“It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags.” How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess.
Who knew that these words would ever ring true - life imitating art. The difference however, is that the fictional Grinch has taken real-life form as the Covid-19 virus that has brought the world to its collective knees. In spite of our hopes, politics, beliefs or dreams, we have no recourse but to concede to the will of Mother Nature or suffer the consequences. Collectively, United States citizens have refused to concede and practice the necessary behavior modification necessary and are now experiencing more Covid-19 related deaths per day (3,000+) than the total number of deaths from the pandemic of Japan (2833), Taiwan (7), Hong Kong (131) and Vietnam (35) combined.
Although everyone is excited about the pipeline of multiple FDA approved vaccines to light the way to the end of the current pandemic, we are a far cry from the end of our journey. Though we may see hope in the flicker of light at the end of the tunnel, we have to acknowledge that we are still in the tunnel and must endure it to the end.
Sadly, our behavior during the Thanksgiving holiday and our lack of adherence to public health and healthcare experts’ advice has led to the beginning of one of the darkest winters in recent history. According to the statistics from Johns Hopkins University, on Friday we recorded the largest number of Covid-19 infections ever in a single day – over 249,000. We are tired, miss our families and want to gather for “Happy Holidays,” but unfortunately, the pandemic is not done, and the virus is surging across the nation. The case numbers are increasing, and our behavior is increasingly opposite of what is necessary to reduce them.
What is frightening is that we are poised to repeat this same fatal pattern only a few weeks later - during our Christmas holidays. Virus cases are surging in the midst of the surge. Over the past weekend alone, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), more than 3 million people traveled through U.S. airports between Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The UK has cancelled all Christmas gatherings and closed its borders in an attempt to slow their winter surge, while the US is traveling and gathering like the virus takes holidays off. According to Dr. Eric Griggs, Community Medicine Director at Access Health Louisiana in New Orleans, “Cognitive dissonance is at an all-time high. The virus is not going away. Though many people may be ‘over’ the virus, the virus is not done with us and we are seeing this every day.”
Considering more than 300,000 people in the US have died from this virus, it can be concluded that we are literally “loving our families to death.” In spite of the continued warnings and pleas from our healthcare providers and public health officials to avoid gathering with loved ones outside of our residences, our instinctual desire to gather remains, and we are paying the price with our lives and the lives of our loved ones. The US case numbers are continuing to surge and will continue to do so.
This is not a contest of wills. Until we can concede that Mother Nature is not on our side, we will not prevail. Nature cares not for our holidays or traditions, our beliefs, our relationships, causes or intents. The virus is going to do what viruses do – spread to as many organisms as possible. And contrary to many of our misguided beliefs, the virus doesn’t spread the virus. People spread the virus. In the battle between man and Mother Nature, we are losing because of our refusal to modify our behavior. In this battle with Mother Nature we only have 3 tools:
We can tame COVID -19 through vaccinations, which are on the horizon and won’t reach the general public for months
Medicate or treat it via therapeutics which are still being developed, although President Trump was treated with a medication cocktail that hasn’t been approved for the general public; or
Mitigate it by learning to live with the virus. Living with the virus requires humans to modify their behavior, (washing hands, social distancing and wearing masks) which is proving to be most difficult for many.
The CDC has published holiday celebration and small gathering guidelines detailing how if you must travel and gather, how to do to it safely. If you do decide to host a small celebration, here are some quick guidelines for your gatherings over the holidays:
Have a conversation with guests ahead of time and establish expectations.
Limit the number of guests
Require everyone wears a mask when not eating or drinking
Host gatherings outdoors or improve indoor ventilation by opening windows and doors
Space seating at least 6 feet apart
Encourage guests to avoid singing or shouting and maintain music at low levels to ensure people don’t have to shout or speak loudly to be heard.
Make sure guests are washing their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
According to most recent statistics, last week COVID-19 claimed the lives of more than 18,000 people across the country. Hospital occupancy in several states is at an all-time high and Los Angeles, CA has zero ICU capacity!
Again, when will we learn? Remember, the virus doesn’t spread the virus. People spread the virus. Let’s do what we can within our control to mitigate the transmission of the virus.
In the words of Louisiana Governor, John Bel Edwards, “This holiday season, let’s show the people we love how much we care about them by acting responsibly and protecting them from COVID-19. This Christmas, let’s spread cheer, not COVID.”
Please practice proper behavior modification (wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands) and the Grinch will not steal all of Christmas!
Happy Holidays to all. Spread Cheer and not Covid!