Currently viewing the tag: "pandemic"

A funny thing happened on the way to the 2020s. Our TV-filled minds and soda-soaked bodies got spun in a real life episode of Black Mirror. I have been writing this blog since 2007, and the primary theme for most of those years has been “mind your health.” I approached this mission from a number of angles. I stressed:

  • Be mindful of your self-care: watch what you eat, move regularly, balance your activities with rest, balance your perceptions to minimize volatilities, address your pain, and minimize toxins
  • Be hygienic and do not be petrified of pathogens. Focus more on your immune function than on any germ
  • See symptoms as your body doing its job, and think of “illness” as an opportunity
  • Keep challenging yourself physically and mentally for continuous conditioning and adaptation

My way, especially in the early years, was to pound that message into my audience, over and over again, perhaps changing the scenario or details of the story, but keeping the main points the same, always. I am big on universals.

It’s also important to be rational – that is, not have expectations that fall outside of reality. Unfortunately, it seems to be the folly of the human mind to place hope in the irrational. While the trait is widespread among us all, it generally operates beneath our awareness. A common expression of this trait is we want to save or eradicate one thing or another – many of which are simply a reality of this world and are neither savable nor eradicatable.

Take death for example. Everyone will tell you that they accept death, and they do, in the long run, without exception. However, when one takes the time to actually think about and assess our underlying views: collectively, people believe we should save life and prevent death at all costs. Our medical system runs with this as its fundamental purpose, and public opinion is often aligned with this sentiment: Nobody should die.

HealthyPreventCovidDeath3I do not believe this is a bad view. We should want to prevent death in others, particularly our loved ones, because it is a distinctively human trait. We do not need to change the things that make us beautiful as humans. But it does help in keeping bigger events in perspective when we are frank with ourselves. For instance, in accepting that all dynamical events (events moving through time) involving a life form come with an inherent probability of death. In other words, death is a part of life. There is death everywhere, and in everything there is a way to die. We might die from something we enjoy and we might die from something we don’t. There is no predicting it at all, not if you allow nature to be the director.

And, of course, that means the world will have death. We tend to perceive large scale, high probability death events as horrific: War, natural disaster, disease – all tragic, all unnecessary, all regretful. Naturally, as humans we wish to eradicate them all. It would seem absurd, of course, to most of us for the hope of the abolition of natural disasters. There isn’t a soul who fails to get that we have no control over the elements of nature. Yet, surely, the other two are controllable. War and illness are large-scale dynamic events very similar to what we might consider “natural” phenomena. But human developments are no less natural in how they flow through time, with human decision-making and action leading to an unfolding of events not under individual control. While collaborative efforts can, and certainly do, affect outcomes, they mostly contribute to the flow and unfolding of events more than they “alter” history, as we often perceive, and report on, our heroic efforts.

Understanding these “realities,” as I have already said, gives clarity to our ability to assess larger-scale phenomena. Take Covid-19, for instance: We have had nine-months, maybe longer, to observe and analyze the virus responsible, SARS-CoV-2. We have solid numbers now. Why are we acting irrationally in the face of the facts?

For nine months, I have read, listened, watched Congressional hearings on, discussed and cross-referenced this pandemic. I have heard many arguments on a few different sides, and the conclusions always depend on who is doing the talking. Some people believe we are under-reacting; others believe we are going too far. Animosity is simmering and beginning to roll to a boil. Some have been willing to unleash their aggressions on those they think are either selfish or sheep, depending on their overall perspective. But is it warranted?

I think I have laid the groundwork for an argument which I believe stems from the human propensity to not want others to die. Most of us feel that way on one level or another; it’s understandable, and in my perspective, desirable and beautiful to want others to live. But on the other hand, it seems irrational to continue strict quarantine measures, when the numbers do not justify the reaction.

The two most fundamental characteristics of a pathogen are its contagiousness and its pathogenicity. A pathogen’s contagiousness is how quickly and readily it will spread among people. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a rapid spreader. This to me is the most relevant attribute of this virus. The pathogenicity of a microorganism is its ability to cause disease. A highly pathogenic organism can cause serious damage – to individuals, yes, but also to populations as a whole. If a pathogen is both highly contagious and highly virulent, there will be enormous death. Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of the bubonic plague, the Black Death, is contagious and highly virulent. If left untreated, the death rate for this pathogen is 70-100%. As a result, it led to the death of over a third of the population of Europe.

