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COLUMN: Effects of a pandemic on our health

Dr. Susan Blatt, Oneida County Health Department
Posted 9/27/22

Our current pandemic is a very serious one. There have been some surprising effects of this disturbance.

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COLUMN: Effects of a pandemic on our health


Our current pandemic is a very serious one. There have been some surprising effects of this disturbance.

Of course, we have been staying home a lot, not socializing much, not traveling, not going to movies. There have also been some strange and unexpected effects of this long period of worry and seclusion.

A happy lifestyle is usually based on being healthy, financially stable, and having the freedom to go where we want.

Now, those criteria for happiness may not be present in our lives, and we may fear that the future will be worse.

In 2020, all of us were worried about getting COVID. We might get sick, our loved ones might get sick, we might need medical care and the hospitals were too busy, our libraries were closed.

The fact is we worried much of the time and that has not gone away. People who are worried are often angry.

Anger and stress have led to a long list of things getting worse. Since the pandemic began there have been more gunshot deaths, more overdose deaths, more automobile accident deaths, more alcohol drinking.

How else can we explain an increase in automobile deaths than the combination of anger and alcohol? We get angry at the other drivers and decide not to use a turn signal or decide to turn right suddenly, in front of another driver.

Child abuse is more of a problem than most people realize. Child abuse is usually due to an adult being angry.

Since COVID started, we have had a dangerous combination of children not being able to go to school and parents not able to stay home from work. Thus, we have vulnerable children locked in with the angry adults or walking the neighborhood with no adult supervision.

Many of us are angry about the precautions that came with COVID.

People wonder why they need shots, why they should wear a mask, why they cannot visit their parents in nursing homes. Those who are immunized cannot understand people who refuse immunizations. We fear the continued risk for getting COVID, because so many people refused the shots. Whether or not we wear a mask is a similar problem. We wear a mask for our protection, but many of us wish others would wear a mask.

Regarding children, there has not only been more child abuse, but there is also a deficit in their education. Schooling has always been a right, in this country. Children are expected to attend schools.

When, without warning, school tried to provide a totally new form of teaching — distance learning — it was hard for many children to learn. Older children may have found it easier to concentrate and listen and take tests. Younger children suffered, as did children from broken homes or living in poverty. College students were locked into their dormitories, and many suffered with depression.

In addition to the causes of stress discussed above, many families had to deal with unexpected ill health.

People were sometimes hospitalized for many weeks and then came home to need support from their family members. The number of deaths was terrible, and unexpected.

All these problems caused turmoil in the home, and Americans were spending a lot of time indoors. Suddenly extended family were enclosed in one home, with grandparents providing childcare, pets needing walks, and home repair hard to arrange. Making meals and keeping the home clean became a challenge for many families.

For many of us, it is now time to get out again. Loneliness has been terrible, for many. Sometimes loneliness must be dealt with using our own will power. We should start going to church again, even if you did not before.

Visit the nearest senior center and ask about their programs. Sign up for an art class at Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute. Visit your local library every week and make sure you talk to people at all these places. Visit your nearby senior center and talk to friends and also to strangers.

Many adults worked in various sites to provide medical care and hands-on care for those sick with COVID. They have been the true heroes of the pandemic, providing care for strangers, while they worried about their families.

If you and your loved ones have survived the pandemic so far, we can only hope that is tapering off. It is time to return to some of our normal activities.

Get all the shots you are eligible for and then return to your usual errands. A lot of people found they missed the in-person work site. They say, “I miss the people I saw every day.”

It is time to ease back into work and volunteering, and the socializing that you did in the past.


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