Opinion

Chuck Norris: Pandemic progress as a third wave looms

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As I discussed last week, the news of the day never seems good, and the pileup of such stories takes a toll on our psyche. It can lead to a daily cycle of negative thoughts and emotion-driven actions we might regret. It is why we need to find the space for uplifting stories where we can find them. An example I shared was news of how improvements in intensive care units are saving the lives of more COVID-19 patients.

“As we gain greater experience with novel infections, mortality goes down.” epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford of University of California, San Francisco explained to The Mercury News.

Over the past six months, we have continually been told by public health experts that the best thing we can do to prevent exposure to the COVID-19 virus and contain its spread is to wash our hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public place, stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people when in public, and cover our mouths and noses with masks when around others. According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it now appears that taking such actions may have kept cases of the flu at historic lows around the world. Think of it as an unintended benefit.

As reported by NBC News, “Data from the Southern Hemisphere shows sharp drops in influenza cases during the typical season.” In the United States, circulation of the flu virus dropped sharply within two weeks of the government declaring a national emergency on March 1. “The global decline in influenza virus circulation appears to be real and concurrent with the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated community mitigation measures,” CDC researchers reported.

It’s too early to predict the severity of flu season in the U.S., and it is important to get immunized, but if Americans continue to wear masks and social distance, it can “slow the spread of both Covid-19 and the flu,” Dr. Jake Deutsch, an emergency physician and the owner of Cure Urgent Care, tells NBC News.

At the same time, while youth e-cigarette use remains an epidemic in this country, the decline in underage vaping between this year and last is dramatic. Earlier this month, Time magazine reported that, according to new data from the CDC, almost 2 million fewer U.S. teenagers report using e-cigarettes in 2020 compared with 2019.

“In addition,” the Time report adds, “anecdotal reports suggest some people have been driven to quit by studies published recently that suggest vaping could increase a user’s risk of having a serious case of COVID-19.”

While stories like these are important, I am also aware that we cannot avoid unpleasant and disturbing news when it comes to this pandemic. Though negativity can be a problem, so can avoidance as a means of coping. It comes with its own set of problems. According to psychologist Alice Boyes, author of “The Anxiety Toolkit,” avoidance coping causes anxiety to snowball. As Chris Wilson and Jeffrey Kluger note in Time magazine, when it comes to avoidance and COVID-19, “There are few things as powerful.” They believe that our experience to date with the virus toll should have been enough “to scare us all straight,” making social distancing, mask-wearing and hand-washing all universal practices. “Not so much,” they concede.

Now data is showing that a “third wave” of COVID-19 could be about to hit the U.S. “Heading into the fall and winter, there are clear signs of a third resurgence bearing a close resemblance to what we saw in early June,” Wilson and Kluger write. “Whatever the manifold causes of the third wave, there is reason to worry that it will prove worse than the first two. The arrival of colder weather in some states means more time spent indoors, where viruses are more easily transmitted.”

“A second surge of the coronavirus in the fall and winter could be catastrophic for the U.S. It’s not just more sick people that doctors worry about,” reports NBC’s Lauren Dunn. “The very hospitals that treat lower-income patients could be forced to shut down or cut crucial services.”

“We would absolutely be at risk of closing,” Dr. Shereef Elnahal, president and CEO of University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, tells NBC. “It would be a public health disaster for this community.”

According to the American Hospital Association, by the end of 2020, hospitals across the U.S. will lose about $300 billion. For major medical centers such as University Hospital in Newark, the financial hit of a second wave of COVID-19 would be especially devastating. “Where there are already cracks in the system, those cracks become earthquakes,” Dr. Chris Pernell, University Hospital’s chief of strategic integration and health equity officer, tells NBC.

“The U.S., which represents only 4% of the world’s population yet has reported more than 20% of its COVID-9 cases and deaths, will continue to struggle. It is up to all of us, working together, to bring that suffering to an end,” Wilson and Kluger conclude.

Write to Chuck Norris ([email protected]) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com.

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Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris is one of the most enduringly popular actors in the world. He has starred in more than 20 major motion pictures. A New York Times best-selling author of two books, including the 2004 autobiographical “Against All Odds,” Norris and his wife, Gena, have a home in Dallas and a ranch near Houston, where they divide their time, along with their 6-year-old twins, Dakota and Dani Lee.

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