COVID- Pondering What’s Next

Author: Gael Wheeler, DO

Everyone is wondering what will happen next and when. The COVID virus has put everyday life on pause for everyone except essential workers. Many are working from the safety of home. Many others have been laid off or even lost their jobs and businesses. The economic pressure to ‘reopen’ is intense.

But rates of infection are still high. Many carriers are asymptomatic, spreading the virus to others who may be vulnerable. People are still dying of this virus every day. The storm is still raging; is it really safe to go back to what we used to know as normal? What will it take to have that level of certainty we need to proceed with confidence?

Knowledge and tools for this next step are being assessed daily. Antibody tests may help identify those who currently have immunity. It is known the FDA allowed a large number of these tests without an assessment of quality. Only a small number have been vetted: Cellex, Chembio Diagnostic Systems, Orthoclinical Diagnostics, and Mount Sinai Laboratory. Other inferior tests are more likely to give false information, useless in the intelligent management of this problem. And, given a relatively accurate test, we don’t know how long these antibodies may provide protection.

In addition, we currently don’t have enough tests available to adequately identify infected persons and track their contacts. Going ‘back to normal’ without a solid plan for testing would be a recipe for disaster. Many doctors and experts predict we would see another peak of infection in as little as two to four weeks. This would necessitate a second shutdown, extending the period of economic uncertainty.

We know that effective vaccines are likely not going to be available soon. There is talk about serum donation for antibodies; indeed this has been done, matched by blood type, to successfully treat active cases in a few instances. This is not a preventative solution and not likely to be pursued, as no one stands to gain financially by the therapy. Daily we learn more in the fight against this virus.

That bright light of certainty is still only a soft glow of hope at this point. What we can do presently is support our immune function and avoid infection. We must do this for a bit longer, even though it is uncomfortable. We must continue to do this until we have figured out a way to return that jeopardizes the health of no one. We can look to countries like Germany who are further down the road in dealing with COVID, to get a sense of direction. The whole world has been impacted and put on pause; we will collectively find the safest path out.

In pondering our return, I think it is important to reflect on the wisdom we may have gained during this pause. Do we really need to run about madly, exhausted, satisfying our every crave? For a while, we have traded that lifestyle for one that allows us to sleep until rested, to truly be present and listen to ourselves. It’s given us time to think. The fact that this has occurred in springtime, the season of rebirth, is no small irony for many. This has given so many people the chance to quiet down enough to ponder what’s important in their lives and to ponder how to redesign a life that honors this new awareness. This time has shifted peoples’ lives worldwide; it will be interesting to see what long term positive changes may result.