Happy Tuesday! At least I'm hoping for one..
I have to admit, the events of the last couple of weeks have disheartened me quite a bit.
This disheartenment isn't because any one candidate in the recent election won or lost, but it's a result of the revelations that have emerged and developments that have occurred after the election. I haven't had this feeling since 911. On that dreaded day, our democracy was being attacked. At the time I was working in a hospital in New Jersey. I happened to walk through the doctor's lounge in between cases, only to look up at the tv when the second plane hit the Towers. Needless to say, it was a surreal and terrifying time. My hospital immediately went on trauma alert to prepare for casualties. We were a level-1 trauma center, and as such, we were ready and willing to accept victims from both NYC and the Pentagon...but no casualties ever came because the immediate death toll was so high.
This time, there is no one egregious act of terror that is causing my despair, but a seemingly ongoing series of attacks on our democracy. It's the increasing hatred and disrespect that I am witnessing and experiencing between individuals. I have written for months about the depression, anxiety, and lack of civility I have seen, previously attributing these things to Covid fatigue. However, I am beginning to think the problem is much greater, and that Covid is just one little spoke in the wheel. Speaking of Covid... I want to take a moment to mention some other topics I have discussed in previous blogs. We have now performed approximately 2.5 million Covid tests in S.C. For perspective, the population of the state is approximately 5 million. The positive cases have totaled about 180k.
Then take into account that recent reports have indicated that the false negative rate for the rapid Covid tests could be as high as 50%. Additionally, the percent positive rate of the tests being performed according to DHEC is approximately 15%, which suggests that the tests are not capturing all of the cases. (It is worth noting, however, that the percent positive rate as reported by the Roper St. Francis Healthcare System, one of the largest testing entities, remains at approximately 5%, which is an ideal number according to the CDC).
But if the statewide number for the percent positive is more accurate, and the false negative rate for the rapid tests is truly that high, then we are experiencing quite an uptick in disease. This is not surprising given the fact that South Carolinians really seem to be returning to normal in a lot of ways.
In addition to the high turnout at the polls, shopping center parking lots were quite crowded. Friends who were visiting Greenville this weekend from out of state commented on how busy the downtown area of this upstate city was this weekend with college kids having a good time. Indeed the Covid numbers are rising across the country and in S.C. But before we despair, let's consider the following... Despite the rising case numbers, the situation in our local hospitals remains stable at this point, which is especially encouraging since we have now entered flu season.
In fact, the number of Covid patients requiring a ventilator has declined over the last week in the Roper Hospital System. While nobody wants to hear about death and dying, the mortality numbers from
, and remain on an overall downward trend since the peak in the summer (https://scdhec.gov/covid19/sc-testing-data-projections-covid-19).
I was speaking with one of my colleagues, a fellow surgeon, Saturday, and we both agreed that based on our own anecdotal experiences, the people we know that are testing positive these days seem to be overall less sick from than virus than compared to the summer months. Again, this is anecdotal, and would be refuted by anyone sitting in an ICU bed right now, but generally speaking, this is what we're seeing. It is true that many viruses weaken over time, and hopefully we will determine the same with Covid. What makes Covid infuriating and scary is the fact that while most people who get it have little symptoms, for the unlucky, the virus can release havoc.
You could also view the rising numbers in the following way...if we are able to avoid hospital overcrowding and limit Covid deaths, then the more people exposed to Covid combined with the vaccine prospects mean that we are closer to achieving that desired herd immunity. I keep talking about herd immunity, and I keep hoping we are close to achieving it. But with these rising numbers, along with vaccines on the horizon, I feel that now, more than every, we are getting close to that goal.
Last week, Pfizer actually did announce very promising results on its vaccine. This news should have generated uniform excitement and encouragement. Instead, the opposite seemed to occur. For awhile, politicians, including VP elect Kamala Harris, expressed their distrust of a vaccine that was developed during Trump's tenure.
This rhetoric continued and escalated last week, most notably with Governor Cuomo of New York. This vaccine, as well as the others on the horizon, will hopefully give back freedom to the many who have been too petrified to leave their houses. I know of several physician colleagues who actually volunteered for the vaccine trials, which to me signals confidence in the vaccines.
Also, the last I checked, nobody has enacted a mandatory vaccine policy for Covid vaccines. It's a personal choice...just like the flu vaccine. So shouldn't we be celebrating the advancements that have occurred since March, regardless of politics? Unfortunately, that's not the reality, and the situation has been made worse by Pfizer's own actions.
They released information that they had not taken funds from the government for the development of the vaccine, which last week was proven to be false...they indeed took government funds. And why did the results for the vaccine only get released after the election? And why did President Elect Biden learn of the vaccine results prior to the Trump administration? And why did the Pfizer CEO sell stock on Monday, the day the vaccine results were released to the media?
So getting back to my disheartenment...I feel as though I am being played like a chess piece by those in power, whether it be politicians, the media, big tech, or big pharma. (As a side note, I guess chess is on my mind because, as a distraction from all of this negativity, I watched "The Queens Gambit," which I wholeheartedly enjoyed!) Despite everything I have outlined above, the administration elect is talking about a mandatory 6 week national shutdown in January for Covid. This seems premature, since we could be that much closer to herd immunity by January 20th, and the deleterious effects of lockdowns have proven to be enormous.