Our Generation's Test

We thought COVID19 was just a respiratory virus.

We were wrong.

This is our generation's test.

In late January, when hospitals in the United States first confirmed the novel coronavirus's presence, healthcare workers knew to watch for precisely three symptoms: fever, cough, and shortness of breath. But as the number of infections climbed, the symptom list began to grow. Some patients lost their sense of smell and taste. Some had nausea or diarrhea. Some had arrhythmias or even heart attacks. Some had damaged kidneys or livers. Some had headaches, blood clots, rashes, swelling, or strokes.

Many had no symptoms at all.

By June, clinicians were swapping journal papers, news stories, and tweets describing more than three dozen ways that COVID-19, the disease the coronavirus causes, appears to manifest itself. Researchers worldwide have begun taking a closer look at this dizzying array of symptoms to get at the disease's root causes. We learn from people inside the hospital and out; people on the brink of death and only mildly sick; people who are newly exposed and recovered; young and old, Black, brown, and white. And we are beginning to piece together the story of a virus, unlike any known before.

Nearly everyone I've spoken with recently is starting to feel tremendous COVID fatigue. I know that my family and I are. And I am guessing YOU are too. In fact, the world just had its worst-ever week of Coronavirus infections — and the U.S. is leading the way.

In total, 37 U.S. states have seen infections rising, which helped contribute to what the World Health Organization called the worst week for new coronavirus infections ever. Thus far, there have been 4,341,576 Coronavirus infections, 149,602 deaths, and 2,072,532 recovered cases here in the U.S.

On Sunday, July 18, the global health watchdog said 230,370 new cases were recorded in 24 hours — a record daily increase. Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa accounted for some 70,000 cases, but the Americas continue to make up the most substantial proportion of those infected, with over 140,000 cases on that same day.

Around 5,285 new deaths were also reported — again, with the majority of them in the Americas.

The above are mere statistics, numbers if you will. However, I see the human face of loss, suffering, and isolation EVERY DAY. This virus is ruining people, not merely from the virus but also from the unintended consequences of isolation, social distancing, and loss of work, school, and natural daily, weekly, or yearly rhythms. They're not mere statistics; they're people. People with families and loved ones, hopes, and dreams, which are now either are all on hold or never will be realized.

On a personal note, my daughter was slated to begin the second grade this fall, basically next month! In particular, my family has been struggling with having two physicians (my husband and I) working outside our home, with the newly added responsibility of potentially homeschooling our children for the next six months, if not much longer, like indefinitely.

Doctors, nurses, medical professionals, first responders of all kinds are the ones who must assess the science and the facts behind COVID, while simultaneously having to understand the real harms that people are experiencing from the protracted social distancing, isolation, and fear of an uncertain future. This has been happening right here at home in our lovely little community and across the country.

We can expect that San Luis Obispo County and the other 29 California counties most infected will most likely remain on California's Watchlist for many more months to come.

Last week, my husband and I attended a Zoom school board meeting. We noticed that while the parents' concerns differed significantly from those of the teachers and school administrators, several comments really stood out. We heard parents' voices calling for ingenuity and creativity in this time of struggle and fear-based thinking. In my opinion, we must begin to recognize and be willing to discuss all of the harms arising from decisions currently being made on the personal, local, state, and national levels. We need to exercise caution when the risks of harm are the highest. We must rigorously explore some creative options and solutions that will protect our most vulnerable populations while causing the least damage to our society. I am hoping in the coming months that some of our societal struggles will be met equally with strategies and solutions aimed toward helping us ALL thrive as best we can during this challenging time in our shared history.

Finally, as I am sure that many readers know by now, our political leaders and our 'freedom' loving society, in general, haven't figured out how to protect our elderly citizens from coronavirus without imposing another genuine health threat: isolation. These changes may explain why living alone with little social interaction is often implicated in higher rates of cardiovascular and other types of disease, worsening dementia and Alzheimer's, and shortened lives.

Plenty of research shows that social support and social "integration," which refers to a person's varied roles and responsibilities, play a significant role in determining someone's health and longevity. The combination of social isolation and loneliness is very unhealthy for anyone, but it's particularly bad for older adults. Just about every biological system is impacted in one way or another by psychosocial relationships.

What we do now to reduce the rate of infections, minimize the spread of the contagion, and engineer the containment of virus will be studied by scientists, researchers, historians, and policymakers for millennia.

Other past generations have had significant societal challenges: The Great Depression, WWII, The Spanish Flu, and many more. We have COVID19, which is genuinely visceral on many levels. It is both a health and an ensuing economic crisis simultaneously. We haven't yet been tested to the same extent as previous generations have until now.

I believe that this is our generation's ultimate test. And while we may have had an abysmal start to combating this disease, we absolutely must have a happy ending to this pandemic. I know that we can overcome this by working together, not being at odds with each other. Our parents' and grandparents' generations need us to step up, as do our children. We can beat this together.

So, until next time… please stay safe, be well, and dream BIG!

–Dr. Lindsey

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© 2020 by Lindsey Faucette, DO