By Glenn Ellis
COVID-19 has now been found to have another deadly effect on our health: a study from the Commonwealth Fund reports that one-third of all Americans are now documented as reporting mental health issues. A whopping 70 percent of Americans cited the “government response” to COVID-19 as a significant source of this stress. According to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, almost half of all Americans say worry or stress tied to the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health, according to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The toll of the grief and loss related to death, related to loss of jobs and loss of income during this pandemic has touched each and every one of us. Even though everyone in this country is impacted, particularly hard hit (as with everything else from this virus) are Black and Brown communities. The old folks used to say, “when America catches a cold, Black folks get pneumonia”.
And like everything else, members of these groups have to figure it out for themselves. The virus will be with us for years to come, so we must get serious about how we are going to survive this thing moving forward. Mental health and always been a challenge to access in this country, and COVID-19 has made it worse. For the millions who comprise Black and Brown communities in this country, the primary care system is our first point of contact for people experiencing mental health concerns.
We can foresee the challenges the primary care networks are going to have providing services in the aftermath of the pandemic, and it is likely that the historical inequities in mental and behavioral services will not only continue but get worse.
The central focus of our attention has to be to learn how to protect our ourselves, and our families’ health by just paying close attention to exactly what the facts are. I would like to point a few areas of concern that will not only help to navigate your survival, but also help to guide your decisions about the best way, if any, for you to move forward, as the “government response” continues to leave us with doubt, uncertainty, and fear.
Many of us are starting to see the “cracks” in the relationships with our families, friends, and other relationships. Many of us are admitting that we are starting to feel “depressed” and “exhausted.”
One of the most important things to make sure you have a grip on is your understanding of how the virus spreads. Even though the experts don’t know all of the ways the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads, it is important for you to know as much as possible about how you can best protect yourself, when you should be concerned, and how to make a safe decision when, and if, you return to work; accept a particular job, in a particular environment or under certain conditions; or attend or engage in social activities with other people.
Based on the current research, every person who is infected with COVID-19 will infect 2 or 2.5 others. This infection rate can be as high as one sick person infecting between 4.7 and 6.6 others. To put it into context, someone who has the flu will probably give it to an average of 1.1 to 2.3 others, and one person with measles might spread it to 12 to 18 others.
So, if you find out that someone in your home, your job, or at the last funeral, cook-out; or any social interaction is infected, you can get an idea of the increased risk you could be facing.
If you go out food shopping, or other situations where you must be around other people, getting infected from packages, groceries, or food is statistically unlikely, your greatest concern should always be coming into direct contact with other people. When they say six feet distance, make it ten feet.
And then there are those doggone face masks.
For most of us, those things can cause things like rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, chest tightness, dizziness, feeling hot or sweating, or other symptoms like anxiety. No, face masks aren’t 100 percent effective, but wearing them means less virus is coming in from other people and you’re inhaling less. The bottom line is that wearing a cloth face covering is estimated to screen out between 65 percent and 85 percent of viral particles.
So, the next time, you don’t feel like going back to get your mask, or you’re around some of your favorite family or friends and feel “comfortable,” think again. The smaller the amount of virus you have to deal with, the better chance your body’s immune system has a of mounting a defense.
Lastly, a word about the children. Words can’t describe how concerned I am about what this pandemic will do to our children. In addition to being at the center of the greatest human experiment in history, by us allowing them to be tossed like sacrificial lambs into the political war over the reopening of schools. Be clear; children of all ages can still catch this virus…and spread it. Some have become seriously ill and even died.
Glenn Ellis, MPH is a Visiting Scholar at The National Bioethics Center at Tuskegee University and a Harvard Medical School Research Bioethics Fellow. He is author of Which Doctor? and Information is the Best Medicine. For more good health information visit: www.glennellis.com.