Dear Christine, Overreacting in Oregon

Dear Christine,

I have a friend that lives in Florida and works at a hospital.  Currently her family from SE MI is visiting her. They have been staying at her house for about a week now.  One of the family members just tested positive for COVID.  Since he tested positive they have NOT self-quarantined.  They have been to restaurants, aquariums, zoos, stores and beaches.  Shouldn’t they all be tested since they are all currently at the same house and self-quarantine?

I kind of mentioned something to her and  she said it’s fine.  “The virus is here to stay and we better get used to it.”  And she and her family won’t sit in the house with her son since he is COVID positive.  But they have been around him for over a week. But they won’t get tests.

So now her whole family will be travelling back to Michigan this week by plane.  And most likely her sister will go back to her job as an OR nurse and might possibly be COVID positive.

Am I overreacting??? Or do ya’ll think this is horribly negligent of the entire family to not be in quarantine and possibly spreading this to dozens if not hundreds of people.  I’d just like to hear your thoughts.  They all think I’m being unreasonable.  I feel like I want to report them, but does anyone care?

 

Overreacting in Oregon, MI

Dear Overreacting,

I would give you a different signature, as you are not overreacting to COVID exposure!  There is a lot of noise out there about what is going on with this virus, but the basics science confirms.  It is a brand new virus (novel) and humans do not have any prior exposure to give them immunity… except the people who have recovered so far.  Whether their immunity is long lasting or just for a few months or a year or two, we just don’t know.

We also know that there is no effective treatment for people suffering from COVID.  Some people are lucky and have no symptoms, but many people get horrible symptoms and a lot of them have to be hospitalized.  Those who are hospitalized often have to be put on a ventilator and must be sedated to almost comatose to go through that trauma.  Sometimes they are on a ventilator for a month or even 2 months.  Perfectly healthy people of all ages, from infants, children, teens, young adults, middle agers and elderly die.  And others recover.  No one knows why.  Yet.

Research is on-going all over the world.  Every country is affected, rich and poor, those in temperate or cold climates, and even hot ones.  Many scientists are pooling information to race to create a vaccine.

I am mandated by the State of Michigan to work from home and so I see my clients by phone or on video online.  It’s not what I prefer, with a nice office for which I just wrote another rent check.  But it is safer for me and for my clients.  The virus is spread through droplets, even microscopic ones that might hang in the air 30 minutes or up to 2 days!  My office has an HVAC system, but it only changes 10% of the air per hour.  That is not enough to disperse the droplets with the virus every hour.  I have lost some clients who want to meet in person, but I am willing to work from home and protect myself, my family and my clients.

When will I go back?  Only when there is an effective and safe vaccine and/or an effective treatment.  I have reason to suspect that I was exposed to COVID by a client who was asymptomatic though that person’s family all came down with a terrible illness that tested not to be flu back in late January.  If so, I was asymptomatic, but I may have passed it on to one of my cats who became seriously ill in early March.  He still is recovering, though he is much better.  He had many symptoms of COVID, and big cats at the Bronx Zoo also were infected by keepers.  I haven’t been tested, so who knows?

 

The bottom line of public health and safety is to social distance with masks on.  If everyone wears mask, the transmission and the infection of the virus is very small.  Staying 6 feet away feels socially and emotionally awkward, but helps to prevent spreading COVID.  I miss hugs and going to restaurants with friends, but I’d rather not get this illness.
Remember that there is a lot we don’t know about COVID.  Some people get it and recover, but recovery can be unpredictable.  My neighbor had COVID and was very sick for at least a month (at home) and then better.  But a couple of days later breathing problems would reoccur, and that terrible exhaustion, or “COVID toes”.  And back and forth.  We don’t know what the long term damage of COVID is yet.

 

I had Chicken Pox when I was a child, which means that that virus lives in my body ever since.  Which means that I could get a reactivation of the virus called Shingles, which is a very painful neurological illness.  I watched my niece at 26, my aunt at 78 and my grandmother at 82 get Shingles.  My aunt lost some eyesight.  My grandmother’s chest was in such pain she could barely tolerate clothing for months.  Guess what?!  I have gotten the Shingles vaccination!  I remember Chicken Pox and I know I don’t want that reactivated.

What “should” your friends do?  Well, it is clear you already know that.  With misinformation coming from the President (as well as Russia online) there is confusion as to what is necessary to do to avoid infection.  Many MAGA enthusiasts attended the Tulsa rally without masks, including Herman Cain.  He caught COVID and he died last week.  That was another unnecessary death.  Masks could save tens of thousands of lives.

However, can you reason with these friends?  It doesn’t sound like it.  Even the OR nurse seems to believe COVID isn’t that bad.  So be it.  If you can have a reasonable discussion where scientific research and data is respected, great:  proceed.  If not, I find it difficult to reason with people who are in denial or reject science.

Bottom line, take care of you and those you can influence.  Stay far away from those who think this is a “hoax.”  You are only responsible for your own life and anyone who is dependent on you.  Maybe some friends are not really as close friends as you thought.  As I was told years ago, “there are only 2 kinds of business.  My business and God’s business.”  Take care and stay safe.

Christine C. Cantrell, PhD.

Licensed Psychologist

Christine C. Cantrell, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
Prism of Possibilities Psychotherapy
1026 W. Eleven Mile Road, Suite C
Royal Oak, Michigan 48067
248-591-2888

www.christinecantrell.com
christineccantrellphd@gmail.com

 

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