'We can virtually eliminate the virus any time we decide to.' Andy Slavitt explains how
True
Firefox

The U.S. is an outlier among developed nations in our handling of the coronavirus pandemic. While other countries have gone through rough outbreaks, none have the sustained growth in cases that the U.S. is seeing. Rather than try to control the outbreak so we can somewhat resume normal life, Americans seem to have decided to continue with normal life during a pandemic that's already killed close to 150,000 Americans and given at least a million more long-term health problems. From conspiracy theories to partisan bickering to "the gov't can't tell me what to do" individualism, the U.S. is a hot mess on the pandemic front, and the coronavirus is thriving off of our disunity.

But it doesn't have to be this way. Other countries have proven that it is possible to get a hold of this thing and keep it from running rampant. As former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Senior Adviser to the Bipartisan Policy Center Andy Slavitt explains, we could nip the pandemic in the bud in a matter of weeks if we can just agree to do it.

Slavitt wrote on Twitter:


"COVID Update July 26: We can virtually eliminate the virus any time we decide to. We can be back to a reasonably normal existence: schools, travel, job growth, safer nursing homes & other settings. And we could do it in a matter of weeks. If we want to."

He pointed out that New Zealand managed to completely eliminate the virus with its decisive, unified approach. And for those who would say that's easier to do on an island, he also pointed to Germany, which had an outbreak for a bit, but got it under control.

He also pointed to Italy, France, and Spain, who had it bad around the same time we did, but managed to get their outbreaks under control, as most developed nations—and even many less developed nations—have.

"But don't tell me the U.S. can't take action if we want to," he wrote. "And we can't face the families of 150,000 people who didn't have to die & tell them this had to happen. And I think it's why our national political leaders won't go near these families & the grieving process."

Then he offered the good news: "We are always 4-6 weeks from being able to do what countries around the world have done."

But we have to go all in, or as he says, "throw the kitchen sink at COVID-19 in the U.S." None of this half-ass shut down, let people do whatever they feel like business. Slavitt defines the kitchen sink as:

1. Start with universal mask wearing. We didn't do this in Mar-April and let's chalk it up to faulty instructions. But we know better now.

2. Keep the bars & restaurants & churches & transit closed. All hot spots.

3. Prohibit interstate travel.

4. Prohibit travel into the country (no one will let us into their country so that shouldn't be hard).

5. Have hotels set up to allow people with symptoms to isolate from their families at no cost.

6. Instead of 50% lockdown (which is what we did in March in April), let's say it's a 90% lockdown.


Naturally, that would mean things would be tight and tough for a few weeks. We'd need the government to help bridge the financial gap. But we could do it.

As Slavitt pointed out, "Our grandparents who lived through a decade long depression, a 6 year world war, or whatever hardship they faced in their country would tell us we would make it."

Slavitt explained how we could even form "friend & family bubbles" like the NBA has successfully done.

At first, cases and deaths would continue to rise and people would continue to die, because there's always a lag.

And because of that, the "COVID truthers would have a field day, tweeting every day the same routine" about how the lockdown wasn't working and the government is fascist and the numbers are skewed. "But if someone took Trump's phone, it would help," he added.

Then, after a few weeks, the R value—the rate at which the infection reproduces—of the virus would drop drastically. "If you have 60,000 cases in your community, in 50 days, it would drop to 58. 6000 becomes 6. 600 becomes 1."

This is the exponential math that is a hallmark of epidemiology. The idea isn't to get to zero, but to get cases down low enough to be able to implement the testing, contact tracing, and isolating that keeps spread low even during a reopening—but which can only be done when numbers are low enough. The U.S. in general has not had numbers low enough to do that since the beginning of the pandemic because we were too slow and too all over the place to take the necessary steps toward that goal.

With fewer cases, we wouldn't need to do as much testing, which would allow our testing capacity to build to a level where we could actually test everyone we need to.

We could also catch up on PPE production, and keep the mental health crises that go along with an uncontrolled pandemic limited to a couple of months instead of the ongoing nightmare we're in right now.

As Larry Brilliant, the epidemiologist who helped find the cure for smallpox, points out, we are smarter than this virus. "If it was just our science and the goodwill of American people, absent bad governance, we would have defeated it already. I don't mean we would have eradicated it, but we would have been much further along into kicking it into the dustbin of history."

Slavitt pointed out that even in countries that are now seeing an uptick in cases after having gotten numbers very low, the recent daily peaks are in the hundreds, not the tens of thousands that we're seeing in the U.S.

