That was on November 19th this year…the pace of COVID-19 deaths in the United States…one every 44 seconds, or 1,971 in a 24 hour period. They have tallied “only 956 deaths for yesterday so far, but that figure will rise, and the high water mark was back on May 7 with 2,770 recorded deaths from COVID. We were supposed to flatten the curve, but that didn’t really happen, so now we are facing a precipitous rise to perhaps new highs. What can we do?
There is no doubt that the two vaccines with 95% efficacy now seeking FDA approval will be a tremendous help in shutting down the pandemic, and there is another from Astra Zeneca with partial results that also are reasonably promising. But for any vaccine, we will be waiting three to six months for the shot. The wait is that short only for front line workers and later the older or at risk populations. They have gotten so much better at treating people with COVID, you may say, and it is true that remdesivir and dexamethasone are tremendous assets as are the ventilator units. What we may not fully appreciate, however, is that the health care workers on the front lines also have become much more informed about when and how to administer these aggressive techniques for them to be so effective. Even more hidden is the simple fact that far more young people have been getting infected, and they simply are more resilient in fighting the infection.
And we do not have any real shortage of supplies (nationally speaking, because some more rural areas are a bit short on personal protective equipment, therapies and ventilator equipment), but we are beginning to stretch the capabilities of medical staff in a lot of major medical centers. In fact, in a number of areas there now are more ventilators than there are staff to manage them.
So, how do you move toward that light at the end of the tunnel? If you want to have a place in line for the vaccination, you have to survive through the wait. You need to go back to the basics that were offered by the CDC early this year. Wash your hands frequently, keep social distance (I prefer to call it “physical distance” because I like being connected to people) and wear a mask whenever you cannot maintain distance. It’s simple…boring, frustrating and really tiresome…but simple. It’s also a bit ironic if you look at some of the archived pictures of people in urban centers back in 1918. You’ll see that they wore masks…they did not have a vaccine to which they could look forward, but they followed the guidelines. (They didn’t even have Netflix!)
Let’s walk the number back from once every 44 seconds to once in a blue moon and then to never. We can do it right now. It’s simple.
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.