In the 1960s a movie titled “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” was released. The plot revolved around three gunslingers competing to find a fortune in a buried cache of Confederate gold amid the violent chaos of the American Civil War. Despite the initial negative criticisms of the movie, it has since accumulated very positive feedback and listed in Time’s “100 Greatest Movies of the Last Century.” The Coronavirus (COVID-19) seems to be running a parallel course. The amount of media coverage surrounding coronavirus (COVID-19) over the past several months is not only shocking but overwhelming. I personally cannot recall any other illness getting as much media coverage as COVID-19 has in the past several months. On a daily basis, we are flooded with updates, changes in clinical practice, number of cases across the country, and recommendations on how to quickly flatten the curve. Here is my take on COVID-19 (and yes, I intentionally end with “the good”).
The Bad: An observation I noted was an uptick of in-basket messages from my patients who were more anxious from social media posts than from traditional news sources. Many patients mentioned posts seen on numerous social media platforms with conflicting information or claims to proven therapies. I combated these messages with clear recommendations from various professional societies but also recognizing we do not have established data in all medical arenas. This seemed to help improve my patients’ anxiety and concerns. Even too much media of any kind can amplify distress, which was evident by my own constant engagement in news sources and social media.
The Ugly: With social media being a part of everyday life, we all have seen pictures of people buy massive amounts of toilet paper, mounds of sanitizer, and selves stripped of essential goods. As increasing number of regions declared a state of emergency, panic buying was affecting the public. Panic buying occurs typically in a time of crisis resulting in increased prices and takes essential goods out of the hands of people who need it most – for example, personal protective equipment for health care workers. What’s worse is this led to price gouging where masks, sanitizers, and cleaning supplies were being sold at an exuberant price. Fortunately, several businesses across the country established hours for senior citizens to shop in peace and have access to essential good. Several communities started to help combat panic buying by donations and fundraising help offset such behavior to help those in need – keep up the strong work!
The Good: Despite the bad and ugly, COVID has had a positive impact. The biggest change I have seen is how much more cognizant we are about healthy habits. People are not going to work if they feel ill, increasing use of hand sanitizer after being in public, and encouraging proper hand washing techniques to mention a few. Granted, we think these should be the norm but COVID highlighted how this was not the case.
While countries are closing their borders, scientists are shattering their boundaries looking to collaborate with colleagues across the globe. I was able to join in on several fantastic webinars hosted by frontline healthcare staff from across the globe to learn from their experiences so we don’t make the same mistakes for our own patients. Leading institutions in America were holding lectures to share their research, clinical experience, and any clinical anecdotes to help improve patient outcomes. I believe a big part of this movement is due to the fact the virus is not limited to one remote area of the world but has spread across the globe. It is affecting every country and countless citizens – it’s hitting home. Scientists and doctors are standing together, working collaboratively, and are driven to find an effective treatment option. It’s this type of comradery that has helped all frontline health care providers to fight this pandemic.
Although there are is plenty of “bad” and “ugly” surrounding COVID, the amount of “good” is far reaching, inspirational, highlighting the need of team work and intense desire of all of us to help #FlattenTheCurve.
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Barinder Hansra, known as “Ricky” to his friends and family, is a physician-scientist-teacher living his best life at University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester, MA. His focus is on cardiac critical care and cardio-obstetrics, and is headed to Stanford University for another fellowship. Follow on Twitter: @rickyhansra