Let’s Live A Normal Life

Posted Posted in Brain Science, Elder Care, Homestudy, Psychology

By Mary, O’Brien, M.D.

There is increasing confusion about mask policies in our country.  This is understandable.  The U.S. is a large country with federal, state, and local governance.  Complexities are bound to develop.  A brief, straightforward review may be helpful.

Clinical experience over the past 18 months has shown that SARS-Cov2 is a virus that will be, in all likelihood, an endemic respiratory virus for years to come, much like the flu.  There will be multiple variants, and vaccines will be adjusted as necessary to reduce morbidity and mortality.

Capricious policies, protocols, and mandates will not protect people or eliminate this problem.  If edicts and executive orders solved problems, we wouldn’t have any problems left.

So what makes sense at this point?  The same things that have always made sense:

  1. Protect the vulnerable.  We know who they are:  the elderly and those with significant underlying conditions.
  2. Offer vaccines appropriately.  The principle of patient autonomy, a crucial component of medical ethics, must not be abandoned.  Forcing any medical procedure on people is a very serious breach of ethics.  Natural immunity after infection is potent and important, and it must be acknowledged.
  3. Expand and facilitate early treatments.  We have failed too often on this one.  Telling infected people to stay home until they can scarcely breathe has been disastrous.  Early use of inhaled steroids and monoclonal antibodies can prevent severe illness and death.  They should not be delayed or restricted for the sake of financial maneuvering, power grabs, or bureaucratic scheming.
  4. Focus on facts, accurate statistics, common sense, and perspective.  A mask-less two-year-old on a commercial jet with a sophisticated HEPA filtration system is not a threat to anyone.  Hysterical neurotic adults are tormenting toddlers to assuage their own paranoia.
  • Consider the current COVID survival statistics from Stanford University:
    • Ages 0-19 years:  99.9973%  survival
    • Ages 20-29 years: 99.986%   survival
    • Ages 30-39 years: 99.96%    survival
    • Ages 40-49 years: 99.18%    survival

5. Stay home if you don’t feel well.  This has always been sound advice.

      So far, medical research has demonstrated that every lockdown, school closing, and mask mandate around the world has failed to stop COVID.  It’s time to face the research, drop the double standards, and get a grip.  It’s time to live a normal life.

A Thin Crust Over A Volcano

Posted Posted in Brain Science, Continuing Education, Homestudy, Psychology, Seminars, Webinars

By Mary O’Brien, M.D.

We are in dangerous territory.  Disrespect for law, order, ethics, life, property, and the rights of others is at an all-time high.  In many of our cities, more people are suffering from violent crime than from COVID.

Shoplifting in California is utterly out of control.  Thugs fill garbage bags full of merchandise, ranging from toiletries to designer handbags and brazenly walk out of stores.  Employees and security guards have been told not to confront the thieves. It’s too dangerous, and no one will be arrested or prosecuted in most cases.  In San Francisco, Walgreens has closed 17 stores as a result of unbridled shoplifting.  The people who suffer the most are the old, the weak, and the poor.

 Violent crime in New York City is skyrocketing. Homicides, assaults, robbery, and rape are the worst they have been in decades. Recently, a 61-year-old disabled lady with a walker was brutally attacked by four people, including a vicious woman who beat the victim repeatedly with a saucepan.  They stole the victim’s purse with $22.00 and even took her walker.  Similar violence has been perpetrated on young mothers, tourists, children, and women walking to church.  The oldest victim was 101 years old.

What is causing this descent into madness?  Several factors are obvious:

  • Criminal behavior is being tolerated by many local authorities.  No-cash bail policies amount to arrest and release.  In many cases, no arrest is made at all. Coddling criminals is neither kind nor compassionate.  It is not wise, prudent, or just.  The first and most important duty of government officials at any level is to keep their citizens safe.  Societies typically experience the behaviors they tolerate.  Tolerate crime and violence, and you’ll get plenty of it.
  • Police presence, numbers, power, and authority have been systematically weakened over the past year.  This is not an accident.  Chaos, confusion, crime, and corruption have been used by malevolent people throughout history.  It is a stepping stone to the subjugation of society.
  • Growing up fatherless is now the norm in many urban areas.  Misguided policies over the past 60 years have done profound damage to the integrity of the American family.  When children and teens have no structure, discipline, or role model at home, they will emulate what they see on the streets.
  • Moral decay and the abandonment of genuine virtue are taking a terrible toll on our culture.  The decline of the American family parallels the removal of any reference to God, faith, prayer, traditional values from public schools, or public life in general. Gang members are not losing sleep over the thought of “Thou shalt not kill.”

