Sex, Drugs, and Public Health

May 23, 2022

It’s Not Over

Filed under: Uncategorized — cbmosher @ 8:29 am

            But it’s not your fault.

            Oh, oh, I just wrote the punch line. So what’s left to write? Ah, well, the Middle, of course.

            Giddy with the joys of Spring, of my daughter, of my egg-hunting grand-daughter and of days of playing with a six year-old (made me feel – and act – like a kid), I experienced a sudden, nauseating hit in my gut. It wasn’t the jelly beans. It was the news that a political appointee in Florida had just yanked the “Health” out of Public Health. And my flight home was the next day.

            Knowing that the latest variant, Omicron BA-2, was jeopardizing the supply chain of Air Fryers and Christmas Toys (lock-down in China), and had hopped from South Africa to New England in just eight weeks, I wore my N-95. But only one third of the passengers did.

            For the other two thirds, it was like exercising “freedom” from their seat belts just before merging into the truck traffic on 99.

            I take my guidance from multiple studies and a couple of case reports in particular. Case # 1 was a man who sat thru a flight from China to Toronto and was diagnosed with Covid after he landed. They tested 25 people near him on the plane. No one was infected. He and everyone on the plane had worn masks. Case # 2 involved a couple of hairdressers in Missouri who were diagnosed. But all 140 customers they exposed during their infectious period were negative because everyone in the salon was required to mask up.

            Question # 1: what are the most accurate Public Health data points? We all know that conspiracy mongers have tried to convince us that people who were reported as Covid deaths did not die from that cause. If you swallow that, it may lead you to believe Covid is a mild disease (or a non-existent disease if you want to go that far). So let’s ignore the cause of death and just look at the numbers of deaths.

            Births and deaths are the most solid data we use in Public Health. Pretty binary. From as far back as at least 2010, Average Daily Deaths (from any cause) in the U S have fluctuated between 7,000 in summer and 9,000 in Winter. Like a baby roller coaster, up and down; up and down for over a decade. But suddenly, in 2020 and 2021, the roller coaster graph became erratic. It burst out of its seasonal pattern with spikes as high as 12,000 deaths a day. Even tho these were “All Causes” deaths – that is, no cause reported – it’s pretty clear what was responsible for these “excess deaths,” as they’re called.

            But many folks are not concerned about the possibility of death from lung failure. However, a large number of survivors – over 18 million in the U S (the exact number can’t be counted at this point) end up with Long Covid. Months of profound fatigue, shortness of breath, brain fog and / or insomnia. Investigators believe this is either persistent infection or an auto-immune syndrome where a patient’s immune system attacks the body itself. Similar to Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn’s Disease, Lupus and other auto-immune diseases.

            You know by now what “Pandemic” means. We’ve studied this new virus enuf so far to see that the constant parade of variants means that it’s become “Endemic” here in the U S. That is, it’ll be with us for a long time.

            So what do we do about this Public Health crisis?

  1. Wear a respirator-mask in crowded, enclosed areas. And make it an N-95, not a cloth mask or paper surgical mask. Oh, and cover your nose, too.
  2. Get / remain fully vaccinated. Studies from Israel and the U K show that this greatly reduces the likelihood of Long Covid. Immunity from this vaccine wanes over time, so stay boosted.

            Question # 2: What is the safest age group for humans?

            If people get thru their first year of life, the period of lowest mortality is from there to age 19.

            Then they start to drive.

            Question # 3:  what’s the leading cause of death in children aged 1 to 19 in the U. S. ?

            Not anymore. It USED TO BE motor vehicle accidents. For years. But in 2020 that changed. That year, 4357 kids were killed by firearms. That was the year when gun-related deaths first eclipsed deaths from MVA’s in that age group. 

            Know what else happened in 2020? Gun sales (per the FBI) hit an all-time high at 21 million.

            What can we do about Public Health crisis number 2?

            Lobby legislators, both local and federal, for sensible gun control laws.

