COVID-19 is Changing Our World

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Yes, this virus is changing the world. It is not the end, however. Social distancing, hand-washing, that whole litany is a must. Vaccinations will eventually come. Antibody development will hopefully provide some eventual immunity to individuals, and within the herd is in the future. There are cataclysmic events from which we can draw knowledge and understanding. What do I know about this? A little bit.

During Hurricane Katrina, I was senior administrator on duty at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. It was a Level One Trauma Center and largest hospital in the state. We were stranded for six days before evacuation began. Leadership’s calming voices provided consistent and as accurate information as possible. Even if we told the staff, “we don’t know the answer yet,” credibility made that ok, even if it wasn’t what they wanted to hear. So, jumping to the comments/concerns about listening to Trump or to the experts, let’s go with the experts. They consistently speak calmly, making data-driven statements.

Perhaps it would be best if we stopped listening to the presidential briefs while they are live. Pay attention to the after-summaries and to what the experts say. There are respected news sources. Until the seriousness of this pandemic set in, Fox was not one and has too often come up short with credibility, when it comes to hard news. Pick a couple of main-stream, respected news sources that routinely report credible data and retract when an error is made. It can be TV and I’d suggest one of the major networks and/or their cable affiliate. Radio is another. NPR while not always as comprehensive, always gives an even-handed unemotional product. The rest is primarily noise. There are also online news sources. I subscribe to a couple that get it right and follow several free ones such as Politico, The Hill and to some degree, USA Today and Huffington Post.

I’ve been in the military and been in war zones. There ARE well designed systems in place that will work. Logistics works in war zones spanning the globe. Beans, bullets, protective equipment and logistics can be and will ultimately get where they need to be. Our problem right now is not that the systems in our country wasn’t significantly prepared to deal with this crisis. It is more a problem with acknowledging the threat and the timeliness and aggressiveness in turning on these systems on.

After Katrina, we dealt with what has similarities to and also challenges currently not being experienced. What is currently happening is bringing that hurricane like damage to all 50 states at pretty much the same time. We dealt with death—over 1800 deaths, locally. Body recovery took a long time and remains identification, months beyond that. Homes and businesses were physically destroyed. So immediate homelessness and means of making a living was gone. The city was flooded for six weeks. There was no electricity, no phone service, no trash pickup. Food, water, gas and other basics were basically absent. The city didn’t really begin to hit its stride again, until five years after the storm.

As we started putting our lives back together, it meant standing in line for hours for unemployment benefits and food-stamp applications.

Banks, actually most financial institutions, did work with us. It was in their best interests to do so. The federal government did finally start getting its act together after another president got past his minimizing and getting things going. Was it perfect then? No, and it won’t be this time, either.

So, in many ways, we’ve been here before. There are ways to virtually hold hands. Is that what one has in mind? Probably not. There are those though, who can and will support us when things do get overwhelming. Some may find solace from here. For others, use your phone and google for support groups and mental health groups. There is online and phone support. You who’ve expressed profound concerns with anxiety, have taken a positive step, by being brave enough to put it out there, like you have here.

It may be rough at times and something we won’t want to do again, but we will come out the other side, with lessons learned about ourselves and others. WE WILL BE BETTER FOR IT!

REMEMBER, for the time being, treat what Trump says is a lie, until proven otherwise. Your free-floating anxiety will thank you for it.

Robb is a registered nurse who retired from Charity Hospital (MCLNO) as Associate Administrator for Practice, Research and Regulatory Compliance. He also served in and retired from the army, after serving as Chief, 159 MASH, during Desert Storm. He was awarded a Bronze Star for extra-ordinary leadership under battlefield conditions.



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