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OPINION

mEDICAL PROFESSIONALS MUST HAVE A STRONGER PRESENCE ON TASK FORCE

Dr. Howard Kessler, PSR Florida Chapter

Governor DeSantis has formed a task force comprised largely of business leaders to advise him on re-opening the state. PSR Florida is concerned about the lack of medical representation on the task force. Our President, Dr. Howard Kessler, penned an opinion piece on April 26, 2020 in the Tallahassee Democrat, expressing our concerns.

I am shocked Gov. DeSantis appointed an advisory task force charged with reopening our state with only a token number having a medical degree. The decision to reopen Florida for business in the face of COVID-19 should be made by a Big Science panel: infectious disease experts, health care professionals, epidemiologists and those with a solid background in the science of epidemics.

We all want to get back to work, but by largely omitting medical and scientific advisors from the panel and stacking it with Big Business leaders, the result may put profit over lives.

As president of Physicians for Social Responsibility Florida, I speak on behalf of many physicians across the state that science and medicine must be a strong voice at the table. First, do no harm.

If you would like to express your concerns, the task force has opened a public comment portal, which can be accessed here.

It’s important that the Governor hears from health professionals; this cannot be an industry/business only driven decision.

COVID-19

managing stress and panic in a pandemic

April Ansari, PSR Florida Chapter

A novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2 was first detected in Wuhan, Hubei Province, People’s Republic of China in December 2019, resulting in outbreaks of the COVID-19 disease that began to spread globally. As a result, the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency on January 31, 2020, followed by President Trump considering the outbreak to be a national emergency a month later. Since then, a new wave of stress and panic has spread among people just as fast as the virus itself, though it may not always be as obvious as we expect.

Human reactions to the pandemic, such as stress and panic, manifest in different ways. Whether it is by constantly flipping through television channels that all report bleak and anxious headlines or walking into a grocery store with nearly full protective personal equipment (PPE), many of us are acting in ways that reflect how we are internalizing the unfamiliarity of this pandemic as something life-threatening. Our fight, flight, or freeze response is designed to serve for a short period of time when we are faced with an issue, but this survival instinct is being triggered each and every time we expose ourselves to these sources of stress and panic in our environment. In turn, many people may also react to fear in more subtle ways, such as isolating themselves from loved ones, facing sleeping problems, or hoarding basic goods. We are all affected by this disease one way or another, but it is important to stay informed, self-aware, and proactive during these unprecedented and unfortunate times.

While we are constantly pushing for macro-level solutions, we must still consider our individual roles in controlling the effects of the crisis. Learn how to rise above the situation by having an impact on how we perceive and address these sudden yet temporary changes to our lifestyles:

  • Be selective of what you consume. It is important to seek information from factual and reliable sources, such as the CDC or the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Due to an overflow of inaccurate, biased, and oversimplified information within the 24-hour news cycle, which takes advantage of situations like these, it is also important to set certain times when you check for updates during the day instead of constantly refreshing the page and overwhelming yourself.
  • Take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself during a pandemic goes beyond hand hygiene and social distancing. It is important to maintain healthy diets, exercise, and relationships during these times. Not only does this boost our immune systems, but it keeps us healthy on mental and spiritual levels as well. Relaxation coping mechanisms, including breathing or muscle techniques, can also help when dealing with immediate stress and panic.
  • Be there for others. Our survival instinct may cause us to react egocentrically and only want to protect ourselves, but we are a community now more than ever. A pandemic knows no borders or boundaries, and helping each other is necessary. It is important to keep in mind the high-risk groups, such as the elderly and healthcare workers, and to show them our support.

LETTER TO THE GOVERNOR

mARCH 27, 2020

PSR Florida Board of Directors urged the State of Florida to issue a statewide stay-at-home order, as we must consider our responsibility in flattening the curve and promoting a healthy public.

Dear Governor DeSantis,

We, the Board of Directors of the Florida Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, are writing to demand you issue a shelter in place order for the state of Florida to protect public health. We have an obligation to flatten the curve and save lives. And while we understand the concern for the economy, the bottom line is that there will be no healthy economy without a healthy public.

Just yesterday, Governor Sunnunu showed strong leadership by issuing a stay at home order with less than 150 confirmed cases in the state of New Hampshire. Twenty other governors have done the same, the majority of whom have fewer cases than we do. Florida has close to 3,000 cases and the highest percentage of elderly people in the country. Taking a “surgical approach” as you’ve been quoted saying, is not effective when the cancer (virus) has already spread. Leaving the decision to the local municipalities is not leadership. We need you to be a leader.

Closing piecemeal is sending mixed messages and is inevitably going to prolong the situation. Shut down the state now and get people back to work sooner.

The healthcare community is already being unfairly exposed to CoVid-19 due to unavailable equipment and other resources, and yet demonstrate their courage and selfless service by showing up every day to care for Floridians who need our help. You need to show up as well and issue a shelter in place order for the entire state.

At this rate, we will overwhelm the healthcare system and this will result in more deaths. We implore you to stand up for public health and shut down the state. Additionally we urge you to strongly request the President to issue a shelter in place order for the 50 states, all occurring over the same time period and time span. This strategy is science-based and will steeply reduce infection rates.

