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Show 1377: Tell Me When It’s Over!

When it comes to COVID-19, lots of people just want to say: tell me when it's over! What lessons have we learned for the next time?
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Tell Me When It’s Over!

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This week, we talk with Dr. Paul Offit, author of the new book, Tell Me When It’s Over. Most of us are more than ready to move on from the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll discuss how public health officials could regain our trust. In addition, we consider what lessons we should take away from this experience.

You may want to listen through your local public radio station or get the live stream at 7 am EDT on your computer or smart phone (wunc.org). Here is a link so you can find which stations carry our broadcast. If you can’t listen to the broadcast, you may wish to hear the podcast later. You can subscribe through your favorite podcast provider, download the mp3 using the link at the bottom of the page, or listen to the stream on this post starting on March 11, 2023.

Changing Public Perception:

When the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the infection it causes (COVID-19) first appeared, people were frightened. They had reason to worry; this novel pathogen quickly spread around the world, and no one was immune to it. As a result, it infected millions, overwhelmed hospitals and killed far too many people. When the World Health Organization declared a pandemic, public health agencies around the world instituted draconian measures designed to limit damage to population health.

Shutting down restaurants and theaters, having people work from home when possible and limiting public gatherings probably saved lives, but these moves also caused hardship. Have you been wondering what lessons we learned and what we should do differently the next time a novel pathogen appears on the scene? Our guest is exceptionally qualified to help us with this look back.

Can Public Health Officials Rebuild Trust?

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic quickly became politicized and extremely polarized. We discuss what steps organizations like the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the WHO could take to reestablish trust in their recommendations.

We also examine why people have had such widely differing experiences with COVID-19 infections. Some individuals did not become seriously ill, while others needed hospitalization. What are the differences between the immunity gained from recovering from an infection (“natural” immunity) and that gained from vaccination? Neither is a perfect shield from infection, although both tend to keep people from becoming gravely ill.

Concerns about Long COVID:

The pandemic may be over, but the virus continues to circulate. How should that change the way we conduct our daily lives? One of the serious concerns going forward is that hundreds of thousands of people are suffering with lingering effects even after the acute infection is gone. How will Long COVID affect public health in the future? We review the symptoms and their consequences, along with prospects for treatment. Support groups for Long COVID offer victims a valuable forum as well as helpful information on coping with common problems.

Can We Improve Air Quality?

One lesson we should have learned from COVID-19 is that airborne viruses travel easily. To really control their spread, you have to make changes to ventilation, filtration and purification of air in public spaces. We have the knowledge now to do that, but we appear to lack the will to make the investments. Tell me when we can figure that out!

Going Forward:

Do masks work? They are far from perfect, but they do make a difference. Wearing a closely-fitted N95 mask can help protect people from potential exposure. And if an infected person wears such a mask, others are largely protected from them. Wearing a loose mask or draping it around the chin does not provide much, if any, protection from infection.

Another approach that can be helpful is wastewater surveillance. Even respiratory viruses like SARS-CoV-2 show up in stool. Planning regular tests of sewage can help alert us earlier to pathogens in our communities. They don’t need to be novel pathogens; it is worth knowing if polio or measles are on the loose, so we can take steps to protect the vulnerable.

This Week’s Guest:

Paul A. Offit, MD, is the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as well as the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology and a Professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Offit is the author of several books, including Overkill, When Modern Medicine Goes Too Far and Tell Me When It’s Over: An Insider’s Guide to Deciphering Covid Myths and Navigating Our Post-Pandemic World.

Paul Offit, MD, author of Tell Me When It's Over

Paul Offit, MD, author of Tell Me When It’s Over

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available Monday, March 11, 2024, after broadcast on March 9. You can stream the show from this site and download the podcast for free.

Download the mp3.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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