Tense times

Let’s start with a Covid update

Have we peaked yet? (not sure, but maybe…)

The COVID update is fairly similar to last week

  • Covid cases did not climb in Berkshire County; the tally was basically the same, notable for a slight a slight decline in new cases. Weekly cases are at a quarter of their all time peak, which was in Jan 2021
  • Nationally the Delta surge has continued its progression; the 7 day average continues to climb and has surpassed 100k cases per day, now at 125K, half the peak in Jan 2021. But the optimistic analysis says there are signs that the peak might have been reached. Only time will tell…
  • A new trend nationally is that outbreaks — initially concentrated in poorly vaccinated pockets — are starting to take hold in more immunized areas now.
  • Israel who vaccinated early and robustly with Pfizer vaccine (80% of adult population) is having a minor backslide. Late June saw cases begin to rise again. The Delta variant is driving their mini surge (1/10 of their worst numbers), and as many as half of new cases have been in vaccinated people.
  • The consensus is that vaccines are still protecting against severe illness. Period. They also make it less likely to get infected, but to a lesser extent than right after vaccination.
  • The FDA announced yesterday they are giving an EUA for a third dose for immunocompromised patients and transplant recipients.

We are still hopeful for a Drastic Delta Decline, as was experienced in the UK, India, elsewhere. But we will just have to find a perch to wait and see.

I wish it were that simple, but the reality is these are tense times.

Tense times

Tensions are high evidenced by protests all over the world against lock down measures. School Committee meetings are getting heated in many places in the US as we face the decisions that come with the start of school.

The way I see it, in a true pinch (like a pandemic) all decisions have harm. Leaders seek the least harmful. However, pinches hurt, and there is a tendency to lash out at someone because we can’t exactly get mad at viruses and bacteria.

Medicine and Science are not above the turmoil.

ICUs in certain areas in Texas and Florida and elsewhere are taxed again. Doctors and nurses are tired and in some instances, angry. I’m seeing angry editorials by burnt out doctors directing contempt at patients in the hospitals who are not vaccinated.

Many are pleading: Trust the science! Science is not a conspiracy. Lawn signs read “Science is Real”. The CDC director chimed in this week saying mistrust is a huge hurdle.

Don’t mistake any of those cries for an invitation to not do your own critical thinking and chart a very deliberate path. You have to trust the science, yes, but also learn to read it, or listen to people who can. You have to trust the science but also know that industry corrupts it. 

Enter the EPA whistleblowers

A mega whistleblower story was published last week in the Intercept, a ‘new media’ project, by journalist Jeremy Scahill. Several EPA scientists are blowing the whistle on EPA managers and claim they have manipulated their research to downplay the dangers of chemicals and fast track approvals that scientists say are not justified due to unsafe toxicity.

Critics see this as not isolated. Industry gets favored because the thought is successful businesses generate a healthy economy that will promote happy thriving people. (Or people just get paid off). Regulation and chemical protections can apparently stymie business which hurts the individual indirectly but harshly. These are complicated formulae.

Public health policy is forced to consider the health of the economy as well as the individual. This is a lot less straight forward than the doctor-patient relationship. I think it is the huge challenge for public health because what keeps the economy healthy is often a problem for individual health.

Chemicals in our lives

Industrial chemical have the potential to be carcinogenic and disrupters of our endocrine (hormonal) systems. We see troublesome trends in modern life that certainly have a chemical contribution. Human fertility finds itself in unchartered territory and the business of assisted fertility is in high demand. Will the mid 21st century couple be able to produce a family without assistance? It’s not clear to some observers.

Our exposure comes in our sunscreen, food, hygiene products, and plasticware not to mention our water and the air we breathe. It’s inescapable. We are told it is safe. We learn to question that.

Yes, trust science, but remember some science is tainted. That’s not even to mention the phenomenon of human knowledge reaching new conclusions. Often we see how a new study changes the way we think about a topic. My objective is to recommend that you stay open minded. The preconception is the deepest challenge of our times. 

  • Don’t let media think for you. 
  • Dont let the government think for you. 
  • Don’t let social media think for you. 
  • Don’t let your friends or family think for you

Start with the standard narrative, respect it, but don’t settle for it.

I’ve known for a long time that if you settle for the standard American diet, for example, you will be exposed to certain elevated health risks. Often you have to go against the norm to be healthy. Food raised intentionally, without pesticides, and taking account for the environment is good medicine.

We can’t have someone else be awake for us. There is much that must be done to take your health into your own hands. Know this:

  1. The best diet minimizes preservatives, additives, pesticides and fertilizers.
  2. Look at the ingredients. Michael Pollen says if you can’t understand something on the ingredient list or if there’s more than five items on their, be concerned and move on.
  3. Prioritize local and organic food initiatives. 
  4. Seek out food producers and products that have as part of their mission your health rather than trying to impress your taste buds or your budget. Health food stores carry cleaning products and hygiene products that keep the chemical load low.
  5. Don’t smoke, minimize alcohols and get lots of outdoor exercise.

What are you saying about COVID?

I’m not saying the vaccine shouldn’t be trusted, I watch the science closely and see the helpful trends. I sympathize with the overworked frontline hospital EMTs, nurses and doctors. I am saying don’t be surprised that not everyone wants it. These questionable EPA decisions provides a relevant backdrop.

Stronger than the modern call to Trust the Science are the calls to: 

  • learn to discern
  • grow your skills
  • love thy neighbor 
  • and be present.

And just to elaborate on the last point:

It just might be the best bet to navigating life with all its inherent challenges.