Original Publish Date: September 7, 2021
“No one here gets out alive.” – James Douglas Morrison
Catastrophic Near Misses
Just before midnight on July 7, 2017, four airplanes full of passengers and fuel lined up at San Francisco International Airport, waiting for clearance to depart. An Air Canada Airbus 320 pilot narrowly avoided by about 60 feet what could have been the largest disaster in aviation history. In 1971, an earthquake near the Van Norman reservoir nearly caused the lower dam to break. A later study estimated the dam’s failure would have killed as many as 123,000 people. And in 1908, the Tunguska asteroid struck a remote area of wilderness with the force of 1,000, 1945-era atomic bombs. Had impact been a few hours earlier, the asteroid would have landed in London.
When it comes to disasters of any sort, there is an invisible line between could and did. Health care in the United States, and hospitals in particular, have straddled this line since March 2020, wondering if and when the next surge will arrive. The length of time a society chooses to ponder within this spectrum yields unknown results, the magnitude of which seemingly expands each day during the 17-month global pandemic commonly known as COVID-19 or just COVID. Even with variants abound, medical science has a firm grasp on COVID’s worst-case scenario, which is somewhere between a 1-2 percent mortality rate. This number, however, fluctuates dramatically in certain categories such as age, general health, and vaccination. In comparison to the leading cause of death in the United States years before COVID, diseases of the heart and malignant neoplasms were responsible for about 45% of the 2.7 million who died annually. COVID cannot compete.
Unfortunately, as a novel coronavirus, COVID’s uncertainty tips a different scale against the 650,000 who die each year from heart disease, especially since in many instances lifestyle changes can prevent death as a cardiac statistic. Variants may take blame for the recent spike in actual COVID cases, although the unvaccinated must account for the theoretical apocalyptic variant waiting in a future that plunges deep into the Greek alphabet. If blame is so important, there must be accountability for the overall worsening paranoia and anxiety in society, expanded delusional thinking and/or parasitosis (especially with patients previously suffering from mental illness), and increased introductions and/or relapses into substance abuse. In comparison to what waits on the other side of the mountain, COVID cannot compete.
The world may never know if the trifecta of tyrannical leadership, the pharmaceutical industry and adrenochrome junkies caused the global pandemic, or whether it originated in a rogue laboratory in Hubei Province, China. Meanwhile, the moral crisis over efficacy of treatment both prophylactically and after infection has divided a nation in ways never before seen in the modern era. This split in society has drawn new lines in the proverbial sand, turning heroes into villains, all of whom are judged by a society of virologists much easier to find than stimulus checks. With Hurricane Ida and the Hamid Karzai International Airport adding more fuel to an already raging fire, adult intervention is long overdue.
Time For a Cup of Tea
Aside from a few unconfirmed exceptions, mortality has always been an inevitable conclusion, although variables such as “how” and “when” complicate if not obfuscate the proverbial end. COVID has added unexpected complications to the debacle of humanity, not to mention eliminating outright the notion of perspective. A hot cup of tea, with or without two scoops of ivermectin, may offer a metaphoric panacea for a global pandemic, not to mention easing the tension caused by an ongoing need to identify COVID’s place of origin. In the form of pandemic or endemic, COVID has no plans to leave.
With the names green, black, matcha, breakfast, wulong, white, Puer, herbal and dark, among others, for now at least the number of teas outweigh variants. According to legend, the Chinese emperor Shen Nung had the first cup of tea in 2737 B.C. when wind-blown leaves from a camellia sinensis plant drifted into his cup of boiling hot water. A national past time in some places while a call to arms in others, tea prevails in both good times and bad.
A lesser alternative is 300.01 from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), commonly known as panic disorder, manifested by recurrent unexpected panic attacks. A panic attack is “an abrupt surge of intense fear or intense discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes and during which time four or more of a list of 13 physical and cognitive symptoms occur, including: palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate; sweating; trembling or shaking; sensations of shortness of breath or smothering; feelings of choking; chest pain or discomfort; nausea or abdominal distress; feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint; chills or heat sensations; paresthesias; derealization or depersonalization; fear of losing control or “going crazy”; and fear of dying. Anxiety disorders (DSM-5, 300.02) is another possibility, which impairs an individual’s capacity to do things quickly and efficiently, whether at home or at work. Anxiety disorders take time and energy, not to mention the collateral damage to teetotalers.
Spiking society’s water cooler with benzodiazepines, however, will not end COVID. This particular kerfuffle, unfortunately, may take some time to resolve, and the ways in which the nation patiently waits for the pandemic to pass may have an irreversible impact on the health care industry. Outright exhausted after seventeen months on the front lines of the war against the pandemic, an already depleted health care force may soon face another reduction in size from targeted vaccine mandates. Just in time for back-to-school night.
While not as exciting as a booster shot, perspective must win the day, or at least afford an opportunity to comprehend the state of the union, with or without masks. The integrity of the nation’s health care system is sacrosanct, and how the nation responds to COVID continues to stretch and bend health care. This is a result of the individual choices people make in response to a global pandemic, whether out of fear, frustration or selfishness. Last school year many complained about the duration of Zoom School. Only time will tell, however, if society faces a greater challenge locating the operating hours of the COVID Carpool. This rideshare program operates when one too many students tests positive for COVID in school, thereby forcing the entire class to end for a few days. At the time the author wrote this article, the carpool schedule had not yet been published.
Craig Garner is the founder of Garner Health Law Corporation, as well as a healthcare consultant specializing in issues pertaining to modern American healthcare. Craig is also an adjunct professor of law at Pepperdine University School of Law. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.