   It’s been said that civilization is a thin crust over a volcano.  The thin crust is cracking.  How much more are we willing to tolerate?

Life is Short and Precious

Posted Posted in Continuing Education, Elder Care, Homestudy, Psychology, Seminars, Webinars

By Mary O’Brien, M.D.
It happened in an instant. Unimaginable horror and tragedy stunned a community and, indeed, the world.  The collapse of a condominium building in Surfside, Florida, at 1:38 A.M. instantly changed the lives and focus of thousands of people in the U.S., Israel, and South America.

Hundreds of people have been working around the clock, under brutal and treacherous conditions, to save a single life.  Rescuers of every race and background are feverishly trying to find even one survivor of any race or background.  Brave, skilled, and dedicated heroes are doing what brave, skilled, and dedicated heroes always do:  They sacrifice their own safety and well-being to help others.  Rescue personnel, regardless of their color or politics, must be pulled off their shift against their will.  Trying to save another human being is their sole focus. They work together selflessly as a unified team to save life.

This is not shocking to anyone who has ever worked in an ER, an OR, or an ICU.  It’s not a mystery to veterans who have served in combat or police officers who have saved countless lived in emergency situations.  However, too many individuals in the realm of politics, the media, academia, and the corporate world remain baffled by genuine courage and devotion in others.  Since the beginning of our species, ill-intended people have tried to sow division and strife.  Pitting people against one another is malicious, but it has always created an opportunity for power-hungry individuals to seize control.  Teaching children and young adults to be suspicious and resentful of others based on race, gender, or any other physical — therefore superficial — characteristic is a form of cultural rot.  It is a poisoning of the mind.

The tragic collapse of a condominium complex in Surfside, Florida, shows how misguided our priorities can be.  Life is short and precious.  There is never a good reason to promote hatred.  There is more than enough heartache in life without deliberate nastiness. We should never permit ourselves to be focused on race.  We have every reason to keep our focus on grace.

Einstein Was Right!

Posted Posted in Brain Science, Continuing Education, Homestudy, Psychology, Uncategorized

By Mary O’Brien, M.D.

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”  Albert Einstein said that many years ago.  He was referring to physics, but his wisdom could easily apply to any situation, including COVID-19 vaccines.

Increasing numbers of people in business, politics, education and, of course, the media, are trying to force COVID-19 vaccines on everyone.  “Vaccination or termination” has become the new threat to employees and students.  Most people, regardless of their lofty achievements in other areas, are not well-versed in the fine points of immunology.  Sadly, however, some of them are convinced that they know what’s best for everyone.

Nearly everything in medicine carries potential risk and reward.  Both possibilities must always be considered.  Every prescription we write and every procedure we do has some potential to cause harm.  Every patient is unique.  Every individual has a combination of genetic factors, past illnesses, medications, and allergies.  Also each patient has metabolic, endocrine, hematologic, rheumatologic, neurologic, and cardio-pulmonary conditions that may need to be considered.  For example, patients with rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and other autoimmune disorders produce antibodies that attack their own tissues, hence the need to suppress — with potent drugs such as TNF (tumor necrosis factor) inhibitors — certain parameters of immune function.  Giving such a patient a vaccine, which stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies, can be unwise.  This is usually most problematic with live virus vaccines such as those for varicella, measles, and mumps, and rubella.  The COVID-19 vaccines are messenger RNA-based.  They do not contain live virus.

Pregnant women with COVID-19 illness are at increased risk for serious disease and mortality.  According to the Food and Drug Administration, data on the COVID-19 vaccines are “insufficient to inform vaccine-associated risk in pregnancy”.  Translation:  we don’t know enough yet to be dogmatic about these decisions.

All of COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States (Pfizer, BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson) are safe, effective, and appropriate for the vast majority of people.  But good medical practice is not about the vast majority of people.  Medical decisions are based on the conditions, needs, and details of the individual patient.  Politicians, corporate chief executives, school board members, and media types have no business making (or forcing) medical decisions on other people.

