavirus from the beginning until now. It’s common knowledge that the United States was one of the worst countries to deal with the coronavirus, clocking in at around 31.4 million cases and about 563,000 deaths. But what might not be so common is the fact that countries like Taiwan, New Zealand, Iceland, and Singapore were some of the best countries to combat COVID-19, while the US, the UK, Brazil, and Mexico were the worst.

            Right now, life in New Zealand is mask-free and as normal as it can get with the coronavirus still running amok through the rest of the world. New Zealand sits at a total of 2,201 cases and a whopping 26 deaths from COVID-19. These numbers may be due to its smaller population size, but despite their numbers, we can still admire how New Zealand locked down hard after COVID cases started appearing in the country. Instead of just “flattening the curve,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern administered a “disease elimination” approach to the coronavirus by announcing a full national lockdown on March 26, 2020 after 102 cases were reported. By swiftly reporting COVID cases, imposing flight restrictions and locking down the country in the beginning of 2020, New Zealand managed to almost eliminate the curve and efficiently succeeded in bringing their country back from the brink of COVID chaos.

            On the other hand, the United Kingdom’s response to the coronavirus was less than stellar, with 4.36 million cases and around 126,955 deaths. COVID guidelines from the government were ambiguous at best, with the Prime Minister Boris Johnson encouraging citizens to go about their business as COVID cases in the UK were confirmed. Like New Zealand, the UK entered nation-wide lockdown around the same time on March 23, 2020, but unlike New Zealand, the UK had over 6,500 cases and 330 deaths at this time. Similar to the US in the early days of COVID-19, the UK struggled with overcapacity in hospitals, failed to lockdown in time to curb COVID, and didn’t establish an efficient COVID testing system early on.

            From a surface level, there’s not much different between the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Both European countries have universal health care and similarly structured governments. We can’t place the blame definitively on one thing or another, but we do know that the reaction of our world leaders and how our communities support each other directly influence how we handle panic in this pandemic.

By Callum Lee

Bad Politics or Good Health

The Recall of Governor Newsom

In 2002 Governor Grey Davis, was recalled because of rolling power blackouts and his issues on gun control. The replacement was an economic disaster as he was supplanted by a Hollywood Rockstar who was a first and only time politician. Is the recall case against Governor Newsome just bad optics; after all, his measures to curb COVID-19 in California seemed to work?

There have been 59,985 deaths in the state of California. Statista.com outlines these deaths per capita based on 100,000. As listed, New Jersey leads the way with New York a close second and Massachusetts coming in a tight third. The lockdown measures in California were stern and swift; overnight the state became the no-fun zone as COVID-19 surged. One could argue because of the swift action of the Governor’s Office, many deaths and the spread of the coronavirus were prevented, and the rebound that the state is now experiencing is directly related.

Governor Newsom said his actions moving forward would be dictated by the data. One of the key issues we faced globally, and especially in California, is that the intensive care and emergency rooms were being overwhelmed with COVID patients. It makes sense to want to limit the spread of the virus. But American pushed back. In states like Michigan, their Supreme Court acted to limit Governor Whitmer’s emergency orders on October 2, 2020.

“The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer concerning her many emergency orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.” WWJ Radio

This week in late April, Michigan is having their highest COVID cases since April of 2020, and their hospitals beds are filled with patients. Meanwhile in California, people are still wearing masks, and the spread of the disease is on the decline.

Maybe this is just bad optics, but Governor Newsome was seen dining at The French Laundry, an upscale eatery in Northern California. In mid-December, he issued the closure of all restaurant dining restaurants after many had spent money to ramp up for the holiday season and prepare their eateries for outdoor activities.

The optics were terrible. Some businesses were forced to close for good, people were out of jobs, and many were left without an escape to home life. In addition, some of the smaller cities in California did not see the high numbers as their associated county, and data was suggesting that outdoor dining did not spread the disease. This became the battle of restaurant v. county as many restaurateurs balked at the data used to close.

There is no doubt Governor Newsom has done and will continue to do some great things for the state of California. Did he do a good job handling the pandemic? Yes and no. Raise your hand if you are perfect at your job (that is a rhetorical question). He made some mistakes. He is in the public eye so the pictures of him at a fancy restaurant while business owners are forced to close, and people are being laid off is hard to swallow.

There is a valid argument that we were forced closed too much and for too long without looking at all the data, but time will tell, and it is already beginning to show as we look at Michigan that maybe this was good health but bad politics.

By Dane Flanigan

Why People are Scared of the Covid Vaccination

from: My Shot ll Hamilton Animatic YouTube

There are some valid reasons people have to the Covid -19 vaccinations, getting the most information might be our best shot.

We now have three vaccines to fight COVID19. Moderna, Pfitzer and Johnson & Johnson’s versions have proven to be effective. Nature Medicine surveyed 19 countries and only 71% of the population surveyed said they would take the vaccine.  As Americans hit drive-throughs, pharmacies and hospitals, people are excited that relief is on the way but not everyone is getting the vaccine. Why not?

It came quick. For some, there is the fear that the vaccine was rushed. In the past, a vaccine would have taken years to develop, test and bring to the market. Because of the global pandemic, the trials and tests were placed at the front of the line.

