As California tiptoes up to “reopening” later this month I’m reminded about something I wrote a few years back: Removal of meds can come with far more stress for doctors and patients.

Similar to putting patients onto meds vs. taking them off, I suspect there is similar psychology on a macro scale with COVID-19. Measures to help limit a pandemic may actually be easier to impose than they are to relax. By now we’ve likely been rewired to the point of no full return. But maybe that’s not all bad.

With each constraint, helpful or not, those doing the constraining have held the moral high ground, or at least it has felt that way. Wear a mask to save others. Stay home to save others. Check temps everywhere to save others. Fly less to save others. Shop, meet, date, chat online to save others… even if it means some lives and businesses take a terrible beating along the way.

On the flip side, relaxing, similar to telling patients they may be able to stop some of the meds they’ve been on for years, may be more awkward. What public health official or politician wants to open a floodgate that can be linked with yet another wave and yet another shutdown?

Even if the CDC says it’s ok for vaccinated people to lose the masks outside or even inside, when will it be universally embraced? My guess is never, which isn’t terrible. Personally, I’ve loved not having colds. So I’ll be keeping my mask on for all my remaining ER shifts even if C19 fades to zero. But it is a bummer seeing all the kids’ smiles covered up at school drop-off. I recently asked a masked 5 year old why he wasn’t running around a park with his friends. He said “I just want to be COVID safe.”

At school kids used to be rewarded for perfect attendance as well. No snot was too thick for the true go getters. I’m discovering now that parents and kids are being retrained to stay home for anything that resembles illness, but under any other name. Vacation, overslept, injured… all good. Just no sneezing allowed. If every sniffle requires a time consuming, uncomfortable and sometimes pricey COVID test, what do we expect? Pre-R benefits from this new dynamic since we do the testing. But I think schools next year may be wise to offer on site testing as well. We’ll see. If the goal is really to detect every viral spreader, I’d suggest we don’t make parents scramble for appointments, or pay out of pocket for testing. Rapid swabs at the door next to metal detectors some day? Perhaps.

Other measures will be interesting to watch evolve or evaporate as well. Temperature spot checks come to mind. I really wonder how many positives have been unearthed this way. I regularly ask for my temp when I’m screened, and it turns out I’m consistently hypothermic. Nobody seems to take notice or care. My record low was 92.1 so far.

As my ER shits start getting busier with nonCOVID medicine, and as our previous pathologies resurface like random shootings, I wonder which other lessons from this past year we’ll embrace, and which we’ll discard. Vaccine and “anti vax” perspectives continue to evolve at a remarkable rate as well. Unfortunately, the nearly 0.6m US departed remain voiceless and voteless.

Even parenting advice itself will likely be changed for years to come. Mine has anyways. I used to subscribe to: “If you find a job you love, you’ll never need to work a day in your life.” My new line is: “Do something essential.” Rewinding is hard.

No judgments here. Just observations. I hope you rewind to somewhere nice.


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