The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week only 6% of death certificates in America involving COVID-19 listed the virus as the only cause.
So what does this mean?
It means only 6% died from COVID alone. The remaining 94% had other health issues such as flu, pneumonia, diabetes or heart disease. COVID could have contributed to the person’s passing, but was not the sole reason for it.
As of Aug. 31, the United States has had a total of 182,149 deaths, which equates to 55 deaths per 100,000 people. The highest death rates have been in areas that have the most concentrated population density.
According to CDC.gov, Texas has had approximately 12,420 unconfirmed deaths out of a population of nearly 30 million. Henderson County has had 825 cases and 16 deaths to date, according to North East Texas Health.
With all the conflicting information, what are we supposed to think and do?
Dr. Douglas Curran, former president of the Texas Medical Association and Doctor at UT Health Athens, said the information will continue to develop as it becomes more available.
“Everything is going to continue to change based on our knowledge and ability,” he said. “We will make adjustments to improve the care of our patients. We are much better at taking care of this now than even three and four months ago. We will keep getting better at it.”
Curran said current Henderson County data indicates the virus has plateaued and decreased at this time but students returning to school may affect the numbers.
He said the shelter-in-place measures did exactly what they were designed to do.
“We were trying not to overwhelm hospitals and medical staff and we were successful at that,” he said.
This prevented medical staff from having to make difficult choices such as, who gets the only ventilator? Thankfully there were plenty of ventilators and personal protection equipment in the area, preventing doctors and nurses from being in that difficult position.
With proper precautions going forward, and the possibility of a vaccine in the near future, Curran said with good hygiene, social distancing and masks, life will settle into a new normal.
“Social distancing is critical and I don’t think it is going to go away,” he said. “This is going to change the way we do things in the future.”
“Most of the long term effects are undetermined,” Curran said. “The ones that got the severe cardio-pulmonary symptoms are having longer-term effects and some have had some organ issues, but not near as much as seen early on.”
Psychological and economic effects
The elderly are being deeply affected by this prolonged isolation and Curran said the simple act of being able to receive a hug again is huge for some of his patients. The mental health of people is in a very dangerous position.
In addition to emotional needs, businesses, jobs and many families livelihoods are at stake.
For those self employed, a shut down means no income. The airline industry is operating in the red with people being fearful of travel.
Curran said a vaccine should help these issues dramatically.
A vaccine in sight?
“I am going to be first in line to get the vaccine,” he said. “I am absolutely confident that this is going to help stop this. There are not many side effects and the studies are ongoing now.”
For those concerned about the speed of which a vaccine is created, Curran said it had a good start due to research for a SARS vaccine, which did not turn into a pandemic like COVID-19.
Another solution, according to Curran, is bipartisan cooperation in government.
“We have an enemy and we need to unite together and fight it,” he said. “We need to use the God-given tools we have. We need to work together instead of fighting and arguing over petty things. We are committed to making the best life we can for our patients. We are going to win with this and be fine. It is going to be hard and take time. Mistakes will be made but we will sort it out and work together. We need to be gracious and work through this together.”
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