In the middle of March, we were all told to stay home and socially distance in order to “flatten the curve” of new cases and deaths from COVID-19. Businesses were closed…events were cancelled…travel was halted…and our world came to a crashing halt except for businesses and workers that were deemed “essential.” The stated goal was to control the spread of the new unknown and deadly coronavirus and to avoid an overwhelming influx of patients into our health-care system. Less than two months later, the curve is flattening—the rate of both new cases and hospitalizations are down in most of the US…the number of people being tested is up…and the powers that be promise us that we are nearing the apex in the death curve.
Additionally, top scientists and medical researchers around the globe have been working overtime to understand the mechanism of COVID-19 in order to develop treatments and potential vaccines. And they’ve had good success. The amount of knowledge they have gained about both the illness and treatment options since China first announced the outbreak is super-humanly impressive, not to mention the development of several types of tests that can accurately determine the presence of the virus.
This is what happens when the goal is clear—find out what this thing is and what to do about it!!! FAST!!! While not “mission accomplished,” it’s well on its way—a virtual miracle considering that, generally speaking, there are no known cures for viruses, including for the annual flu, which, according to the CDC, is estimated to have struck 39 million to 56 million people during the 2019–2020 season and caused 24,000 to 62,000 deaths For reference, as I write this, there have been approximately 550,000 cases of coronavirus in the US—1/100 as many people as got the seasonal flu this year.
Yet, this morning, while writing this, I received notification that the governor of Connecticut (where I live) like many other governors—has already determined that all non-essential businesses will stay closed for another five weeks…until May 20 in order to prevent the continued spread of the virus.
Why on earth would that be, given that the rate of spread is reducing…treatments are being shown effective…and experts are acknowledging that, at 4% in the US (based on the total deaths/confirmed cases in The Johns Hopkins map as of April 13), the reported death rate is grossly overstated. Experts have no idea how many thousands—or millions—of people have had mild or asymptomatic COVID-19 already…and Dr. Birx of the President’s task force acknowledges that doctors have been instructed to credit COVID as cause of death even if someone had symptoms or confirmed COVID yet the patient likely died of another ailment.
Why? Because they have entirely lost site of the goal and have moved the goalposts. Where to? Toward what end?
No longer is the goal to flatten the curve. It has morphed into a dangerous intolerance of sickness or death for anyone—including the already infirmed, the elderly and the frail for whom the odds of death in a given year are already significant. Hyperbolic fear-mongering across the media has elevated this milder cousin of MERS and SARS into a deadly plague akin to smallpox, tuberculosis or the Spanish flu, which killed somewhere between 20 million and 40 million people….a far cry from the number of people who have succumbed to COVID-19 thus far, albeit all of it tragic.
People are walking around like zombies covered with masks and gloves, deathly afraid to breathe the air or touch a surface, having forgotten that they have spent their entire lives exercising their immune systems by being exposed to billions of germs that surround us every day. I can’t tell you how many people I see wearing masks during my daily walks at the park or local beach even though they are very far from anyone…or the number of people wearing masks while driving in their own cars. Are they now afraid of their own germs?
The daily message given to people is, “Be afraid…be very afraid.”
Is this the new goal? Create a country full of people fearful of leaving their homes and interacting with their fellow human beings? I sure hope not because on the flip side is a frightening increase in depression, anxiety, suicide and just plain loneliness as a result of the quarantine.
Or is the new goal to never have someone get sick from or die of coronavirus? If so, let me warn you now…it’s unattainable. At least not before our entire country collapses in financial ruin if the strategy for achieving that goal is quarantine.
And if the new goal is to never have someone get sick or die from coronavirus, then why are health-care providers not more aggressively using medications such as hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, which have been shown in numerous tests to date to be very effective and safe at treating COVID-19? There are tools that are available that are not being widely used.
The risks from these medications touted by the media are in a fractionally small percentage of users who take it for extended periods of time—not for less than a week. And concerns about the need for large double-blind placebo-controlled studies are ill-founded for two reasons. First, 10% to 20% of all prescriptions are written each year for “off-label” uses—that means using drugs for something other than they were developed and tested. There are no double-blind placebo-controlled studies for off-label drug usage, yet millions of prescriptions are written this way every year…just like it is recommended to do for hydroxycholoroquine and Z-packs And second, the coronavirus sufferers for whom these drugs are recommended are extremely sick—is withholding these medications allowing patients to die?
Rather than have people hiding behind masks and gloves, why are doctors being critical of the concept of strengthening our immune systems with nutrients such as vitamin C and zinc? Instead they are frightening people with statements such as, “If you boost your immune system too much, you can give yourself an autoimmune disease”! (Yes…I saw a high-profile doctor interviewed on a leading network morning news program make this statement.) Taking vitamin C and zinc will not give people autoimmune diseases, but it may protect them from coronavirus. The goal of supplementation is to shore up the immune system to be prepared for battle…not to overpump it. And yes, if the public generally ate healthy foods, slept eight hours a night and exercised regularly, they would all have strong healthy immune systems…but most people don’t.
These are very real tools that are currently available…and yet they are not being promoted or made widely available to the public.
So I ask again—what is the goal?
There isn’t a business consultant, coach or self-help guru out there who doesn’t talk about the importance of setting goals. Where do you want to go…and how are you going to get there? It is the most basic of tenets for success. I joke that my job as a corporate leader is to “point my finger”—this is where we are marching and why. My favorite business book of all time—The One Minute Manager has setting goals as the very first priority when it comes to how to manage.
And yet, with that initial COVID-19 goal clearly in sight, it’s absolutely mind-boggling to me that there are those who seem to be shifting focus before we have hit the goal. Coaches will tell all players to play full out to the buzzer…for those running track to push all the way through the finish line and not to let up on the gas before the tape. There are preventive measures and treatments available to allow us to get that curve flat and return to life—to meet the goal.
Business experts have stated that companies get themselves in trouble—and often fail—when they veer from their core mission and vision. Well, we are now veering from our corona mission, and we are heading toward disaster.
We can’t succumb to a foolhardy fantasy in which no one gets sick from corona…or the next mystery virus or bacterial infection that will come our way. That is simply not the way that nature functions. More sickness will come our way. Nor is it realistic to think that humans who need social interaction and physical touch can continue in their isolation chambers for much longer. Aside from the economic travesty, the human price of that will be a whole different kind of emotional pandemic.
Rather, we need to stick to our stated goal—to flatten the curve in order to handle the flow of the ill while the researchers identify options to both prevent and treat those who do succumb. We are within reach of the finish line. Moving it may cost us far more than this race—it may cost us the human race.
Sarah Hiner, president and CEO of Bottom Line Inc., is passionate about giving people the tools and knowledge they need to be in control of their lives in areas such as living a healthier life, the challenges of the health-care system, commonsense financial advice and creating great relationships. She appears often on national radio and hosts the Bottom Line Advocator Podcast, where she interviews leading experts to help people be their own best advocates in all areas of life.