The last few months have been challenging for everyone. The idea of spending time in quarantine because of a pandemic triggered by a highly contagious virus seems like a plot line from a science fiction movie — so foreign to our everyday lives. Unfortunately, this is our reality.

We have all had to make changes in our day-to-day lives: give up social gatherings, become obsessive about hand and surface sanitation, stand at least six feet apart, and wear masks. While these are not welcome changes, these are necessary changes in the time of a pandemic. By adhering to the guidelines, we help decrease COVID-19 transmission, and we protect ourselves and our vulnerable populations as well as public health at large. Our persistence with these practices makes it more likely that we can return to our pre-pandemic lifestyles sooner than later.

In comparison to other parts of the country, thus far, Washingtonians have not had to endure significant loss of life from COVID-19. As of July 16, 2020, the Washington State Department of Health reports 1,434 deaths and 4.984 hospitalizations from COVID-19. Washington state was aggressive, acting early to close schools and businesses to slow the spread of the virus. Washington state has also adopted an approach to reopen with a gradual return to normal. Looking at the statistics of other states that closed businesses and schools later and reopened without a phased approach, I want to give Kudos to the public health officials and the government agencies that put the "Stay Home Stay Healthy" plan in place. It has made a difference, and for it to have continued success, we must not become complacent as we are growing tired of these practices and are eager to return to a normal life. 

The purpose of this month's article is to address some of the COVID-19-related myths or statements that I have heard repeatedly as a physician.

Myth: Masks don't really do anything to protect form COVID-19.

Facts: Recent research published in the Lancet and the Lancet Journal of Infectious Disease reveals important data about viral shedding, the amount of time a person infected with the COVID-19 virus  remains infectious, varies significantly from 8-37 days, with 20 days being average. On July 9, 2020, the World Health Organization published a scientific brief which outlined details on routes of COVID-19 transmission. It suggests airborne transmission may play a role in the spread of the disease. Airborne transmission occurs when infectious particles linger in the air.  People are more at risk for this scenario to occur in confined spaces. They highlighted the importance of masks and social distancing to help reduce disease transmission. Both of these factors highlight the importance of covering our mouths and noses when outside of our homes and around other people. If you are unable to tolerate a face mask, consider a face shield instead.

Myth: The hype around the COVID-19 is politically motivated and exaggerated.

Facts: COVID-19 does not discriminate between red or blue voters, the old or young. All Americans are at risk for contracting this disease. Looking at the number of Americans who are at high-risk for death and serious complications from COVID-19 infection from underlying health conditions is staggering in its potential impacts. The Center for Disease Controls statistics show there are 25 million Americans with asthma, 30 million Americans with heart disease, 34.2 million Americans with diabetes, 10.1 million Americans with compromised immune systems and 15.5 million Americans considered morbidly obese. Since 1984, Dr. Anthony Fauci has served under four presidents as head of the National Institute of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAD). The institute's mission is to lead research to understand, treat, and prevent infectious, immunologic, and allergic diseases; he has no apparent political skin in this game, and recent attacks on him are unjustified. More people need to take his recommendations seriously to prevent and slow the transmission of this virus or tragically more people will die and/or develop potential long-term complications from this virus, and we won't be able to get back to normal anytime soon. This is truly a time for a non-partisan effort: masks and social distancing are good for all of us.

Dr. Stacie Wells, ND, FAAEM is a Naturopathic Doctor & Fellow of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine. She practices at the Northwest Center for Optimal Health in  Marysville, WA. Contact her at 360-651-9355 or info@ncoh.net.

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