Another round of COVID myth-busting

Staff reports
The Chronicle Express

After listening to some of the concerns, misunderstandings, and more than a little misinformation I realize it’s time for another article on COVID-19.

Dr. Wayne Strouse

The bottom line is… we know how to control this virus. The fact that the virus is out of control in the vast majority of the US—not to mention the White House, is not because we don’t know what to do. It is because people are not doing what we know works.

What works is boring but highly effective, and I suspect you’ve heard it before: 

  • Whenever possible, stay 6 feet or more from people you don’t live with.
  • Wear masks (I am still hearing people say they don’t work!) They have been proven to work. If you hear otherwise, I will guarantee you are not hearing it from a doctor. 
  • Wash your hands frequently. Soap and water are fine (actually, it is preferred). Alcohol-based sanitizer (60% or more) is also good.

Next, this is not “just like the flu.” The flu kills about 30–35,000 Americans a year, mostly the very young and the very old. It also is more deadly to people with certain medical conditions (diabetes, cancer heart disease, emphysema, HIV, people on immunosuppressant drugs, and pregnancy). If you ever considered a flu shot—get one this year.

COVID, on the other hand, has already killed 210,000 Americans (more than 1 million worldwide). The way the trends are running, we may have 30 million cases in the US, and 400,000 deaths in the US before it is all over (that’s the population of Buffalo and Syracuse combined). COVID is NOT “just like the flu”.

What makes COVID scarier is that it is unclear why many people have almost no symptoms, and then some get deathly ill. Certainly, it is age-related, and is worse for those with multiple medical problems. But there are some who have gotten quite ill and even died—and they don’t fit the “typical” patient—they were young and athletic.

Many may have heard the President’s words about “not letting COVID dominate you.” Unfortunately, our President is WRONG—in this case, dead wrong. He is decidedly not a scientist and is not listening to the scientists who understand what is going on. He looks like he is recovering—and that is great. However, he had a rough go of it—dropping his oxygen level, getting experimental medications, which would not be available to us, and receiving a steroid medication that is only given to people with severe illness (if it is given too early, it can make the illness worse). Don’t count on getting his level of care if you become ill. Better to not get sick to begin with.

Last, let’s talk about vaccines. Any vaccine which comes out before the election must be suspect. It takes months to test a vaccine because it takes that long before you can see if the vaccine is better than placebo. People receive the vaccine and go about their daily lives. They are still advised to take precautions since one-third to one-half of them haven’t actually gotten the active vaccine. It takes some time to get enough COVID cases to ensure the vaccine is effective. The only way to speed that up is to give them the vaccine (or placebo), and then purposefully expose them to COVID. Would you sign up for a trial like that? I would not! So, we need to take the time to see if the vaccine is effective (and safe). Before the election is absolutely not enough time. When the vaccine is finally available, there will be a number of organizations (like the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and others) who will “weigh-in” on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. 

New York has led the way in keeping COVID at bay. We will need to remain vigilant. This pandemic is far from over—we may still be dealing with this next summer or even a year from now. Stay Safe. Support each other by wearing a mask and social distancing. And get your flu shot.