I believe that medicine’s potential is much more than the version we see in the world today. A doctor should be an educator with the goal of bringing patients to a place of deeper understanding of who they are in the world. To me, medicine is ultimately about self-empowerment through self-knowledge and growth.
Welcome to the End of the Year edition of Berkshire Whole Health’s Weekly Bulletin! — where a look back is recognized as a vital exercise; yes, reminiscing is healthy!
More on that in a minute, but first, let’s have a look at the explosive COVID update.
COVID is everywhere. The midwest and the Northeast are getting hit the hardest. There’s a lot developing! Here is a review of the important headlines:
Record breaking numbers abound. The average daily case load in the US is the highest ever: over 300K. The largest ever tallies in Massachusetts were also seen this week. Hospitalizations will lag and have only mildly ticked up. Officials are concerned but there is still cautious optimism that Omicron will be a flash in the pan and overall milder.
Vaccines wane? Israel has started doling shot #4! The mRNA vaccines’ ability to provide protection from contracting COVID has been seen to wane at 10 weeks, according to new data. HOWEVER, the consensus and early indications are that protection against severe cases will persist.
What we need: we need more tests, tests on every corner, tests in the car, tests in the pantry. Biden has a plan to send out hundreds of millions of tests in the mail to those who go online and request them. Too cumbersome of a process, too late in the game? Local testing through BMC remains a good resource. Berkshire Center for Whole Health supplies remain strong. Let us know if you need anything. I’m still recommending we test most colds, vaccinated or not.
Fingers crossed. The reasonable hope is that Omicron will prove to be mild for us as it was in Africa: 80% less hospitalizations, compared with other variants… and average hospital stay was shorter duration. The other hope is that the crushingly steep curve of new cases peaks soon and comes speeding down just as fast as it shot up. Experts predict this likely will happen in January. The US is a large place with different timelines. We will keep a close eye on the local numbers, the most relevant metric.
Monoclonal antibodies are available but scarce. They are a very beneficial treatment for higher risk people once a case is diagnosed. Only one product appears active (Sotrovimab) and effective against Omicron. Regeneron, the old standby, is now no longer used because it underperformed against the new strain, and estimates last week stated Omicron is overtaking Delta in the US. There is a bit of a queue to get Sotrovimab, and it is subject to availability, but we are doing what we can to connect patients that qualify with that and whatever else might be useful.
Omicron incidence overstated? Was the Regeneron withdrawn too soon? Some say so. Last week’s headlines that DNA sequencing indicated Omicron’s jump from 13% of cases to 73% in the US over the course of one week were astounding! It prompted Regeneron’s removal. This week that data was retracted, and Omicron’s prevalence is being described as less than originally stated, maybe less than 50% of cases. Estimates are that we are now in the 55-60% range in the areas with highest incidence. However, Delta has been part of the recent case surge and Regeneron might have been useful these last 10 days.
One conclusion is that our DNA sequencing program isn’t sophisticated enough; we operate in the dark a fair amount. The true bottom line is that Omicron is coming on fast. If not last week then it’ll be everywhere by next week, it appears. Even the most recent data is outdated because of how fast it’s moving. All these record setting highs are almost certainly driven by Omicron.
Exit Isolation sooner? 10 days of isolation after a positive COVID test used to be the norm. The CDC made waves by floating a reduction to 5 days in certain scenarios. Does it apply to you? Possibly, depending on a few things, like symptoms and vaccination status. We will guide you. The CDC is under fire for making this call, but we all are feeling a little impatient and insane right now. Take me, for instance: I had chocolate for breakfast the other day. We are all making crazy calls right now. Can you blame us?
Everyone is thinking and hoping 2022 will be different. I think they are right, not in small part because we are doing the hard work of getting through the pandemic.
Nice job, by the way. They will be telling stories for generations to come about how amazingly we weathered this. We are basically mythical heroes to simply be enduring this.
Hercules, we can view thy 12 labors with renewed interest!
Let me conclude with a tip for the end of the year, a time for reminiscing about all that we experienced.
There is a lot to remember this year.
Looking back helps us process, resolve, and unpack. It is therapeutic as well as instructive. Furthermore, habitually reviewing your experiences also is a good memory exercise. Use it or lose it! Moreover, as we will see, it apparently has other soul and spiritual benefits. For these reasons, I want to (re)introduce you to a daily review exercise which is used to increase objective awareness & visualization ability called:
Need a New Year’s resolution? It is a GREAT way to wrap up each day.
As per Rudolf Steiner, paraphrased from The Fourfold Path of Healing by Thomas Cowan MD (Ruckshau means reflection or contemplative review in German):
The meditation is a simple meditative device that takes 5–15 minutes every evening. Ready yourself by sitting quietly in a comfortable position. Then, carefully review the events of the day, starting with the most recent event and moving backwards to the events of the morning. Attempt to fashion a clear image of yourself as you worked, played, and interacted with others. Conjure in your mind the actual nature of each activity or encounter. At the same time, remember what feelings you experienced at the various moments that you recall. Resist all impulses to judge yourself, but rather cultivate a state of detached observation. Watch yourself as you live just as you watch a good friend.
This may seem a simple exercise, but most will find it a challenge to make it all the way back to the morning. Inevitably things will be left out or forgotten, but as time goes on this objective part of yourself will grow stronger and more confident. With its growing strength, the mental body will be more available during normal waking moments, and it will provide you with a sure way to deal with both the stormy and becalming moments of life. Soon you will find that many activities which some would classify as drudgery — cooking, driving, gardening — are actually opportunities for focused meditation or objective thinking. Gradually, this cultivated objectivity will help you understand yourself more thoroughly and deeply than any reliance on the emotions — whether they be the emotions of love or of fear.
True health and true freedom are achieved when we can experience the full breadth and depth of the emotional realm while remaining objective about all that happens to us.”
Brief Covid numbers round up
The Berkshire case load tallies around 650 cases these last seven days. This is the second highest on record (only behind the week after Thanksgiving 2021) and up from a total of 515 last week.
The Massachusetts 7 day average is steady at 6500 cases per day. This is the most ever.
Nationally, the seven-day-average has exploded to 344K this last week (after a case load of almost 600,000 people yesterday).
People fare best with early detection of COVID. (Monoclonal antibodies, supplemental support, etc).
Need a test for Flu and/or COVID? Call us, we have them. Or use a BHS testing center near you. Appointments are required at all BHS locations. Call 855-262-5465 for a BHS test for you or a guest or visit berkshirepatientportal.com.
Pittsfield COVID-19 Testing Center at 505 East St. is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The North Adams COVID-19 Testing Center at 98 Church St. is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.