Beyond the Crazy: Five Take-Home Lessons from the Coronavirus Crisis

ALPERN AT LARGE--Despite my best hopes for our nation avoiding a panic, as evidenced at our grocery stores, it appears that as individuals Americans are panicking as much as Wall Street.  

Whether it's prudence, common sense, disaster planning, or even (!) virtue signaling, every governmental and business entity is encouraging a shut-down that makes this crisis an ever-enlarging major catastrophe to both our economy and quality of life. Which is not to say that this shutdown is either smart or irrational, but it does appear to both be major and without end. 

But this article will NOT be on the politically correct or gentle side--it's meant to cut through the malarkey and the groupthink that’s uniting our nation with fear and a shared concern for our collective health (perhaps this uniting is the silver lining in the Coronavirus cloud): 

1) With the exception to the danger to our elderly and immunocompromised, the COVID-19 pandemic is nowhere near the danger that previous flu/viral outbreaks have caused. 

The danger to our elderly and immunocompromised is REAL, so arguably the slowing of the spread of this COVID-19 virus is absolutely vital. Equally vital is the question of whether there are ENOUGH RESPIRATORS to accommodate the elderly and the immunocompromised, or even for middle-aged victims who suffer considerably from this Coronavirus's respiratory impacts. 

But this is NOT the H1N1 flu that affected us in 2009. The young, by and large, suffer virtually NO major complications, and the ONLY risk (as aforementioned) is transfer to the elderly and immunocompromised. Hence the school closings may be a great idea, but probably should be better explained than what we've seen. 

And health care spokesman Dr. Drew Pinsky isn't the only one to decry the media panic and obsession with something that should be addressed in a sober but more measured fashion. 

Privately, doctors and nurses all are wondering what the heck is going on with a nation that has had winter flus and colds for years. Yes, the new (or should I say "novel" to impress you, the reader?) Coronavirus is one for which we have no immunity...but that occurs with many viruses each year. 

So, shall you read this and dismiss me as being too callous and uncaring for the suffering and the dead? Or shall you read this and understanding that suffering and death, as awful as it is, is part of Mother Nature's way of doing things, and that we've survived much greater annual challenges. 

2) The "China Syndrome" is real, and MUST be confronted. 

Mark my words: if President Trump is re-elected, one of the most major reasons will be that he has made no secret of confronting China--and our dependence upon China--and that likely Democratic contender Joe Biden has dismissed such a concern.  

When roughly 90% of our medicine is made in China, and when most of our masks and medical equipment is made in China, it's a big fat problem. And to those Republican and Democratic stalwarts who oversaw this sweeping giveaway of manufacturing to China during the G.W. Bush and Obama eras, and who made lots of money off that...well... 

...good for you! But the rest of us are economically and even physically threatened by such an obvious giveaway of our ability to sustain ourselves through crises, and our ability to keep our middle class gainfully employed.  

And it won't just be conservative journals like the National Review (filled with Never-Trumpers, by the way) who decry Joe "C'mon, man..." Biden's nonchalant attitude towards China. 

NBC News isn't exactly a right-wing pundit, but when they, too, notice how President Xi and the Chinese government blame the U.S. Army for the virus that began in Wuhan, China, the suggestion that China is our nation's (and perhaps planet's) greatest threat isn't a mere conspiracy theory. 

Not the suffering and miserable Chinese people...but rather their insufferable and misery-causing government. 

And how many of us wish that our paper products, bottling, and other manufacturing mainstays were focused in the U.S. now that our supermarkets' shelves are being emptied? 

3) Borders Matter 

The best thing that President Trump did (hate him, love him, or ignore him) by shutting down air and other traffic from China and Europe was to buy the U.S. a little time to make more test kits (and many of them did NOT work at first!) and figure out how to deal with this pandemic.  

And now Mexico is shutting out the United States for its own safety.  

One of the many and even main reasons for borders is the prevention of the spread of infectious disease. One need not be a xenophobic bigot to recognize that. 

One only need to realize that Mother Nature doesn't give a rip or a damn about our cultural or heartfelt sensitivities. 

4) Vaccinations Matter 

One can only hope that the craziness surrounding the "anti-vaxxer" craze embraced by the "educated" and the "woke" will be greatly diminished.  

Because if YOU are not vaccinated, then either it will be ME, or my CHILDREN, or my ELDERLY relatives and friends who could very well pay the price. 

Big Pharma has lots of medical and financial incentives to come up with a safe and effective Coronavirus vaccine--I assure you they are working overtime to that end. If or when they do that, and there may be a likely new annual vaccine for us to take, in addition to the flu vaccine, then it's likely we'll see everyone getting it. 

Because even though the elderly always suffer the worse, the rest of us younger folks have no time to be medically and physically devastated by the flu or any other major viral illness.  

5) Vacations and Remote/Computer Jobs Matter 

As schools and employment increasingly go online during this pandemic, the unthinkable might very well be "the new normal".  

And let it. We're emotionally and physically exhausted by the worker bee status we have going from here to there, and the college financial rip-off/cottage industry is increasingly being exposed as hurtful to all but a few self-interested ne'er-do-well types. 

Ditto with work. Productivity means just that--and in our internet/online knowledge era, let the most efficient way of doing things win out.




But in the meantime, I'll be coming up for ways to keep my patients safe, and that means more wipes and hand sanitizer dispensers near each door. Telephone/face-time visits and remote discussions, to boot.  

Because as much as I love history and science, it is ultimately the human element that drives me to do best by my beloved family, my cherished patients, and my respected neighbors and countrymen.


(CityWatch Columnist, Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D, is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud husband and father to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He was (termed out) also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Outreach Committee, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee and Vice-Chair of its Planning Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition and can be reached at Ken.Alpern@MarVista.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)