There is always an overall phobia of doctors and needles. Let us not pretend that everyone is comfortable going to the doctor’s office. It probably goes back to when we were kids, and the only good thing about the physician experience was the occasional lollypop and Spider-man band aid that we could show to our other siblings.  

We are also dealing with the sentiments of the anti-vaxx movement as seen in a 2019 April 19th   interview with Insider.Com, where Dr. Peter Hotez outlines the views of the movement,  “It’s this massive propaganda campaign and by some estimates there are almost 500 anti-vaccine websites on Facebook. They weaponize Amazon… we are seeing real public health damage being done.” That was the kind of disinformation we had before the worldwide pandemic. What are we going to face next?

We take the wait and see approach. There are those who are awaiting to see what happens to everyone else, which is not a bad stance. People over the age of 65 years and those with underlying conditions are vulnerable, so we need to be mindful that our refusal to vaccinate could affect them, especially those in daily interactions with the public.

“If we can get to 80% population immunity by the end of the summer, then we won’t see a surge next winter because this is basically a winter respiratory virus and it’ll be back unless a significant percentage of the population get vaccinated,” said Dr. Paul Offit. Can we get to herd immunity if we take the wait and see approach?

It is a personal decision, but let us make it a smart one. If we ado or do not get the vaccine, let us reach out to valued healthcare professionals and ask them to help. Our doctors have more medical history than we do personally looking at any random article found on the internet.  There are vaccine-educated practitioners in every hospital. Let’s get us get the most information possible and make the best decisions. 

CDC Information on Covid -19 inoculations

by Dane Flanigan

ultraHealth Agency

Healthcare Worker Burnout During COVID-19

Along with the rise of COVID cases has come a wave of mental health crises, especially among healthcare workers. As the pandemic goes on, those on the front lines are, understandably, experiencing sustained levels of stress, anxiety, and frustration, in other words, burnout. Fortunately, conversations about mental health and illness have become more mainstream in recent years leading to a wealth of resources now adapted to address the specific needs of healthcare workers during this time. 

Handling stressful situations, making life and death decisions, and confronting illness are not new for medical professionals. However, the scale and particularities of each have changed. Healthcare workers managing heavy caseloads and working long hours in stressful environments may do so in bursts by running off adrenaline. But over an extended period of time, the adrenaline wears off. This chronic period of elevated stress is “akin to what people might experience during prolonged war or refugee crises.” U.S. Military personnel assisting in New York hospitals even said this is the closest to combat they have seen in a civilian setting.

In regions with high mortality rates, “‘clinicians often describe a feeling of helplessness-an inability to render care…to the fullest extent they would desire.’” Changing safety protocols and information compound feelings of helplessness by making it difficult for workers to feel they are properly caring for patients and adequately protecting themselves. 

Having sufficient protective equipment is not a guarantee. Even with it, workers still worry about their own health and the health of loved ones. That’s why many have sacrificed living with their families and support networks to limit risks. Not only are they separated from their own families, but they are also taking on the roles of patients’ loved ones. Nurses and nursing assistants often act as “conduits for video calls and emotional support” because patients’ families cannot be at their bedsides. Many have “forgone breaks to hold patients’ hands as they die,” says Dr. Jessica Gold, assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.   

In addition to feelings of helplessness and isolation, healthcare workers are also experiencing high levels of frustration. Many feel the concern and support they provide for others is not reciprocated outside hospitals. An article in the American Cancer Society Journals cited the politicizing of mask-wearing rather than focusing on the science as an example. One doctor even said it feels like “‘nobody’s listening, nobody’s following the rules…and the numbers aren’t going down.’” Refusing to wear masks or follow social distancing has a direct effect on healthcare workers making their jobs more difficult. This results in anger and even PTSD symptoms. A lack of time to process and heal as well as “a culture of stoicism” keep healthcare workers from seeking help.       

It’s important to be able to recognize burnout so healthcare workers can receive help. According to the Minnesota Department of Health signs of burnout may include getting easily frustrated, experiencing sadness, depression, or apathy, disconnecting from others, poor self-care (diet and hygiene), and using unhealthy or unsafe coping mechanisms such as drugs or alcohol.  

While these feelings are normal and valid, healthcare workers do not have to suffer from them. Coping strategies include diving back into old hobbies or picking up new ones, limiting media exposure, exercising regularly, and maintaining good sleep habits. Technology can help by tracking steps, glasses of water, heart rate, and setting alarms to take breaks, even if it’s just for a few moments to breathe.

Co-workers can adopt the buddy system. Partners “monitor each other’s stress, workload, and safety.” This is especially useful for those living alone or away from family by giving a sense of connection and being looked after. Buddies should set a schedule for check-ins either through texts, calls, or video chat. Social media support groups offer places to share, vent, and connect. For professional help, teletherapy companies, Talkspace and BetterHelp, offer healthcare workers 50% off their first month. 

It’s also important to maintain connections outside of work. Have a game night via video chat; Pictionary and charades are great options using minimal supplies. Play video games or host a movie night. Amazon Prime even has a Watch Party feature they say is “almost like watching side-by-side in real life–without having to share your popcorn.” A list of more resources such as live mental health counselors and meditation apps can be found here.     

If you are concerned you or someone you know may want to harm yourself or someone else, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255). Para obtener ayuda en Español, llama al 1-888-628-9454. Or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224.