Maybe the World Health Organization (WHO) is finally getting something right.
This week Dr. Nabarro of the World Health Organization stated that world leaders should “stop using lockdowns as your primary health control measure.” He went on to say that “the only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganize, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health care workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we’d rather not do it.” This is a sobering approach that comes into line with what many experts in this country and elsewhere have been espousing for months now. Yes, indeed, this coronavirus is one bad virus that got exported to us and the rest of the world from China, but sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. Again, this is not to say that Covid-19 cannot cause very serious illness and death particularly in the elderly and those with so called co-morbidities like pulmonary disease, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, immunocompromised states and other ailments. For these patients and their families the illness can be devastating. However, for the vast majority of people who get infected with this disease and get ill their symptoms are fortunately relatively mild.
Dr. Nabarro went on to point some of the negative consequences that lockdowns have caused across the world, including devastated tourism industries and increased hunger and poverty in parts of the world already suffering from these problems. In addition, in this country as well as in many others we are seeing increased rates of alcoholism, drug abuse, violence, depression, anxiety. Also, many people are delaying visits to see their doctors resulting in lost opportunities to practice preventive medicine. Our educational system is likewise being badly affected and along with that the health and welling being of our children. All this and the Stress related to the lockdowns may very well cause much more death in the long run than the lockdowns will save.
So maybe it is time for some common sense to arrive on the scene to help make us whole again while our vaccines and therapeutics are being developed. Remember, these things are already here or on the way. We will eventually get through this. To quote Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” That was in 1933 when the U.S. was going through an even more difficult period.
So what are some of the common sense things to do?
- Use masks rationally. Take a look at my previous blog about mask use, To Mask or Not to Mask…That Is The Question. If you are out in the open air, at the beach, walking in the park or on a country road, riding a bike or doing anything else where you are not in close proximity to people, i.e., not likely to be within 6 feet or so of anyone, there is really no need to wear a mask. Doing so only instills a sense of fear or dread which is totally unnecessary. Unless you are using mask wearing as a political statement. If you are in a crowded elevator or conference room, then by all means use a mask. But remember that simple cloth masks do not really provide protection against airborne aerosolized virus. They may give you some protection against droplets but not airborne virus particles. Only N-95 masks or better stand a chance of capturing the virus particles if you are on the receiving end. If you are on the giving end, in other words, the person with the virus and you cough or sneeze into your face mask, droplets and tiny aerosolized virus particles will still be dispersed. Even the CDC, which has flip flopped back and forth about the use of masks, recently reported a study showing that 70% of the patients who came down with Covid-19 wore masks regularly. So this study really puts into question the utility of wearing face masks. Nonetheless, the practice of wearing a mask (really an N-95 mask or better) may provide some degree of prevention and perhaps emotional security as well if needed, but to wear a mask (cloth, surgical or N-95) in the great outdoors where you are not in close proximity to anyone, or in environments where social distancing and good ventilation can be easily maintained seems fruitless and perhaps a bit paranoid.
- It goes without saying that frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizers should continue, but this is true even if the virus that causes Covid-19 were to disappear.
- Society has to open again. That means restaurants, gyms, businesses, social gatherings, schools and so forth all using social distancing as much as reasonably possible and masks when appropriate.
- Protect the elderly and most vulnerable. That means people with underlying medical conditions that may tend to weaken the immune system. In such instances, these folks should be kept away from situations such as large gatherings where they may be more likely exposed unless precautions can be taken to limit their exposure.
- Continue to exercise, take Zinc and Vitamin D which seem to have some antiviral activity.
- In short time more diagnostic tests with greater reliability and shorter turnaround times will become more widely available. While this may not completely solve the problem of identifying people who are potential spreaders, it will go a long way in alerting us to who has the virus and may be communicable. So screening before attending large gatherings may become more common and alert us to potentially dangerous situations.
- In short time we will also have vaccines and better medications. The calvary is on the way to save the day.
- We have to open up the country again soon. If we don’t, we won’t have a country to open up, or we will have one that is desperate and on the verge of collapse. People have lost their jobs. Educating our children has become a major difficulty. Alcoholism, suicide, drug abuse are all on the rise. People are not following up with their routine doctor visits and diagnostic tests. Some businesses are at risk of failing or have already failed. As many have already said, if we use lockdown as a cure for this virus, then the cure may indeed be worse than the disease.
Some further comments about “lockdowns” and herd immunity.
Maybe Sweden did have the right idea. After months of being criticized by the “experts” for not locking down as vigorously as its other European neighbors and seeing an early spike in cases, it now seems to be doing a lot better than many other nations in Europe and elsewhere. This may be due to the fact that the Swedes as a nation are developing a greater degree of herd immunity more quickly than other countries simply because they did not lockdown to the same degree as other countries which does seem to make some sense. Herd immunity, immunity related to widespread vaccination, better therapeutics and perhaps weakening of the virus itself will hopefully bring an end to this pandemic. However, we should also keep in mind that for a variety of reasons we may be seeing more of these viruses as time goes on. Therefor, from a scientific point of view we need to do more research on therapeutics and rapid vaccine development so as to be better prepared for the next battle.