Einstein was right.  Oversimplifying anything is a bad idea.  So is judging others without knowing all the details.

On Leadership, Science, and Happiness

Posted Posted in Brain Science, Continuing Education, Elder Care, Homestudy, Seminars, Webinars

By Mary O’Brien, M.D.

It’s safe to say we’ll all be happy to see this year come to an end.  Fifty years from now people will still be studying the pandemic of 2020, catastrophic hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, riots, a controversial election, and the Nashville bombing.  We have reasons to be exhausted.

Despite all these dreadful events, or perhaps because of them, there is much to be learned.  It could easily fill a book, but for now, a few thoughts will suffice:

On Leadership

  • The people who are trying to frighten you are trying to control you.  Ignore them. Good leaders inspire confidence and optimism, not despair.
  • There is never a place for panic in leadership. There is never a place for panic in public policy.
  • Good leaders actually do what they ask others to do. They do not exempt themselves from difficult, inconvenient, or unpleasant tasks.
  • True leaders respect others.  They do not harbor disdain for others.
  • Tyrants (false leaders) often succeed because cowardice is so common.  Show some spine when bullies arise, and remember, no politician or bureaucrat has missed a paycheck in 2020.
  • When in the course of human events, it becomes clear that what you’re doing isn’t working, it’s time to change what you’re doing — especially in a crisis.

On Science

  • Genuine science requires brutal honesty, discipline, openness, acceptance of uncertainty, and humility.  Real science always has been and always will be a work in progress.  When people scream, “Follow the science,” all too often they mean, “Do as I say.”
  • The main point of science is to help us overcome problems and adapt to difficult circumstances. Creative people in every domain have learned to adapt to massive challenges over the years. The Year 2020 was no exception.  In a crisis people need practical advice and suggestions, not domination and suppression.

On Happiness

  • Most of us still have much for which to be grateful, and there is no happiness without gratitude. Take nothing for granted. Many of us now miss things as simple as family, friends, hugs, and handshakes.
  • There are plenty of unkind people in the world. Don’t be one of them.  Kindness and happiness go hand in hand.
  • Don’t believe anyone who insists our darkest days lie ahead.  Such people do not understand the wonders of the human spirit.  It is never time to give up, despair, or cower in a corner.

Fear not.  We’ve learned a great deal in 2020, and we will build on that knowledge.  Be focused.  Be engaged.  Stay informed (not indoctrinated).  No matter what happens in 2021, do not relinquish your right to engage in independent thought and speech.  The future depends on it.

Happy New Year to All.

Exactly What We Need

Posted Posted in Brain Science, Continuing Education, Homestudy, Nutrition, Psychology

By Mary O’Brien, M.D.

The holidays have gotten off to an odd start.  Thanksgiving was different, to say the least.  Most family gatherings were small and lots of people were alone.  Now the focus has shifted to shopping and decorating. At least it’s a pleasant distraction.

Hanukkah begins on December 10th and Advent started this week.  Who knows what will happen by Christmas.  Given the depressing and stressful nature of this entire year, it might be uplifting to embrace some time-tested traditions of a spiritual nature. For centuries the Christmas tradition of Advent was a time of fasting, prayer, and alms giving.  Many of us were taught to “give up” something like candy or soda as a spiritual discipline in preparation for Christmas.  Nothing wrong with that, especially since many of us have gained a few pounds during the pandemic.  But giving up candy doesn’t help someone feel better.  And right now, nearly everyone needs a little something to feel better.  So here’s an old idea that might help us all feel uplifted.

Cut 25 strips of paper and write an activity for the day on each one.  Fold the strips of paper and place them in a jar or bowl.  Each morning, pick one, and commit to performing the activity.  By Christmas, you will be a better person (and a happier one) for the ripple effect you will have set in motion.

Here are some examples:

  • Send a Christmas card with a personal note of gratitude and encouragement to an active service member or veteran.
  • Leave a little treat (not homemade this year) on the doorstep of a neighbor you haven’t met.
  • Stop by your church or synagogue for a few minutes of quiet prayer or reflection.
  • Give up fancy coffee drinks or alcohol for a month and donate the money you save to a shelter.
  • Offer to do a grocery store run for an elderly neighbor.
  • Say something pleasant or kind to someone you don’t like, perhaps a grumpy patient.
  • Send a small floral arrangement anonymously to someone in a nursing home.
  • Order take out or delivery and give an unexpectedly generous tip.
  • Apologize to someone you may have hurt or offended. It may be more difficult than giving up candy.
  • Place a treat in the mailbox for your mail carrier just because.
  • Try to get through the entire day without criticizing anyone.  There’s some spiritual discipline!

