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COVID-19: Miracle Cures vs. Real Prevention

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As a doctor practicing in Florida during the COVID-19 pandemic, I have begun to notice comments on social media.

I guess our learned doctors have failed yet again to protect our well-being. It’s almost like the UN has a plan to globalize ‘wellness’ and ‘change.’ Masks don’t work…but they are mandated. I do too much reading and studying to consider this is anything less than a calculated trial.

Doctors have the duty to handle this, not the government and I wonder if the two were separated if it could be as serious as it supposedly is.

Most of these are medical professionals names on Epstein flight logs. I don’t trust anything you medical Nazis say.

These types of comments are coming from the personal friends and family members of physicians, not random strangers on the internet. Somehow, people are feeling bold enough to claim that health care workers are part of a larger conspiracy and/or are to blame for America’s loss of control in this pandemic. Blame is running rampant, almost as rampant as the coronavirus itself.

In medicine, we are taught to continually build upon available data and revise best practice guidelines. An open mind is our most powerful tool. At the beginning of the pandemic, Dr. Fauci and the CDC advised against universal masking to preserve PPE for health care professionals. As we learned more about the virus and the mechanisms of its spread, however, the medical community united in its recommendations for universal masking and social distancing. Unfortunately, too many see the evolution in advice as a point of contention, and seek to blame the medical establishment for not “getting it right” the first time around. Consequently, public health recommendations have become entangled in a much larger web of political nonsense, fueling those who are intent on finding inconsistencies in the pandemic response to fit a fabricated naysayer narrative. The urge to blame others is a reflection of discomfort, and it highlights our propensity towards reactive, instead of proactive, health care.

Americans watched in horror as New York was hit hard, with little warning and even less preparedness, despite weeks of watching Italy succumb to the virus. For a few weeks, we rightfully shut down, trying to flatten the curve. As initially hard-hit areas regained some control and the rest of America experienced lower rates of infection, it was too easy to believe that the pandemic was being overblown by public health officials. Many states rushed into reopening for the health of the economy, rather than the health of their citizens. What followed was a failure to enact universal measures as part of a nationalized plan. Instead, governors were given primary decision-making roles, and many further delegated to local leaders. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis refused to issue a statewide mandate, allowing individual counties to enact their own policies. Unfortunately, as the buck keeps getting passed, public confusion has increased, and blame has begun to shift to health care workers and local leaders — who are the least equipped to make large-scale health policy changes. It is clear now that to prevent widespread death, the general public will need to hold themselves accountable. But how can we expect that from a society that has not generally held itself accountable for its own well-being?

In a broad sense, the problem is that securing well-being takes a great deal of inconvenience and sense of personal accountability — and it is no secret that Americans hate inconvenience. We have Amazon Prime 1-day delivery, fast food, and personal computers at our fingertips. We overwhelmingly subscribe to a “there’s-a-pill-for-that” mentality. Medicine is treated like a transactional service, with the expectation that doctors sell drugs off a menu of disease treatments. After all, it’s inconvenient to see a doctor when you don’t feel bad, and easy enough to walk into an ER when you do. As a result, our primary care system has been transformed into a reactive, sick-care system. Federal and state policies in this country are not heavily focused on primary prevention, and the pandemic has dramatically exposed socioeconomic and racial issues that were already acute to begin with. It has never been more obvious that we are reactively dealing with issues that are preventable.

It’s no wonder, then, that the U.S. approach to COVID-19 has followed the same model. From the beginning, the national focus has been on treatment or a cure — so much so that the president has touted very dangerous and unproven solutions, such as injecting bleach or taking hydroxychloroquine, while ignoring the importance of prevention methods. Dexamethasone was touted as a “miracle drug” in mainstream media before the trials were available to the medical community. Indeed, the most amplified messages to the general public were about potential treatment options, rather than the known importance of prevention with universal masking and social distancing. And while advances in treatment are of utmost importance, the heavier focus on miracle solutions rather than prevention methods is like investing in a cleanup crew instead of diffusing a bomb that continually detonates, killing thousands per day.

Masks are a major form of preventative care in this pandemic. It is physicians’ responsibility to tell people to wear masks because it can save lives — but we have not been successful at convincing the public of its responsibility. I believe we are losing the battle for universal masking because the personal responsibility associated with preventative health is just not a priority in American society. 

So, my call to action is this: Begin holding yourself accountable for your own health. Set up that primary care appointment. Schedule that colonoscopy. Take the stairs. Eat more fiber. Wear a mask! Tell your patients to do the same. While we are racing to discover better drugs, nothing beats staying healthy in the first place.

Poorvi Desai, MD is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and is currently in hematology/oncology fellowship at the University of South Florida/Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida.

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