The COVID-19 pandemic is still here and we have not yet reached the finish line, we’re not sure where that line is but we are searching and hoping to see one soon.

I initially thought COVID-19 was a sprint, which has rapidly progressed into a marathon and unexpectedly ended up being an Ironman competition. The burden of mortality and morbidity that this pandemic imposes on societies makes COVID-19 a pressing public health problem. The burden of COVID-19 is manifest throughout the world, and is especially prominent in rural areas, which face a higher preponderance of risk factors for COVID-19 progression. Unfortunately, the health care systems continue to be in the eye of the storm.

They deal with employee shortages on top of economic hardship caused by the interruption of routine medical services and elective surgeries. As we reflect on the last two years, we may eventually recognize a lot of the good and the bad things in the management of the COVID-19. We have made amazing strides with heroic efforts to make effective and safe vaccines and antivirals.

The “jabs” and therapeutics continue to hold their effectiveness in preventing and managing the drastic consequences of COVID-19. All these medical advances are considered an epic breakthrough in this unprecedented fight. As our defensive weapons grew and our immunity took over, the virus followed its nature and started to mutate to fit.

With Coronavirus variants, the world is learning the Greek alphabet, one beautiful letter but unpleasant variant at a time. Knowing the difference between alpha, delta and omicron is essential to understanding whether we might be emerging from the pandemic or still stuck in it. In fact, the SARS-CoV-2 evolution has led to less pathogenic omicron, although more infectious.

In turn, it caused some confusing if not more permissive public health directives, which contributed to a gigantic COVID-19 caseload. To move beyond this point, we need to come together by seeking to understand rather than judge. We are all on a learning curve, and even the best intentions can beget imperfect methodologies.

Our new normalcy is to accept that COVID-19 is part of our lives. This can be done carefully but successfully. The worst that happened was the continuous effort of some leaders to use the pandemic as a hostage in the political arena. The wise thing to do from now on is to continue improving public health initiatives. Studies have shown that SARS-CoV-2 is not only transmitted by droplets but also by aerosols.

As a result, improving the quality of air in confined areas is a key factor in cutting down not only the SARS-CoV-2, but other potential future respiratory contagions. All this can be accomplished by proper ventilation and air circulation. Other factors that continue to impact mortality for COVID-19 are the underlying comorbidities. We must use current proven knowledge to take care of those medical conditions that make people vulnerable for the poor outcomes of COVID-19. We need to continuously promote healthy lifestyles that encourage physical activities, healthier food choices, and avoidance of smoking, vaping and excessive alcohol intake. We must avoid social isolation for it can be deadlier than any pandemic.

We still need to continue to ascertain the four corners of the public safety: Testing, immediate isolation, tracing and quarantine. In summary, trustworthy social awareness is pivotal in the management of the crisis while favoring medical science over political science. We all look forward to seeing the day when the COVID-19 pandemic becomes endemic like the flu. Until then, let's stay resilient, keep our faith in God, remain humble and make smart choices.

Fadi Al Akhrass, MD, MBA,

Pikeville

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