You can make up your own list. It’s well worth the effort.  The next four weeks will pass regardless of our actions.  This year the true spirit of Advent could be exactly what we need.

homestudy

Deconstructing Anxiety: Finding the True Source of Fear for Profound Healing

Posted Posted in Brain Science, Continuing Education, Elder Care, Homestudy, Pain, Psychology

By Todd E. Pressman, Ph.D.

Fear and fulfillment. These are the prime movers of our life, the two great forces that drive the human experience.

Fear is a constant companion. It whispers in our ears of lurking dangers and impending catastrophes. Fulfillment is our high purpose, that which calls us from our most secret places and compels us to discover a freedom and wholeness far beyond what we had thought possible.

These two forces engage in a constant battle. If we forgo our fulfillment and succumb to fear, we are never fully satisfied. But, fear warns us, if we venture forth, we risk the unknown; we are sure to encounter all sorts of perils and should, instead, “play it safe”.

A STRANGE PHENOMENON

Our solution, as a humanity, is to try to satisfy both drives. This results in a strange phenomenon: we convince ourselves that fear is the best strategy for finding and securing fulfillment. We have an impulse for fulfillment—a desire to connect with someone or an urge for creative expression—and immediately consult our fear to negotiate the terms. Fear becomes our provocateur, rooting out from dark corners anything that might signal danger. It becomes our warning device for taking the actions that will protect our fulfillment.

Unfortunately, the strategy backfires; it is impossible to be fulfilled while we are in fear. Not only does fear keep our attention on danger, but we know we can never truly prevent all potential threats. Our response to this is to dig in more deeply, devoting ourselves to an even greater control over danger. We fool ourselves into believing we are working toward the day when we will finally achieve the safety we seek, free to get about the business of fulfillment.  Of course, that day never comes. As the Chinese proverb states, “We are always preparing to live.”

This is the human drama that has been playing out in every culture of every age. Our first and greatest drive is for fulfillment—we know this experience whenever we watch a child filled with the joy of being—and we will not be satisfied until we reach it. Our soul rattles its cage not just for relief from anxiety but to actively create our good.

But the seduction of fear is powerful. We can’t really afford to dwell in the joy of the moment, it tells us. We must keep our eye on looming dangers or the possibility of a sneak attack. So we make the decision to take care of fear first, somehow hoping to get things under control in a complete and permanent way.

When we look around at our current state of affairs, the tragic effects of this strategy are all too evident. Security is the overwhelming goal for most of us, with fulfillment often postponed to the point of being forgotten. It has us live in ever-more-constricted ways, squeezing our once expansive, exuberant selves into a very narrow psychic territory.

We learn to delay gratification, taking care of responsibilities and handling problems, before we can get around to what makes life really worthwhile. There seems to be always one more thing to handle, and then one more and one more. Again and again we tolerate the frustration of postponing our fulfillment until we become rigidified in a posture of waiting. When this goes on long enough, we can indeed forget our original goal.

The great irony of our approach to fulfillment, using fear as our guide, is that it is precisely the approach that will keep us from it. Over a lifetime of such practice, we see our opportunity for fulfillment slipping by. We become stunned by how hard life can be, how much we’ve lost, how far we have fallen from the dreams and high expectations of our early ideals. Because we have sought to get control over a fulfillment that never comes, the futility of the effort catches up with us and we find either that we never did have control or that it wasn’t truly fulfilling after all.

WHAT’S MISSING?

What makes fear so compelling? Why have we become so entrenched in its strategy to secure fulfillment, even when we see that it isn’t working and can make us miserable? If we consider clinical anxiety as simply an exaggerated form of the fear we all struggle with*, the problem can truly be said to be epidemic, the need universal.  How does anxiety co-opt the brain to become so maddeningly fixed and unyielding? What are we missing in our understanding?

The problem, I propose, is that we have not yet fully deconstructed anxiety. We have not yet achieved a successful analysis of precisely how it works—the exact mechanisms that create it, maintain it, give it its power, and make it so intractable. Our paradigms have been incomplete. We need a comprehensive model for understanding and working with the fear at the root of our difficulties, a Rosetta Stone for cracking its code.