Think about what that would mean for us. For our medical workers. For the scientists trying to get a vaccine safely on the market. We've already started to get used to social distancing norms during the pandemic, but if we could get the virus under control, those measures would be a lot more effective.

Yes, it would mean 6 to 8 weeks of disruption. But in the big scheme of things, that's not that long. And we're already suffering through months of disruption anyway because we took a haphazard, disunified approach, which is harming us economically, emotionally, and epidemiologically.

And since we don't know yet if a vaccine will be the be all end all for this pandemic, we have to figure out how to manage without one for now.

Of course, as Slavitt points out, "The major objection to all this? People who think this infringes on their 'rights.'"

But we all give up some "rights" simply by living in a civilized society. There are rule and laws we all have to follow. We can't just do whatever we want—not when what we want to do puts others in harm's way. And during a pandemic, public health measures are designed to protect people, in the same way that food handling regulations and road safety laws do.

What about herd immunity? We don't know enough about how immunity with this virus works yet. Also, any attempt at reaching herd immunity means a mass number of casualties—not only hundreds of thousands of deaths, but millions upon millions of chronically ill people. Not ideal, especially when we actually can get this thing under control with a serious short-term strategy.

We all saw the Florida and Texas and Arizona outbreaks coming as governors tossed aside public health advice and citizens flaunted their "freedom" to gather in crowds, not wear a mask, and not do what needed to be done.

The thing is, it will all have to be done anyway, eventually. "We will do this. Theres is no other way," Slavitt wrote. "The question is when. The question is who will convince us. The question is the leadership it takes."

Really, it boils down to what it has always boiled down to—listening to the majority of epidemiologists who have prepared their whole careers for this moment and taking decisive, unified action that lines up with the science. The more we keep pretending that the virus isn't real, or isn't that bad, or is some kind of hoax or conspiracy that the entire world is somehow in on, the longer we're going to suffer.

Let's hit the reset button here—shut down for 6 weeks, pay everyone to stay home, and get our numbers down to a manageable level so we can keep them there. Let's be proactive instead of reactive. Let's stop being the world's poster child for what not to do in a pandemic. We may not be able to lead the world in a crisis at this point, but we could at least attempt not to embarrass ourselves any further.

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

True

The energy in a hospital can sometimes feel overwhelming, whether you’re experiencing it as a patient, visitor or employee. However, there are a few one-of-a-kind individuals like Elaine Ahn, an operating room registered nurse in Diamond Bar, California, who thrive under this type of constant pressure.

Keep Reading Show less
via Pexels

If you know how to fix this tape, you grew up in the 1990s.

There are a lot of reasons to feel a twinge of nostalgia for the final days of the 20th century. Rampant inflation, a global pandemic and political unrest have created a sense of uneasiness about the future that has everyone feeling a bit down.

There’s also a feeling that the current state of pop culture is lacking as well. Nobody listens to new music anymore and unless you’re into superheroes, it seems like creativity is seriously missing from the silver screen.

But, you gotta admit, that TV is still pretty damn good.

A lot of folks feel Americans have become a lot harsher to one another due to political divides, which seem to be widening by the day due to the power of the internet and partisan media.

Keep Reading Show less
Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

Screenshot taken from a live video of the trial.

A recent (and fairly insensitive) sketch from “Saturday Night Live” said it best regarding the widespread fixation many have on the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial:

“It’s not the most pertinent story of the moment, but with all the problems in the world, isn’t it nice to have a news story we can all collectively watch and say ‘glad it ain't me?’”

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Trial Cold Open - SNL www.youtube.com

Schadenfreude, celebrity fascination and previously inaccessible information now being at our fingertips is a potent combination in this trial, making amateur lawyers and psychologists of all who feel compelled to unleash their hot takes. And though the right to converse and speculate exists, is it always in our best interests to do so? Especially when it means potentially spreading misinformation, or at the cost of empathy and compassion?

Keep Reading Show less
Photo from Upworthy Library

A proud sloth dad was caught on camera.

Teddy the two-toed sloth has become a proud papa and thanks to a video posted by the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, we all get to witness the adorable reunion with his newborn son.

Mama sloth, aka Grizzly, gave birth to their healthy little one in Feb 2022, which delighted more than 3,000 people on Facebook.



The video, posted to the Florida zoo’s YouTube page, shows Grizzly slowly climbing toward her mate, who is at first blissfully unaware as he continues munching on leaves. Typical dad.

Keep Reading Show less