Op-Ed: I almost died from COVID. Now I let go of the fear


Two years ago I was lying in a hospital bed on the 15th Floor of NYU Langone Hospital in Manhattan, who dies from COVID-19. As a previously healthy 44-year-old runner, I felt incredibly weak and could not walk five feet from my bed to the bathroom without the help of a nurse. I could barely breathe, even with the highest amounts of supplemental oxygen. Eventually I ended up in the intensive care unit, where I was put on a ventilator.

In an attempt to get our nation to take the threat seriously, I… shared my coronavirus ordeal with the world. I tweeted about it from the hospital; talked about it on the “today“show,”The Rachel Maddow Show,” and “night line“; and wrote for several publications about my time on the fanmy excruciatingly slow recovery and my six-figure sum hospital bills (which luckily I didn’t have to pay). I hoped that my story would inspire others to do everything humanly possible to avoid contagion.

Today, COVID-19 is far less dangerous than it was two years ago, and I wonder: by telling my harrowing story, have I contributed to a climate of fear that we are finding difficult to dispel today?

Amazing vaccines have made diseases much less severe. The currently dominant Omicron variant is relatively mild. Treatments including antiviral pills, monoclonal antibodies and steroids are far more effective than what was available to me. This is the Mortality rate in hospital patients crashed. When I left the hospital in April 2020, more than 23% of the patients who went to the hospital for COVID died there. As of September 2021, only 2.8% died in hospital. In practical terms, COVID today and COVID spring 2020 are very different.

Meanwhile, two years of mitigation efforts have taken a heavy toll: increased deaths from non-COVID causesRecord number of fatal drug overdoses Economic crisis for our cities and a psychological crisis that hits young people particularly hard. The impact of the pandemic has been particularly damaging in the education sector, with low-income and minority students suffering the most.

Despite my own nightmarish experience, I’m glad to see states, counties, and school districts changing pandemic requirements. I’m happy to see that office leasing is on the rise again and big corporations are hiring their workers back to the office. I’m happy to see other nations lifting contagion precautions and Easing travel restrictions.

We should celebrate these developments—especially as COVID cases and deaths have already fallen dramatically from their California highs United States and the world (with some notable exceptions like China).

As states and countries begin to emerge from the crisis phase of the pandemic, they can look to California’s “SMARTER” plan as a possible blueprint for tackling COVID as a more endemic phenomenon. The Plan, an acronym for “Shots, Masks, Awareness, Readiness, Testing, Education and Rx”, acknowledges that it is important to keep the public safe, but also to keep businesses open and students in school. At the same time, the approach includes contingency plans and metrics for when to implement them should COVID deaths pick up again – which cannot be ruled out, especially if a more dangerous new variant emerges.

With more than a thousand Americans still dying each day, the virus remains a serious threat. We must ensure that more people are vaccinated and refreshed. We must protect the most vulnerable, including the elderly and the immunocompromised. We need to support medical workers suffering from burnout, depression and anxiety. We need to treat people who are enduring “long COVID” as I have been doing for more than a year. We must remember and mourn the nearly 1 million Americans and more than 6 million people worldwide who have lost their lives to this disease.

Here’s what we don’t need: more fear. Instead, let’s take a deep breath and move from a mindset of fear to a mindset of hope. It’s hard to let go of the fear after two long years, but let’s try. If we continue to live in a constant state of fear and distress, we are only defeating ourselves.

David Lat is the author of First instance jurisdictiona newsletter about law and the legal profession. Op-Ed: I almost died from COVID. Now I let go of the fear

Caroline Bleakley

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