How virulent is SARS-CoV-2? As a novel virus – meaning, it is relatively new to us – we could only estimate early on the virus’ pathogenicity, to which we then attributed a death rate. Now, understandably, in the first few months of the pandemic, we estimated high. The numbers were not large enough to approach the mean, and without a doubt, it was wise to be safe over sorry. Death rate [or infection fatality rate more accurately (IFR)] is simply calculated:

# of deaths/# of cases

As we are now nine or more months into things, the numbers are large enough that we can assume we are approximating the mean (or average). The U.S. death rate, then, using the most current numbers (as of December 17, 2020):

311,000/17,300,000 = 0.018 or 1.8% (approximately 1 in 50)

Studies like this one estimate that the actual SARS-CoV-2 infections is anywhere from 3-20 times higher than current confirmed cases. At the low end that would make the death rate

311,000/51,900,000 = .0059 or .59% (approximately 1 in 200)

At the high end

311,000/346,000,000 = .00089 or .09% (less than 1 in 1000)

Deaths-by-Age-Group-ChartFurther, approximately 40% of all U.S. deaths have been in nursing homes. If we were to remove the 100,000 nursing home deaths from the numbers above, the death rate would look like this:

211,000/17,200,000 = 0.012 or 1.2% (approximately 1 in 100)
211,000/51,800,000 = .0040 or .40% (approximately 1 in 250)

211,000/345,900,000 = .00061 or .06% (approximately 1 in 2000)

Seen from another angle, the number of people who have been infected and who have survived is as high as 1,999 of every 2,000.

This study from September 2020, estimates the infection fatality rate as .28-.31%, or roughly 3 deaths in every 1,000 infections, and according to some experts the actual death rate [case fatality ratio (CFR)] is closer to 0.02% (that’s 1 in every 5,000).

More importantly, and the real point I wish to make, is that 94% of deaths reported have had associated comorbidities, in other words, underlying health issues. Does this mean that only 6% actually died of Covid-19? No but what it does mean, though, is that people who have underlying illnesses are at a greater risk of dying from Covid-19. Well I’ve got news for you: People who have underlying illnesses are at a greater risk of dying, period. I have been trying to get this point across for going on two decades now. When will people get it? And the vast majority of underlying illnesses today are lifestyle related – that means they are PREVENTABLE! Some of the most common comorbidities associated with Covid-19 deaths are influenza and pneumonia, respiratory failure, hypertensive disease, diabetes, cardiac arrest, heart or renal failure, and obesity.

HealthyPreventCovidDeathBelieve it or not, every one of these Covid-19 death associated illnesses can be minimized by adopting healthy lifestyle habits. It’s amazing how many people get angry at me for stating this fact, that they could actually improve their health, improve their lives, and minimize illness and suffering by practicing simple healthy habits. Eating well, exercising, stretching, sleeping well, addressing emotional stresses, addressing physical pains and injuries wisely, and keeping the drugs, alcohol, and other medications to moderate levels will significantly impact your life for the better. These are simple actions that everyone can adopt, but the reality is that only a small percentage of the population actually does so. People, in general, want easy fixes, which just do not exist in the realm of health and wellness. Fixes which appear to be quick and easy (and that includes many surgeries) almost always come with unwanted consequences (aka side effects). Dying of Covid-19 is one of them.

Listen, the numbers do not lie. What makes things uncertain for the masses is the volume of different interpretations. Granted most people wish to be safe over sorry – I both get that and agree with it. However, you cannot leave your health to chance and then expect a different outcome. It is not too late for the vast majority of people. I have come to understand that only a small portion of the population will heed my words. This article is for YOU – the person who recognizes the wisdom in what I say. Do highly virulent pathogens exist? Yes. Is SARS-CoV-2 that pathogen? Not by the numbers, it isn’t. Despite hearing for months that the death rate would climb to its more accurate number, it hasn’t gone up at all – it has gone down, and in my opinion it will prove to be even lower. Does this mean we should take it lightly? NO! Do the right things for yourself and your family (what you teach them today becomes habit tomorrow). That has always been my message and it will continue to be so – it is universal.

America BurningAs we emerge from the fires of last week’s riots here in the U.S., Europe finds itself in the throes of unrest. With three months of moderately-strict lockdown due to Covid-19, many had reached the limits of their self-containment. George Floyd’s death was the spark that ignited an inferno which would consume American cities all across the country. Like a wildfire it spread, making its way across the Atlantic to Northwestern Europe. And in the ashes of its destruction, good people have been devastated – emotionally, financially, and legally. Some have lost their lives, leaving behind grieving loved ones, and forcing every citizen to reflect on the full implications of their beliefs, their expectations, and their future.

Not one person has been left unaffected by the combined Covid-19 pandemic and weeks of civil unrest. Businesses remained closed, despite quarantine restrictions being lifted in the strictest U.S. states. And 36 million Americans have been left jobless as a result of Covid-19. Analysts have been uncertain as to how the country will recover following the coronavirus lock downs, but many believe that unless something is done to help homeowners and renters, defaults will be abundant as people scramble to put their lives back in order.

I have no uncertainty that we have stepped into a new world in 2020. What that world will shape into is anybody’s guess, but to think it will ever return to life as we’ve known it would be foolish. Of course, some elements will remain the same – technology will reign supreme, social media will be the place to gather news, information, and entertainment, and political polarization will lead to even greater divides between people. But what, if anything, might we look forward to: what ups-and-downs can we expect along the path of reconstruction? The most honest answer is it will depend on our focus.

