August 2021. Is this the third wave of COVID in the US? Fifth wave? Hell, maybe we never left the first wave! Yes, we have the vaccine but many Americans are refusing to get it. Many of the same Americans are also refusing not only to wear a mask but to put one on their kids under age 12 as they go back to school ineligible for the vaccine.
What kind of country have we become? Some people think masks are unsafe for their kids because Billy Bob watched a YouTube video that his friend Karen sent him, that was sent to her by Barbie and Ken. The guy in the video was wearing a white lab coat, so he must be an expert. He said that kids are breathing in their own CO2 and dropping like flies. The government cabal just doesn’t want you to know about it. They know it is true because another expert on YouTube in a white lab coat told them that the vaccine is actually a microchip that not only can track you, but also alter your DNA turning you into a socialist zombie.
Are you laughing? Sadly, these are videos and Facebook posts that are really out there. It would be funny, except people believe these things and they are putting their lives, their kids’ lives, and others who are immunocompromised at risk. Earlier this year, I wrote about conspiracy theories and mental health. This is a controversial topic in the mental health world. Of course, not all people who have mental illness believe in conspiracy theories. However, just last week, a father from California killed his two babies with a speargun because he believed in conspiracy theories. “Coleman said he had been enlightened by the extremist group QAnon and the Illuminati, both baseless theories that claim secret elites are maliciously controlling national and world affairs from the shadows. He had received visions and signs revealing his wife “possessed serpent DNA,” which she passed on to their children, according to the affidavit. By killing them, he allegedly said, “he was saving the world from monsters.” “He knew it was wrong, but it was the only course of action that would save the world,” Washington Post, August 12, 2021. We do not know if this man has a history of mental illness, but that kind of thinking is not normal. Some believe that the pandemic and the loss of control that we’ve experience lead some to find meaning in conspiracy theories. I understand that. However, all of us, including me have experienced a loss of control since March 2020. I for one do not believe in serpent DNA, nor would I even take half a second to watch a YouTube video or read a Facebook post about it. Personally, I think we need to start looking at QAnon and conspiracy theories like the religious cults of the 1970s and 1980s. Jim Jones brainwashed his followers to the point they drank poisoned Kool-aid and gave the poisoned Kool-aid to their children. David Koresh and his followers were willing to sacrifice men, women, and children to protect their compound in Waco, Texas. Whoever “Q” is and every public mouthpiece (politicians) who gives QAnon conspiracies a stage need to be held accountable. Followers need to go through the same steps and therapy that cult followers went through to undo the brainwashing of cult leaders.
Back to masks and vaccines. This is the same thinking that goes into the anti-vaccine and anti-mask stance. Are these people getting their information from their physician, or from Billy Bob on Facebook and the white coat “expert” on YouTube? I wear a mask to the store. I wear a mask and teach a 60-minute exercise class to older people with Parkinson’s Disease who are also wearing masks three days a week. Not one of us has collapsed from breathing in CO2. I had COVID in January and got the vaccine as soon as I could. No lasting side effects from the vaccine. However, I do have long-haul symptoms from COVID even though I had a fairly mild case. Some claim they won’t get the vaccine because they do not know what’s in it. They don’t know what is in a Big Mac or Cheetos, but they eat that or they take their daily Low-T supplement from Walmart that isn’t even regulated by the FDA.
Here is the problem that many do not seem to understand. This pandemic, this virus will never come to any kind of closure until people take it seriously, get vaccinated, and wear masks. We all want to go to concerts, to outdoor events, even go back to school. But don’t we want to do that safely without risking another wave or variant? I’m not a scientist, but I do know viruses mutate. They love vulnerable hosts. We are chest-deep in the Delta variant and we know the Lambda variant has its eye on us. What will we do to stop it? Keep pretending that it isn’t real? Blame another country for it? Or will we listen to public health and epidemiology experts? I rely on experts all the time. I’ve been teaching exercise and wellness to people with chronic conditions for almost 25 years. I know a lot, but I don’t know everything. I turn to a doctor or physical therapist when I don’t have the answer for a client with knee pain. I won’t even pretend I know the answer because that would make me unethical. Diagnosing and treating is outside of my scope of practice. That is why we have experts. Unfortunately, too many people believe they are the experts and think the experts have some sort of hidden agenda. We have seen this with our own eyes when people doubt expert advice about COVID. Has the information changed since last year? Of course it has. A new virus is a learning process. Science is a learning process. We learn and change as we learn.
So to the personal aspect of all of this. Because people refuse the vaccine and refuse to wear a mask, we are sending kids into a school year without protection. The American Academy of Pediatrics, which should be seen as experts on children’s health, has said masks should be worn by kids in school. Governors, who are not experts, have said “nope, and we will not only make it illegal to enforce it but we will withhold pay to schools, teachers, and administrators who try to enforce it”. Who are too many people listening to? The governors who have no background in health, but do have an agenda. August 3rd, I started in-person classes for those with Parkinson’s Disease. I’ve been teaching on Zoom since April 2020, which is great. However, people with PD benefit from socialization. Many with PD already suffer from anxiety and depression, a non-motor symptom of Parkinson’s. As great as it has been to keep the classes going via Zoom, it is not the same. Participants were excited to resume in person. I kept the class size down for physical distancing and everyone wore masks. Three weeks later, we are suspending in-person programs because the Delta variant is spreading quickly and hospitalization numbers are rising just as quickly. This decision was based on advice from local hospitals and public health. This will definitely impact those who have difficulty with online classes. However, we had to make the decision. Do we continue in-person classes and risk someone getting sick, or do we go back online, lose a few participants for hopefully a few weeks and keep everyone safe? Of course, our priority is the health and safety of everyone. Am I angry and frustrated about it? You bet I am. I’m not angry that we have to go back online. I’m angry that less than 48% of Iowans are fully vaccinated, people are getting sick and hospitalized, and our governor is trotting around the Iowa State Fair, unmasked and shaking hands and hugging people. Parents are beside themselves with worry about their kids getting sick when they return to school and our governor is eating deep-fried whatever on a stick and playing politics with her base who are doing the same thing. Isn’t she supposed to represent and care about EVERYONE in the state, regardless of their political leanings? I find it ironic that less than 48% of Iowans are fully vaccinated and over half of Iowans think the governor is doing a great job. Great. That’s a train that’s headed straight into a wall.
Not only will we be dealing with the virus and possible long-haul health issues, but we will also be dealing with mental health issues for years to come. The stress, anxiety, and depression that so many parents and kids are experiencing are very real. Parents are worried about their kids. Kids are excited to go back to school but anxious about the virus. Teachers are concerned and now some are being attacked by parents for taking a stand for masking. Is Karen actually that convinced that her kid will die from C02 poisoning by wearing a mask that she is ready to physically fight another parent or teacher in front of her kid? Which scenario do you think is actually more traumatizing to the child?
I don’t know where we go from here, but I know something has to change. We have to care more about others. We have to care about the facts again. We have to stop getting so-called expert information from YouTube and Facebook. If you want to learn how to fix your faucet, YouTube might be great. You wouldn’t use it to learn how to fix your broken arm. You would go to an expert, your doctor, or the ER. Let’s stop putting our health and well-being and the health and well-being in the hands of YouTube, Facebook, politicians, or Billy Bob that you went to high school with.