February 15, 2021

Public health makes a difference.

The last year has been unprecedented but not unexpected. Many public health experts and epidemiologists had been warning for years that “emerging” infections have the potential to cause a deadly pandemic. We were caught unprepared and not just because Trump dissolved The Global Health Security and Biodefense unit that Obama had established in the National Security Council that was responsible for pandemics. Also because for years, support for our aging and inadequate public health infrastructure had dwindled. The result is a lot of suffering. The Lancet, a prestigious medical journal from the UK, published a scathing report today outlining those failures. Our lack of public health policy, inability to call for mask mandates, naming the pandemic a hoax, with more conflicting messages from Trump himself, increased death and suffering by hundreds of thousands. Per the report, the US could have avoided 40% of the deaths. We have lost 486,000 so far and will reach 500,000 deaths within a matter of days.

We obviously need a blueprint for preventing a similar event happening in the future. Scientists are concerned that more novel infections will emerge in the future due to pressure from climate change. They want to be better prepared and find new emerging viruses and infections before they become pandemics.

As far as our pandemic, I feel like we are on the downhill slope (Still pretty high though). The vaccines are making a difference. Already in Israel where the Pfizer vaccine has been given to a high precent of the population, data show a strong response to the vaccine. Symptomatic infections and hospitalizations are way down in the vaccinated. Now that Biden is president, we have an advocate for more vaccine and immunization roll out. We are immunizing more and more each day, although we are still sorting out details. Glitches still happen and unexpected roadblocks, like winter weather with cold and snow affecting many parts of the country. But we are making progress. 38.8 million have been vaccinated so far, more every day.

Hopefully we are also making progress to trust the vaccines as more and more receive them. And more realization that we must do better the next time. Too many have died and too many have suffered. We cannot forget that many are still recovering from their COVID-19 infections months later. The UW here has set up a clinic to help those still suffering. Other places across the country are doing the same, offering help and guidance to the “long haulers”, reminding clinicians of “anchoring bias” and to look for possible other causes of symptoms, not just from COVID-19, so that other diagnoses are not missed.

Elections matter. Educate yourself and vote when you can. Public health matters. Support it and better access to health care. All of our futures depend on those things.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six. Support your local health department.