TechObviously, different people want different things. Every person can have a version of the future they envision to some degree. I will explain this idea more fully in a bit. But right now exists opportunity to shape your world in the way you want it. Yes you can shape society too, but do not fall victim to the belief that you can do it against the will of others. To create lasting social change, the hearts and mind of the people must be won over. Let me encourage you to think of any lasting social change, and investigate how it was accomplished. Yes violence has happened in moments of societal change, but the violence itself was not the catalyst to the lasting change, it was the inspired movement of hearts and minds which led to the transformation. Gandhi won the hearts and minds of the people. Martin Luther King, Jr. won the hearts and minds of people. Even the American Revolutionaries won the hearts and minds of the people. Without aligning these energy centers to your vision, you will be unlikely to cause lasting change. One need only consider the long chain of military occupiers in Vietnam and the drawn out fighting there to understand what I mean about failing to win hearts and minds. If your vision is big, however, and it includes the most people, you will have a greater probability of creating lasting change. I cannot stress this factor enough: hearts and minds.

MLK Hearts and MindsWhen forging a path in this new world, it would be wise to focus on your highest values. Those things that act as drivers for your decisions – things you are inspired by daily – are what you should focus on and centralize in your vision. For some people it is family, for others it is service, and for even others it is the beauty of the world (artists, poets, musicians, mathematicians, etc.). There is certainly no right or wrong in this regard, other than the importance you give it to your mission. Simply put: A mission is a plan with a purpose. The purpose is the why you do what you do, while the mission is the vision.

A powerful vision is one that has a strong purpose behind it, allows the most people fulfillment of their values, and has a coherent, specific plan to make it happen. If one’s purpose is linked strongly to one’s values, one will be more likely to see it through. Many people inject other’s values into their endeavors, but they do not have the drive to ultimately carry things out. We are driven by our true values, and no matter how good another’s values sound, if you do not truly share them, you will peter out and lose drive. A vision which allows for the greatest numbers of people to fulfill their own values will be the most powerful and longest lasting. Civil rights is one of those visions: by ensuring that all people have a right to pursue and fulfill their values, in health, wealth and freedom, failure becomes impossible. Obstacles will arise, as in any endeavor, but ultimately, people will be inspired and driven to support freedom and justice for all. Finally, a vision is only as good as its implementation. You can envision all day long, but if you do nothing to make it happen, it will remain a daydream.  Constructing a specific plan which can be communicated coherently, so that others may become inspired by your vision, is the surest way to accomplishing your goals. You will forge your way in the new world most successfully by following the principles above. Purpose, vision, and fulfillment for the most people are the ingredients for a lasting legacy.

BalanceFinally, and most importantly, is to strive for balance – in your personal endeavors, as well as for the collective or greater good. Understand that regardless of your vision, you will face obstacles in that endeavor. Obstacles are not vision-killers; they are feedback mechanisms that are in place to guide you. Your vision will be shaped and refined by the obstacles you face…and overcome. To do so you may need to alter your plan a bit. You may need to learn more, or you may need to change beliefs or perspectives. I love to read biographies on the greats of humanity to get a sense of their obstacles, their solutions, and their evolution. You will have yours in your unique way. When attempting to elicit change that is resisted by others, try to find a middle ground. Believe it or not, it is possible to exist in coinciding realities with others – that is, many people can live in worlds of their making together, even when it seems that their worlds are diametrically opposed. Find the common ground. How do you get what you love while others get what they love? That may be the very challenge for you to figure out, but what a powerful vision that is. “All you need is love” is not some hokey song lyric, but a profound truth of all human beings: How do I get what I love while you get what you love…? Living in the extreme polarities of any human issue is volatile – it brings the most stress, the least cooperation, and the baddest blood to the table. Finding the center point and striving for a win-win is the greatest achievement one can have, with the highest possibility of longevity. Game theory, a mathematical study, shows unequivocally that people do better when working together.

The chaos of 2020 has been disruptive for most people to say the least. For many it appears, for now, devastating. But in chaos there is always a hidden order, one that allows for a reconfiguration of your life at the micro-level, but the entire world in the macro. There appears to be great opportunity at this time for enormous change, so take the time and invest the energy to create the world that you want to live in. It will not come easy – so do not take this as the walk-away message. Whatever you would love to see and experience in this new world will take great effort, but it will be worth it. If you can observe the principles I have outlined here, you stand the greatest chance of lasting success. People will follow your inspired message if they can see what is in it for them. What this means for most people is how it will allow them to fulfill their own mission, according to their life’s purpose, which, of course, is intertwined with their highest values. People are only fulfilled – that is, filled-up full – when they are allowed to pursue their dreams, in their way, at their pace. If your vision for the new world allows others to do this, it will be embraced by all.

Copyright © 2013 Dr. Nick Campos - All Rights Reserved.