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A Doctor’s Advice On How To Manage The Imperfect World Of COVID-19

This is a very dark time that we will get through. All of us will be affected by this virus. I am expecting to hear of many deaths and long-term side effects over the next few weeks.

We are over two months into our national war against COVID-19. As a retired surgeon, I look for ways to keep all of us safe with less transmission of disease. Hand washing is critical. Washing your face immediately after being in public will also decrease the chance of spreading virus from your face to your mouth and nose.

The use of non-medical masks by the public is controversial. Cotton masks are highly breathable and will filter 20%-60% of particles. Other options such as blue shop towels are less breathable and will filter a greater percentage of particles. The CDC changed their opinion on the matter and now recommends the use of face masks during the pandemic.
We need to keep the medical masks in the hands of the medical professionals whom we really must protect so that they can protect us. Wearing cloth masks or bandanas outside will partially guard us from large droplets and shield others from ours. Most importantly they remind us not to touch our face. But they are not perfect.

It would be so much easier to see the virus in the air as little red specks like we see in the photos in the press. We could avoid the specks and be safe. This war is more like fighting the Silent Invisible Man. You do not know where he is because you can’t see or hear him.

We must go through this time not knowing who is carrying the virus to spread to others including ourselves. It is human nature to question the seriousness of the situation if it cannot be seen first-hand. Unfortunately, it is quite probable that we will all end up knowing someone who is greatly affected by the disease.

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash

I appreciate the no-nonsense remarks of Drs. Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci. They explain the seriousness of the pandemic in a straightforward medical manner and set the bar fairly high as to how to best manage our situation. Unfortunately, life is not perfect, people are not perfect, and I wish we could easily abide to their goal of social distancing to stop this dreaded disease. But we do have to go out to shop, have food delivered to our homes or have home repairs accomplished at times.

I have some thoughts about how to manage this imperfect world of COVID-19.

I certainly agree with the infectious disease physicians and epidemiologists that our best change for early control of this disease is through hand washing, social distancing and quarantine. Unfortunately, there are people who either deny the use of social distancing or think that just one time of breaking the rules will be okay. This is the same as running a red light. It might be okay or the impulse might result in a car accident in which someone is injured or killed. Each time this is done there is an increase in the chance of injury or death.

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It is natural for people to want to leave their homes at times to see friends or family. The sunshine of a beautiful day begs us to go outside. Being cooped up in bad weather for days on end also brings the spirit to be among loved ones.

It’s not uncommon for people to get too comfortable thinking they and others are safe, getting together for dinner or a drink, not knowing if any of them contain the Silent Invisible Man who can transmit the disease.

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Photo by Sarah Pflug via Burst

Social distancing is delayed gratification. Other than knowing you are decreasing your chance of contraction or spreading the disease, you do not get an award or trophy for doing it.

For those who have gloves, you might consider using one glove at a time when you are out. This would give you a dirty hand with which you can sign the credit card machine, open doors, push the grocery cart, and a clean hand that you can put in your pocket to get your wallet or car keys. This is not a perfect solution and hand washing is still essential.

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Finally cannabis. Whether you use this medically or recreationally, there is something to consider. We know that people who have diseases of the lungs have a greater risk of severe consequences from COVID-19. It makes sense that anything other than fresh air, be it cigarette smoke, smoke from a joint, a vape pen or pollution, will increase the irritation and mucus in the lungs thereby increasing the chance of pneumonia.

So, for the time being, I would recommend sublingual or edibles as an alternative. Sharing joints, bongs or vape pens is considered very risky behavior at this time.

This is a very dark time that we will get through. All of us will be affected by this virus. I am expecting to hear of many deaths and long-term side effects over the next few weeks. Some of us are in the midst of a spike in COVID-19 cases while others are waiting for the spike to appear soon. I expect that we will have another spike in prevalence of disease soon after the governmental mandates of stay at home are lifted and again in the fall when the weather turns colder.

This time and virus will change all of us, but we will come through this with a new ability to help each other. There is a bright, wonderful light at the end of the tunnel

Stay safe all of you.

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