So it could be said that life has returned to some degree of normal. However, there is still the question of how we should behave.
As dutifully masked passengers traveled on a flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles in mid-April, the pilot’s voice broke the quiet of the cabin with news that was cause for celebration for many while scary to others - the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had rescinded the mask mandate for flights that had been in effect because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A New York Times article reported, “The announcement was met with a smattering of applause and some jubilant cheers, and about a third of the people aboard peeled off their masks.”
However, one passenger told the newspaper that she was concerned about the effect such a decision would have on a business colleague she would be meeting who had an auto-immune disease. She said she had taken all possible recommended steps to protect her colleague from being infected by COVID. From the Christian perspective, this woman’s compassion is certainly praiseworthy (whether or not she is a believer).
The History of the Pandemic
Little more than two years ago, few people even knew what COVID-19 was. The official medical name for this coronavirus that has wreaked so much havoc throughout the world is (SARS-CoV-2). Sadly, one would have to be living under a rock now to claim they do not know about this virus because it has left a horrible trail of severe illness and death (reported at 6,262,843 worldwide as of May 2).
As people in the United States were becoming aware of a virus that was beginning to spread very quickly, there was little information available about its effects. However, it was beginning to be known as very dangerous and even deadly. The first case of COVID-19 to be confirmed by a U.S. laboratory was in January of 2020. Since then, the death toll in the U.S. has been estimated to be approaching one million.
On one hand, clinicians and scientists understand a lot more about COVID-19 than they did in the beginning with the help of massive data regarding levels of severity, those who would be most at risk of death, the effects of various medications, and the introduction of a vaccine. However, the virus has evolved into several variants that continue to outwit clinicians and scientists.
The initial strategy for dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak was to attempt to get a handle on its spread, especially under fears that a massive spread of the virus could overwhelm the medical facilities needed to care for those who were infected.
Then, after two years of widespread lockdowns, mandatory masking in many venues and vaccine demands on many people, the news broke on April 27 that Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been a public health representative for both Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden’s administrations, commented on the status of the virus during an interview. According to a Fox News story, Fauci said that the U.S. was “‘certainly’ out of the pandemic phase.” However, Dr. Fauci also advocated that U.S. citizens who have been vaccinated may need to receive boosters annually and for a longer time than they would otherwise expect to keep infections at a minimum. However, Dr. Fauci’s public pronouncements have been held in suspicion by some news outlets.
Life After the Pandemic
The million-dollar question is: “Where do we go from here, and when and should the country ever return to some kind of pre-COVID normal?” There is no doubt that this virus has left an indelible mark on the country’s health landscape and psyche from which it could take years to recover, and it is likely to be a health concern for a long time to come.
The fact is COVID has similarities and differences from the common flu that hit during certain seasons of the year. Most people in the U.S. have had various forms of the flu over their lifetimes, and the country does not regularly call for lockdowns and other catastrophic measures during the regular flu season. Many people choose to get vaccinated against the flu while others choose against it. Such decisions have never turned into the political ping-pong ball that vaccinations for COVID have turned into. One reason for this is that, unlike most flu variants (with the exception of the Spanish Flu in 1918), COVID has caused a frightening number of deaths worldwide.
According to an article on the Mayo Clinic website, both COVID and the flu are contagious respiratory diseases caused by a virus, and they often exhibit similar symptoms. However, clinicians and researchers have found that these two viruses can affect people differently. The virulence of COVID has caused the governments of many countries throughout the world to adopt some general policies to deal with the pandemic. The Mayo Clinic further states that because the flu has been with us much longer, medical science has found ways to prevent and treat the virus.
Comparison and Contrast of Common Cold and COVID-19
Common symptoms (not exhaustive) for both flu and COVID-19 include the following:
An additional common symptom of COVID-19 is often the loss of taste or smell. People who test positive for COVID but have only mild flu-like symptoms may be able to recover fully at home with rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medications. Flu symptoms generally appear 1-4 days after exposure but COVID-19 symptoms could appear anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure.
Complications with COVID that are different from the flu may include lung injury, and death is a more likely result than influenza.
The Mayo Clinic has estimated the number of COVID deaths in the U.S. at 940,000 out of 78-million known cases reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since the illness made its appearance here at the beginning of 2020. In comparison, the clinic reported the number of deaths from the flu to be approximately 22,000 out of 38-million people known to have contracted the illness in the 2019-2020 flu season. The illness and death estimates stated for the flu by the Mayo Clinic, however, only cover one year while COVID has now been in the U.S. for a little more than two years. However, the differences between contagion and death are still significant.
The fact is that COVID is expected to be with us for a long time with periodic spikes much like the flu. So, it is important for the U.S. healthcare community to cull together the most reliable knowledge that has been attained regarding the virus. Additionally, individuals must become as informed as possible, with multiple reliable sources, regarding the risks associated with the virus.
With vaccines available for both the seasonal flu and COVID, people have those options to possibly prevent both illnesses, although neither vaccine is 100% effective. Additionally, just as Tamiflu is often used to mitigate the flu symptoms, medical science has now provided some medications that can assist in treating or lessening COVID symptoms, depending upon the severity of the infection.
Those medications include:
Remdesivir - According to another Mayo Clinic article, Remdesivir may be prescribed for people who have been hospitalized for COVID and in need of supplemental oxygen, or who have a higher risk of serious consequences from contracting the disease. It is administered intravenously.
Paxlovid - This medication has received approval for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration. It is prescribed to treat patients who are experiencing mild to moderate COVID symptoms.
Immune-based therapy - Several forms of lab-created protein, currently known as monoclonal antibodies, work to help the immune system fight off viruses. There are two forms that have proven effective in lessening symptoms for people who have contracted the current Omicron variants. Those are sotovrimab and bebtelovimab. The monoclonal antibody medications are administered intravenously, generally in an outpatient setting, and they are most helpful when administered very soon after COVID symptoms appear and before hospitalization becomes necessary.
How Should Christians Respond?
Now that the pandemic appears to be lessening, most churches in the U.S. are open, and the decision to be vaccinated or wear a mask is left to the judgment of individual congregants. So it could be said that life has returned to some degree of normal. However, there is still the question of how we should behave.
The best guideline for a Christian is to consider the risk factors of those around us - our families, our fellow believers, and the general public. It makes sense that if we live with or interact with people who have compromised immune systems or are elderly and most likely to suffer serious consequences from infection, we should do what we can to mitigate that risk by knowing and using the most effective prevention methods.
Here is a little advice from Philippians:
“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4, NKJV)
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/ Andriy Onufriyenko
Cathy Wentz lives with her husband, Brian, in Cedar City, UT, and has been a believer in Jesus Christ for more than 30 years. She has two grown children and four grandchildren, all who live in Cedar City. Her writing experience includes working as a newspaper reporter for eight years, and she currently serves as a public relations assistant for a local orthopaedic surgeon, which involves writing blogs, social media posts and other web content.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
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