            Question # 4: How many Earths do we need to maintain our current rate of resource use and destructive emissions?

            Answer: 1.75.  Obviously, more than we’ve got.

            “Earth provides enuf to satisfy everyone’s needs, but not everyone’s greed.” (Gandhi)

            There’s BIG GREED and LITTLE GREED. The Big one is corporate. The Little one is what each of us has. But both need to be dealt with because the Quality of Life on this planet is so much more important than uncontrolled economic growth.

            This requires VISION.

            “As human beings we base our conception of time on our life-span. This is unfortunate when it comes to planning for what industrialization is doing to make earth inhospitable to life in our children’s lifetimes let alone 1,000’s of years from now.” (source forgotten). 

            Many of us (me included) will be gone before it gets really bad. But do we want to take our last breaths realizing that we fiddled like Nero and left an un-fixable catastrophe of fires, droughts, floods, crop failures, new Infectious Diseases, and worse of all, possible human extinction to our kids and grandkids?

            What can we do right now about Public Health crisis # 3?

  1. Lobby the politicians. Local and federal.
  2. Use our feet or bicycles rather than cars when possible
  3. Go solar. Don’t waste electricity (check out Ohm Connect). Insulate.
  4. Move toward much more plant-based food (60% of Ag land is for grazing animals, which releases tons of methane into the atmosphere).
  5. Shop locally to avoid transportation of food. Grow your own. Farmer’s Market.
  6. Don’t waste food (currently 30 to 40% is wasted).
  7. Adjust what you wear. The Fashion industry causes 8 to 10% of CO2 emissions. Recycle. Repair.
  8. Plant trees. They eat CO2 for lunch.
  9. Invest intelligently. Avoid carbon polluters.

            Question # 5: How’s the Mental Health of our descendants doing?

            “I love my students at school. But I want to be child-free. People are envious of us. We’ve had people confide and say ‘You guys are so lucky’.” (A 30-something teacher).

            Fertility rates in the U S have been falling since the mid 60’s. From 110 births per 1000 women aged 15 – 44 down to 58.3 by 2019. Counter-intuitively, they fell even more during the Covid Pandemic. 44% of non-parents say it’s unlikely that they will have children. Reasons? “Medical,” “Financial,” “State of the World” and “Climate Crisis.” (Pew Research).

            More globally, from a survey of 2100 people aged 18 to 29, done by Harvard:

  1. 51% feel “down, depressed, hopeless”
  2. 25% have had thoughts of self-harm
  3. 56% say Climate Crisis is already impacting or will impact future decisions
  4. 52% say “Democracy is “in trouble” or “failing”

            And now this: a 93 year-old veteran of International Politics recently said “We’re approaching the most dangerous point in human history.”

            When I was in Junior High, I lived in a fallout shelter. Dad obtained a lead-lined door from the Radiology Department and built a room of cement blocks in the cellar. Seemed like a natural extension from the “Duck and Cover” drills we had in grade school. I’d almost forgotten those days of cowering under our school desks until Putin declared “Any country that interferes (with his invasion) will face consequences greater than you have faced in history.”

            Big issues. And real. But we can’t ignore them. That wouldn’t help the kids. So, on top of the Public Health crisis of war (see Gazette of March 3) we have a generation with serious Mental Health issues.

            What can we do about Public Health crisis # 4?

  1. Check in with the kids (and adults) to be sure they’re not hiding depression
  2. Don’t dismiss signs of depression. In others, or yourself. There are specialists who can help.
  3. Stay connected. In person, by phone, e-mail or even that quaint (but frequently appreciated) ink-on-paper. 
  4. Stay physically active and include others.
  5. Do what you’re good at.
  6. Find ways to serve others.
  7. Fight for Democracy. Everyone, especially the kids, must have a voice and a vote that gets counted. We can teach the kids techniques we learned in earlier struggles.

            We need to remind ourselves that these big issues are not our fault. But there’s a lot we can do to start fixing stuff.

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