Such a model would not only unravel the mystery of anxiety but would illuminate its secret gift. For, as we have said in a previous article**, finding fear’s cure reveals the path to transcending suffering in general, providing a map to deep fulfillment, healthy relationships, and a more functional world.

And why has this been so elusive? Why are we only sometimes successful in our treatments for anxiety? Simply put, whenever a therapeutic intervention fails to produce the desired results, it is because it has not yet fully deconstructed fear in these ways. Fear’s trickery depends upon its ability to convince us not to look at it deeply.  In clinical language, we say fear is hallmarked by avoidance behaviors. We seem to be reflexively wired to respond to fear with these avoidance behaviors.

THE FEAR OF LOOKING AT FEAR

Since the beginnings of psychotherapy, we have understood the importance of reversing this avoidance response, whether through insight into the unconscious, cognitive transformations, various types of exposure therapy, etc. Yet this wiring is powerful, our defenses are resistant, and we still have not explored the nature of fear in a complete enough way. Even if we think we are intimately familiar with it, many of the fast and fleeting thoughts behind the scenes will slip by unexamined. In truth, this is because we are subtly afraid to look at them and discover all they have to teach us. We don’t want to look at them because we know they will require a complete paradigmatic shift in our understanding of who we are and how we deal with life.

We have become so invested in our fear-based ways of negotiating the world that we will not easily give them up. Most of us resist looking at fear as much as possible. But even those who pursue a deeper exploration of the psyche can get lost in its meandering catacombs, missing the ways in which fear is distorting their compass. The fear of looking at fear is the first obstacle to overcome in our search for freedom and fulfillment. It is the source of our human predicament and that which preserves it as well.

Our existing strategies for dealing with fear fall short of real change in direct proportion to the extent that they do not look at and deconstruct the fear fully.  We need an approach that reliably digs up the fear at the bedrock of our suffering with insight into what gives rise to the suffering in the first place.

Those who have sought out this answer, intrepid explorers of consciousness, have demonstrated enormous courage to bring back maps of the terrain they traveled. Freud at one point thought he was going crazy as he conducted his own self-analysis. Jung had to acknowledge his “shadow” in order to deal with it effectively. The Buddha determined he would sit under the Bodhi tree until he either reached enlightenment or died trying. Their courage, and that of others, has paved a way for the rest of us, showing that we must look at and examine fear, digging it up fully, if we are to become free. The hero’s journey, the dark night of the soul, and the death-rebirth archetype all describe the same path: we must confront and move through fear all the way in order to find our higher good.

Facing fear fully, in safe and manageable ways but wholly without reservation, then, becomes the key to finding the true source of suffering and opening a path to freedom. And resolving the fear of facing fear is the first essential step in this process.  We must be willing to follow fear to its most subterranean hideout. But when finally there, standing resolutely in the face of that from which we have been running our entire life, we may at last come to know our true “enemy,” shake hands with it, and even befriend it. With this, we reveal the gift it held, discovering what it was calling for all along and satisfying its need in a new and more fulfilling way.

In traveling this path, we will come to see that the whole of humanity has been engaged in an endless cycle of fear built upon a faulty strategy for securing fulfillment. But seeing the problem clearly like this makes transformation possible.  No longer are we merely a figure caught in a play. When we take hold of the fear that has been directing from behind the scenes, we can rewrite the script in more fulfilling ways. Finding the anxiety at the root of things gives us a sort of X-ray vision where we see through our automatic assumptions about life and reveal the truth they were hiding. Like discovering the “man behind the curtain” in The Wizard of Oz, we lose our fear when we understand its source.

Our task, then, is to fully deconstruct anxiety, learning how to navigate through the subterfuges of fear and, ultimately, how to design a life lived from free choice. Rather than being twisted and distorted by the ways of fear, such a life reaches for a transcendent truth, one that has the potential for resolving suffering at its source and restoring us to our original fulfillment.

In future blog posts, we will begin to lay out exactly how the Deconstructing Anxiety model takes up this task.

————————————————————————-
*In these blog posts, the word “fear” is considered as synonymous with “anxiety”, as per the Buddhist concept that the anxiety created by anticipating a future event has the same effect in the mind as the fear experienced by an imminent threat.

