'Respect everyone, Fear no one' Ackerman advises
by Mark Ackerman, PA-C, Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinics
As a former college basketball coach, I sometimes like to approach issues from a sports strategy perspective. On one team that I coached we had a saying that we repeated before every game; "Respect everyone, fear no one." The concept is simple. It basically reminds us that if we don't give our opponent enough respect, that if we look past them, they can beat us. At the same time, if we give them too much respect and don't believe in ourselves, we can also get beat.
When it comes to COVID-19, I think the same mantra holds true. We have to respect the virus and what it can do, but at the same time, we can't afford to cower in fear of it. Approaching this thing from either extreme position could get us into trouble. And before we define those troubles, I think it is a good thing to remind us all of an important difference between sports and viruses. That difference is that our opponent here is a virus and not a person. Remembering that our enemy is the virus and not each other is important when we form our strategy and our approach to defeating it.
It is good to remember that this virus consists of billions of tiny particles that we can't see, taste or smell. So, part of the problem here is that we are fighting a ubiquitous entity that attacks us when we don't even know it. That means a lot when it comes to forming our strategy. What it means is that we have to, for the most part, take a defensive stance. It means we have to mitigate our risk of being attacked.
So how do we do that? Well this sounds a little counterintuitive but I think the first thing we have to do is to refrain from immediately putting on all of our protective gear. The first thing we have to do is form a team. Why? Because the first risk you have to mitigate is the risk of beating yourself. It is this very lack of a team concept that gets us confused between defending ourselves from a virus and looking at other people to blame as if they are the virus. And while I understand that this analogy breaks down a little if you consider yourself an individual sport competitor, it should also be stated that even individual athletes have teams- every NASCAR driver has a pit crew etc.
So please excuse my philosophical ranting here but I do want to mention the four cornerstones of becoming a team in the truest sense of the word. I think it is important for our community to act like a team in this truest sense. So, here are the four basic principles of being a team:
1. The first principle is that we treat each other, each team member, with a certain respect. How much more important is it for us to respect our own teammates before we respect our opponent?
So putting all the analogies aside, let's get to the point. These are the risks we must mitigate.
The harms of disrespecting the virus (not taking it seriously):
1. People die- especially the older and more frail people in the community.
The harms of fearing the virus (locking ourselves away in hiding):
1. For every 1 percent increase in unemployment, there is a 1-1.6 percent increase in suicide rate and a 3.3 percent increase in drug overdose deaths. Physical and social isolation each have an increase in mortality of over 30 percent compared to age and gender matched controls who are not isolated and lonely. So, reaching for a lock-down to solve our problems may help control the virus, it won't protect us from other problems.
So, what should be our strategy? While mandated lockdowns and closures can control the spread of the virus, they have unintended consequences that in some cases may be worse than the disease. This includes dividing communities and seeing each other as the enemy rather than seeing the virus as the enemy. On the other hand, if we open everything up and don't respect the virus, it will simply spread more and larger lockdowns/closures will become necessary.
My suggestion is this. Mitigate the risk as a community. If we take the team approach then we can combat this virus on our terms. But to do that we need to respect each other, strive for the common good, be responsible for protecting each other and have a collective mindset in all these things. The mitigating actions then become:
1. Respecting the virus by donning our protective gear; wearing a mask when around others, washing your hands before and after touching each other (or common objects), and staying home when you are sick.
The bottom line: Respect the virus, don't fear the virus, become a great team, and don't beat ourselves!
Photo: Mark Ackerman, PA-C, Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinics
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