Corona Virus Pandemic: Part III
Is this virus winning?
You may remember what Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said a few weeks ago. “U.S. is still knee-deep in the first wave of corona virus”. And the predicted second wave hasn’t even started. However, “Another wave of infections could be avoided if you approach it the proper way,” said Fauci. We already know the number of cases in many states, especially the southern states, has been surging exponentially setting new records almost every day. Sadly, Florida now is on top of the undesirable list. Looks like the virus is here to stay for a while and the epicenters have shifted from New York and New Jersey to California, Arizona, Texas and Florida.
Recently, the number of cases on any single day in the U.S. has been topping 60,000 or more with nearly half of it in the southern states, including Florida. If the trend continues, the number of cases can go up to 100,000 per day, warns Fauci, and the death count too. Another shocker is: “The number of Americans who died from COVID-19 in March through May was likely significantly higher than the official U.S. count due in part to state-level reporting discrepancies,” according to a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association.
Clearly, the crisis is deepening. The main reason for the continued surge is premature reopening of the states after a period of lockdown without giving a thought that the virus is accelerating. Also, we all suffer from a certain degree of cognitive dissonance, meaning holding contradictory beliefs – like not wanting to believe unpleasant facts and refusing to follow the recommendations of the experts if they don’t suit you. Like a couple of my friends of mine who refuse to wear a mask in public because of its discomfort and their own bias that somehow they won’t get the disease. According to many experts, “The pandemic is still in its infancy, with more than 160,000 cases each day since June 25.” USA, Brazil and India have the biggest burden now.
As you know, every activity outside your house entails some form of risk. To understand this better, Texas Medical Association (www.texmed.org/TexasMedicineDetail.aspx?id=53977) has come up with a useful Covid-19 risk stratification chart showing on a scale of 1-9 the risk rate of the common activities we undertake. Starting from ‘opening your mail’ that carries a low risk of 1 to ‘eating at a buffet restaurant’ and ‘going to the gym’ rated as high risk of 8 and ‘attending a music concert or going to a bar’ that carries the maximum risk of 9, every activity you and I do on a daily basis entails a threat. The virus is spreading fast and now we believe that it can spread by aerosol too, i.e., virus particles expelled from and infected person’s mouth when breathing or speaking can remain suspended in the air and infect others. All the hospitals, especially in Florida, are filling up to capacity and hence it may be difficult to get a bed even for an emergency and the worst is yet to come. Some are running out of ventilators and that’s scary, so we better brace up for all eventualities.
What are we supposed to do? Unfortunately we don’t have a good national policy of contact tracing, plus we have partially lifted the lockdown as well. Many do not follow prevention protocols. Everybody is hoping a vaccine will come soon and we will all develop ‘herd immunity.’ To have herd immunity and protect lots of people from the disease, a high percentage in any one area need to be vaccinated. Also, the vaccines have to be effective and we don’t know yet how the first batch of vaccines will test out. Keep in mind that only 70 percent of the people vaccinated will develop significant immunity. Another difficulty is that in any given community, there are these 30 percent ‘naysayers’ who refuse to get vaccinated. This will cause continued spread of the disease and put lives in jeopardy. As you already know, 70-80 percent Covid-19 positive individuals are asymptomatic but could spread the disease without their own knowledge.
So, the answer is “prevention, prevention and more prevention.” If we don’t behave responsibly, the virus will continue to spread. All of us need to observe the entire prevention protocol diligently and this is the only way to control the pandemic.
To be continued …
M.P. Ravindra Nathan, M.D., is a cardiologist and Emeritus Editor of AAPI Journal. For further reading, “Second Chance - A Sister’s Act of Love” by Dr. Nathan from Outskirts Press, can be found at www.amazon.com