**See Deconstructing Anxiety: The Journey from Fear to Fulfillment
_______________________________________________________________________

This is an edited excerpt adapted from Todd Pressman’s Deconstructing Anxiety: The Journey from Fear to Fulfillment (2019), published with permission from Rowman and Littlefield Publishing.  All rights reserved.

Copyright 2020 by Todd Pressman

COVID-19: The Whole Goal

Posted Posted in Brain Science, Continuing Education, Homestudy, Nutrition, Psychology, Seminars, Webinars

By Mary O’Brien, M.D.

What is guiding your life right now?  Is it notions and emotions fueled by the media?  Is it political correctness and group-think?  Is it fear of ridicule, criticism, or worse?  What we do, what we avoid, and what we fear speak volumes.  Malevolent forces are at work in our culture, and the whole goal is control.

Sadly, far too many people in health care have become passive, dutiful sheep.  “I’m just doing what they tell me to do” has become a veritable mantra.  Nurses, doctors, dentists, and pharmacists who should be capable of independent thought and logic now lower their gaze and comply with idiocy.  It’s embarrassing.

This week (in August 2020), the CDC (Center for Disease Control), in usual fashion, issued a statement contradicting previous communications:  Patients without symptoms do not need to be tested.  Anyone with modest medical knowledge and a three-digit IQ should realize that.  Asymptomatic people, with rare exceptions, are not the problem.

Once again, we don’t have people line up in cars to be tested for flu, strep throat, tuberculosis, mono, or hepatitis because they feel like it.  We have wasted an obscene amount of money, time, and effort on unnecessary and often unreliable testing.  Ah, but it makes us feel as if we’re doing something, and it fuels the fear and paranoia.  Clearly, fear and paranoia make control so much easier.  What could be better?  Put on your mask and spray some Lysol — if you can find any.

There is no clear evidence anywhere in the world that lockdowns mitigate anything.  Viral epidemics run their course regardless of the interventions.  Many people in politics, education, and even health care have trouble with that reality.

We didn’t shut down the country during World War I and the Spanish Flu epidemic. We didn’t shut down business, travel, and education because of tuberculosis, yellow fever, whooping cough, polio, or the Hong Kong flu of 1969.  But back then, we didn’t have ignorant, malicious people pushing an agenda on cable TV and the internet.  We weren’t suffocated by pretentious bureaucrats issuing irrational edicts.  Sensible people would have laughed at such nonsense.

When a brand new illness develops, there are no “experts.” Guidelines will never take the place of facts, logic, and common sense.  Notions and emotions will never solve problems or save lives.  Group think and political correctness will never spark creativity or innovation.

We need to stop the passive, dutiful sheep routine.  The choices we make out of fear are almost always wrong.  Remember, the whole goal is control.  Just say no to the nonsense.

COVID-19: Independent Thought

Posted Posted in Brain Science, Continuing Education, Homestudy, Psychology, Seminars

By Mary O’Brien, M.D.

Are you running on fumes these days?  You’re not alone.  For seven months, we have been bombarded by endless, awful news about the pandemic.  Riots, vandalism, looting, arson, and horrifying murder rates continue to plague cities across the nation.  Economic and financial stresses have taken their toll on nearly everyone outside the political class.  Somehow the elites of the ruling class never suffer the consequences of their own policies.

News alert:  Our rights are not granted by governors.  Our rights are not granted by health care officials or supercilious people on some city council.  Our unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness come from our Creator. Many people seem to have forgotten this. Cowardice, perhaps born of fatigue and fear, has overtaken too much of our society.  “Stay home or put on your mask and be a good little lemming.”  Tens of millions mindlessly comply.  Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  This has been true since the beginning of time.  At some point, however, a critical mass of people needs to say, “Enough!”

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”  Ronald Reagan said that over 50 years ago.  He was right.  There will always be people who lust for power and control over others.  They will invent reasons to keep people fearful, uncertain, and angry.  The one thing they cannot abide is independent thought.

They say, “We know what’s best for you.”

No.  You know what’s best for you.  You know what’s best for your family, your business, your patients.  Over the past seven months, the “experts” have been spectacularly wrong.  They have fostered a level of panic that is out of proportion to reality.  Unless you live in a nursing home, you are at greater risk from getting into a car than you are from COVID-19.