Resources

Physicians for Social Responsibility national statements about COVID-19

Florida’s COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard from the Florida Department of Health

Telemedicine Course from ACP, co-authored by PSR Florida’s Dr. Ankush Bansal

Tips for Families from Zero to Three, as recommended by NCPMI

Tampa Bay Catholics and Evangelicals discuss the environment and coronavirus featuring Dr. Sandra Gompf on behalf of PSR Florida


Public Health Agency & University Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center

World Health Organization: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

Disaster Stress Hotline (call 1-800-985-5990, or text TalkWithUs to 66746)

United Nations: Domestic Violence during Coronavirus

UCLA: Guided Meditations


COVID-19 Posts from PSR Florida

May 26, 2020

Dr. Sandra Gompf from PSR/FL was featured in a Tampa Bay Times article about a recent interview with a Catholic bishop and Evangelical leaders for expertise on disease epidemics and climate change. They discussed “mutual concerns about global warming, air pollution, the role they play in certain diseases and ecumenical partnership.” https://www.tampabay.com/…/tampa-bay-catholics-and-evangel…/

May 26, 2020

We stand with +40 million doctors, nurses, and health professionals to demand #G20 leaders take #COVID19 recovery action that reduces #AirPollution, reforms #FossilFuels subsidies, scales #RenewableEnergy, ramps up public transportation and reduces #GHG emissions. http://ow.ly/5o5h30qHUmX #HealthyRecovery

April 26, 2020

As nuclear weapons programs are funded by $67.6 billion for the fiscal year of 2020, it is necessary to reallocate these expenditures towards our greatest needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to The Hill, “these wasted expenditures deprive cities, counties and states across the nation of critical funds in the midst of this pandemic, compounding our ongoing daily health crisis dealing with nearly 90 million Americans without any, or with inadequate health insurance.” https://thehill.com/opinion/finance/494637-taxes-covid-19-and-nuclear-weapons-funding-our-nations-priorities

April 25, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has opened new discussions for green energy due to its large impact on oil production. “This pullback in oil and gas spending is likely to benefit renewable energy’s market share,” according to the International Business Times. “The share of renewable energy in the energy mix of the United States is expected to climb rapidly this year, with the pandemic lockdown providing a fitting backdrop.” https://www.ibtimes.com/coronavirus-energy-impact-renewables-win-over-oil-gas-2955043

April 17, 2020

As the CDC has recommended for people to wear cloth face coverings in public, some South Florida counties have started to require it as well in order to contain the spread of COVID-19. Watch Dr. Jerome Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General, guide you through the easy process for making your own cloth masks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPx1yqvJgf4

April 15, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a surge of domestic violence on a global scale, whether it’s from staying at home with abusers, converting shelters into health facilities, or reducing arrests in hopes of limiting direct contact. According to the UNFPA-Kosovo, “we need to ensure that measures are in place to prevent, protect and mitigate the consequences of all forms of violence, stigma and discrimination, especially those against women and girls during quarantine and self-isolation processes and procedures.” https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/04/1061052

April 9, 2020

Having clean water is a major health issue, a human rights issue, and a moral issue. These are exceptional times; water to homes that are unable to pay their monthly bills should not be turned off. Good hygiene, washing your hands, and hydration are critical to protecting families from COVID-19. We’re all in this together.

April 7, 2020

The need for energy efficiency is as strong as ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. The crisis has demonstrated the critical value of electricity infrastructure for both responding to the pandemic and continuing our routines in modern societies. According to the World Economic Forum, “governments are rightly focused on the immediate public health emergency, but they have to remain vigilant on electricity security and safeguard vital assets amid the extreme volatility in markets. In these extraordinary times, we can manage without many things, but we can’t manage without electricity.” https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/coronavirus-crisis-future-of-energy/

April 3, 2020

The CDC is now recommending we all wear cloth face coverings in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Continue to wash your hands, don’t touch your face, clean home surfaces more often, stay hydrated, exercise, and eat healthy.

April 1, 2020

Even though Governor DeSantis recently signed a stay-at-home order for South Florida, we still need to extend the order to the rest of the state, as we must consider our responsibility in flattening the curve and promoting a healthy public.

March 28, 2020

There is great potential for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic if funds were to be redirected towards healthcare. “Nuclear-armed states’ decision to divert public resources from health care to weapons of mass destruction is unconscionable,” according to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

March 27, 2020

Have you tried Google Earth’s virtual tours of Florida’s beautiful Everglades National Park and Florida Keys’ Dry Tortugas National Park? Staying at home and social distancing can present challenges to many of us, both mentally and physically. With these virtual tours, which even go underwater, we are reminded of the great nature that awaits us once these temporary changes from COVID-19 pass. Remember to take care of yourself, and stay healthy and hopeful!

March 21, 2020

ICAN: Imagine if nuclear-armed states like USA, UK and France spent their public resources on healthcare and protecting lives, instead of nuclear weapons? We break it down: http://icanw.org/healthcare_costs

March 20, 2020

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) needs to take preventive action against the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on nuclear proliferation. Though the IAEA is still conducting inspections of enrichment and centrifuge development sites in Iran, what would happen if they suspend these inspections to protect inspectors against COVID-19, or if Iran decides to ban inspectors from entering the country based on its own concerns for the spread of COVID-19? Learn more about what the IAEA can do to minimize the risks associated with these contingencies: https://thebulletin.org/2020/03/one-potential-victim-of-coronavirus-nuclear-inspections-in-iran/

March 12, 2020

UN Secretary-General: COVID-19 should not distract the fight against climate change. Despite drops in economic activity and carbon emissions as a result of COVID-19, “we will not fight climate change with a virus,” as climate change “will remain with us for decades and require constant action.” https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1059061