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Riding the COVID roller coaster. Have we reached the “Point of No Return”?

Our world plummeted down the rabbit hole of chaos in March 2020 when the nightmare of COVID disintegrated our daily lives. With the development of safe and effective vaccines and with conscientious programs of mitigation (I’m talking about the big four: masks, hand washing, social distancing, and avoiding crowds), the pandemic lost some of its demonic ferocity.

By spring 2021 there was a loosening of restrictions, a peace in the valley, the sheriff had arrived to drive out the bad guys, and we all expected life would soon get back on track. Weddings were planned, graduation ceremonies were orchestrated, family reunions were on track.

A Subtext of Resistance

Yet a subtext was occurring in a defiant resistance to the vaccine in broad groups of the population, as these vaccination and mitigation practices were cast aside. Their stubborn and ignorant refusal to protect themselves and others would roar its ugly head because with the onset of colder weather and indoor congregation, the virus soared back with an almost medieval vengeance. Throw in a variant or two, and the unvaccinated people are once again filling beds in ICUs. Thus taxing an overburdened, exhausted healthcare system.

And we are right back where we started from.

Another highly contagious, potentially lethal, and fast-spreading variant, omicron, ricocheted throughout the sub-Sahara, and within hours experts were sounding the alarm. Borders were being closed, travel restrictions were well underway, and stock markets were poised for a virus-induced meltdown. Again.

Although much is still unknown, the tone from medical and responsible public health experts is ominous. When the house is burning is not the time to review your homeowners policy.

Protections put in place now can shield us from future variants of the COVID-19 virus before we run out of Greek alphabet letters to describe them.

Back to the Basics

While the experts joust over the implications of this never-ending viral nightmare, we are well advised to go back to the basics that we know work.

Dr. Greg Poland of Mayo Clinic, Dr. Francis Collins from the National Institutes of Health, and a legion of other credentialed medical professionals have guided us in the dark days and are well positioned to light the beacon of hope in the lighthouse of survival. This is not rocket science, but rocket science does not save our lives unless we are sitting in a rocket.

Get fully vaccinated. This typically means a two-shot series followed in about six months by the booster shot. We now know that our immunity from the first series of injections dramatically plummets. Get the booster. No debate.

Maintain social distancing. We now know that viral particles are spread by the aerosol route. And these infectious particles can linger in the air for hours. Indoor dining, indoor activities in poorly ventilated environment such as theaters, are a recipe for an unhappy outcome.

Aggressively wash hands especially after eating and personal activities. Hand sanitizers are the second best option. Carry it with you.

The mask can save our lives and that of our fellow citizens and family. This is not theatrical, and this is not showmanship. This is rock-solid scientifically based common sense. Carry one with you at all times and wear it even if others around you are not.

Address your own mental health. Seek that magical state of flow. Total immersion, total absorption in a task at hand. With art, music, writing, reading, time stands still and recharges the battery. This means we need to be selectively unavailable, off the grid and unplug.

Limit the decision-making process. Decisions consume bandwidth, erode cognitive energy. Some people of prominence wear the same attire each day so that energy is not wasted in picking out something to wear. In one judicial study, a judge was more likely to award a pardon earlier in the day compared to later in the day when judgment and cognitive processes have been expended. Reflect for a moment on the energy required to select a breakfast cereal or a toothpaste. Today, nothing is simple.

And this decision process is certainly part of the COVID scene. Almost every decision that we make, when we analyze our choices and our lifestyle events, we subtly or not so subtly reflect on the impact of COVID. A dinner engagement, a concert, a play, a sporting event, a reunion, church attendance, a birthday party. Each of these events cannot escape the shadow of COVID. And especially now with delta and omicron among us.

Do we go or do we stay? How do we assess those who are fully vaccinated and those who are not? And what about the mask conundrum? A few months ago, we were reassured if we were fully vaccinated and we were indoors, we could take off the mask. And we could dine with likeminded individuals. Today, all bets are off and so reconsider being at an event or flying somewhere in the first place.

Bottom line. These are the best of times and these are the worst of times. Listen to credible health policy experts, access responsible websites such as the CDC for information, and recognize that the buck stops with us with our healthcare decisions. Again.

Hang on for dear life. (photo from Unsplash)

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