Fear and sadness deplete energy.  Courage and good humor replenish it.  People adapt.  We can proceed with life, work, school, and business by combining prudence with creativity.  We can focus on facts, not on someone’s fearful narrative intended to control others.

If we actually value freedom, we need to stop cowering in a corner.  Fear is the enemy of freedom.  It’s time to show some spine.

COVID-19: It’s Time

Posted Posted in Brain Science, Continuing Education, Homestudy, Psychology, Seminars, Webinars

By Mary O’Brien, M.D.

Are you caught up in the back-to-school debate?  It’s stunning that anyone is arguing about this.  There was never a medically valid reason for closing schools and colleges in the first place.  As far back as February, we know who the vulnerable people have been.  They were older individuals with multiple, significant underlying illnesses.  This pattern was observed everywhere from China to the European countries.

The panic-stricken rush to close schools and colleges was precisely that — a panic.  Experience over the centuries should have taught us that quarantining a healthy population is ineffective.  The sound, medically sensible approach is to isolate and protect the vulnerable people as quickly as possible.

Consider a few facts:

  • In the U.S. since February 2020, approximately 40,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19 have occurred in people age 85 and older.  Approximately 32,000 COVID-related deaths occurred in people aged 75 to 84.
  • Between the ages of 5 to 14, there have been 14 COVID-19 deaths.  Over 120 children have died from the flu.
  • Children are not vectors for COVID-19.  This illness does not mimic transmission patterns seen with cold and flu viruses in kids.  Young children do not bring COVID-19 home to grandma and grandpa.  There are several medically documented cases of adults transmitting the virus to children (out of millions of cases), but not the other way around.
  • The main reason for this curious fact appears to involve receptor sites in the nasal passages. ACE2 receptors (angiotensin-converting enzyme) in the nose seem to function like docking stations for COVID-19. (Most people are familiar with a class of blood-pressure medications called ACE inhibitors.) Children under the age of 10 have very low levels of ACE2 receptors.  Children between the ages of 10 and 17 have slightly higher levels of these receptors.  Adults gradually develop greater concentrations of these receptor sites as they age.

What does this mean?  It means that there is no medically valid reason for normal, healthy children to wear masks.  Masks can trap bacteria, spores, allergens, pollen, particulate matter, and even increase carbon dioxide retention in certain patients.  Socially and psychologically, there may be a price to pay one day.

Children should go back to school.  Colleges should reopen.  Teachers will be exposed to colds and flu as they are each year.  But COVID-19 is not a massive threat to faculty unless they are already old and sick.

According to the CDC website on “COVID-19 and Children” updated, July 23, 2020:

The best available evidence indicates that COVID-19 poses relatively low risks to school-aged children.  Children appear to be at lower risk for contracting COVID-19 compared to adults.  To put this in perspective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of July 17, 2020, the United States reported that children and adolescents under 18 years old account for under 7 percent of COVID-19 cases and less than 0.1 percent of COVID-19-related deaths.[5]  Although relatively rare, flu-related deaths in children occur every year. From 2004-2005 to 2018-2019, flu-related deaths in children reported to CDC during regular flu seasons ranged from 37 to 187 deaths.  During the H1N1pandemic (April 15, 2009 to October 2, 2010), 358 pediatric deaths were reported to CDC. So far in this pandemic, deaths of children are less than in each of the last five flu seasons, with only 64. Additionally, some children with certain underlying medical conditions, however, are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.*

Scientific studies suggest that COVID-19 transmission among children in schools may be low.  International studies that have assessed how readily COVID-19 spreads in schools also reveal low rates of transmission when community transmission is low.  Based on current data, the rate of infection among younger school children, and from students to teachers, has been low, especially if proper precautions are followed.  There have also been few reports of children being the primary source of COVID-19 transmission among family members.[6],[7],[8]  This is consistent with data from both virus and antibody testing, suggesting that children are not the primary drivers of COVID-19 spread in schools or in the community.[9],[10],[11]  No studies are conclusive, but the available evidence provides reason to believe that in-person schooling is in the best interest of students, particularly in the context of appropriate mitigation measures similar to those implemented at essential workplaces.

Wash your hands.  Don’t touch your face.  Stay home if you feel poorly.  Keep surfaces clean.  Avoid crowds.

It’s time for kids to go back to school and for adults to go back to work.