Dear Bellingen Shire
First: updating on good and bad news; and then pondering of a dilemma.
Mid North coast still has no known cases of Covid 19! Even after the protests (which despite all expectations have provided very few cases in the cities), a long weekend, and the outbreak in Melbourne, we are still in our bubble. Our local clinic is still only finding lots of cases of Rhinovirus (a common winter cold) and 1 case of parainfluenza virus.
There has been more media hype about successful trials of treatments. Again hype is to be watched warily. A large study in UK has found that a common cheap steroid medication reduces the death rate in severely unwell patients. But, it had no benefit in mild cases. In fact 4/5 of all cases will be mild. The article has not been peer reviewed yet, and this is still subject to challenge. This is science!
There are currently about 7 new medications in controlled clinical trials at present sponsored by the WHO. Maybe some of these will help, some will be found to be dangerous?? That is the role of a trial. It will be many months yet before we see some results of these trials. And it will be hoped that a different group in a different place can then replicate any finding in another trial of the same substance. This is also how science tries to creep towards reliable answers.
Some evidence that is steady is that hypertension, diabetes and heart disease are still the main risk factors for a rough journey. Hence authorities ask anyone with these conditions to ensure that their management is checked and optimal. There is a Sydney team researching a new way of dealing with blood clots – and this seems to be one of the dangerous events that is part of the covid19 mortality . This is also exciting, Like space travel, it may have much wider benefits.
The debate about facemasks is moving more toward encouraging their use – even cloth masks, but WHO advice is more relevant in a higher risk environment. Australian authorities are still debating the advice as we have a low risk environment so far. You can check out a bunch of pretty fact sheets and also some interesting myth busting cards at the WHO website.
It is nice to see people in Cafes again, though we need now to remember spacing and Covid manners. Hopefully the start up of football will bring some cheer. It is interesting to see, even there, the on again/off again reality that we are now in. It is intriguing to comprehend how you can prevent transmission of disease in fellas hugging and sweating all over each other, while thousands of fans are shouting at each other. But then, fortunately, there are clever people in charge of the football codes paid at least 10 times my pay grade to tell someone else to figure it out.
Black Dog Institute and senior psychiatrists warn us of a wave of post Covid mental heath deterioration and even suicides, especiailly in young people. Now here is something we do have data on. Professor Felice Jakka in Geelong has shown that diet is critical in the mental health of young people. Eat well – mental health gets better, eat junk foods – mental health deteriorates. (yes, Grandma again!!). So if you are looking for a conversation and activity with youth in your house good food education and cooking skills is a winner for health, mental health, money saving.
Now for a different flavour, I would like to present the horns of a very human dilemma that many families have faced through this crisis. We often only see a demeaning sound bite on TV news, or some reporter looking for a sensational angle on the lives of real ordinary people.
In May a noble, elderly fellow in Bellorana lost his long, cantankerous battle with time. He was a war hero from an undeclared war (the Malayan insurgency in the 50s), was uniquely decorated, also was a navigator in the planes that flew through the British atomic explosions in Maralinga and the Montebello islands (see the dramatization “Operation Buffalo” on ABC). He was a successful businessman, had a long single marriage, 5 children loyal, 14 granchildren, and a growing wave of greats. He was the last of his generation and of his air force team. During the shutdown family could not visit – the wonderful caring staff at Bellorana became his family.
In his last week restrictions were eased a little, enabling some family members to be there briefly, to say goodbye and he died 2 days after his birthday.
But the necessary pandemic regulations then banned normal funerals, and enforced mandatory rapid cremation. The family postponed a memorial till July – after the gathering restriction might be lifted again. Yet there will stil lbe tight limits on spacing and social distance rules will be in place. Now the outbreak in Victoria demonstrates the on/off predictions. Indeed the Chief medical officer has said that many of the new cases were contacted from family members visiting each other, though many were already known cases. So how do they go forward?
Suspend grieving by delaying a memorial till next year? But we may be just as heavily in a second, or third wave next year.
Go ahead but be ready to cancel at 1 days notice? Though some mourners will travel a long way to arrive.
Run an outdoors memorial that fits with government regulations?– But that means a marquee of at least 10x 20 M to allow 4square meters per person.
Cancel the idea of a funeral and let the passing of a quietly ignored national hero go unacknowledged?
How important are these events in our lives in a time of crisis? Certainly the caterers who have had no work for months are keen to go ahead, as is the motel taking bookings.
At present the family is planning to have a large marquee in Glennifer, with social distancing staked out, a Concierge in full Personal Protection equipment, temperature checking all attendees, contact tracing recorded, masks and face covers handed out, and sanitiser all over the place, every government regulation ticked, and readiness to cancel in short notice if cases are reported, because 1 outbreak and all the businesses associated will shut down for at least 2 weeks. Even if no one gets seriously ill.
So much costly preparation – but this is an example of the planning that is necessarily part of out new world. This may seem to some to be over the top, but that perspective is easy shouting from our little bubble of no cases. Talk to folk who have family in North America, where they witnessed lines of refrigerated trucks, and mass burials. We are lucky, and we need to work hard to keep it that way.
I know this level of planning because that war hero was my dad. There are many families who have been robbed by this virus of the opportunity to be there for their elderly relative’s last days. Overseas there have been tens of thousands of families not able to be there for their young beloved’s suffering.
We were getting used to a somewhat whimsical life where we could do mostly what we want, travel where we liked, whenever we wanted. This is the new normal. It is still serious. Our community and nation will survive at strength with ongoing understanding and respect, and caution.
Stay safe and alert
Dr Trevor Cheney
This is one perspective and please check with your GP who knows you and your family and your local conditions.