Dr. Marc Siegel: COVID risks fade but the fear remains – too many still gripped by worst-case scenarios

Dr. Marc Siegel analyzes media coverage on masks

Fox News medical contributor Dr. Marc Siegel pushes back on ‘politics of fear’ during the coronavirus pandemic.

President Joe Biden spoke to America on Monday afternoon about the coronavirus pandemic. He was once again reassuring about the tremendous impact that vaccines are having in the war on COVID, but less so about “fear itself.” The psyche-damaging public debate over masking, for example, continues.

Fear of COVID has gripped us for far too long, and those who benefit from it don’t want to let it go. 

This fear continues to be inflamed by politicians and some in the liberal media to invade our psyche and try control to us. 

Masks and shuttered businesses are symbols of these fears, and even the vaccines, which could be our ticket to freedom, have been overly politicized and unsubstantiated hysteria-driven myths have sprung up around them. 

For the past 20 years, I have been studying the way infectious outbreaks have affected us and how they have always been accompanied by fear. This is because a pathogen is new, invisible, and not entirely predictable. 

The time for governmental mask mandates has passed. 

We over-personalize the risks and jump quickly to the worst case scenario in our minds, manipulated to do so by self-serving politicians and others including some in the left wing news media. 

Sometimes the actual risk a virus poses is way outweighed by the fear as it was for the anthrax mailings in 2001 or the very limited Ebola outbreak here in 2014. 

This was also true of H5N1 bird flu in 2005-6, when an WHO expert predicted over 100 million people could die of the bird flu , and the real number ended up being less than 100. The bird flu virus killed birds, not people, and we were protected by a species barrier. 

Health experts jumped to the worst case scenario, despite the fact that, as top Avian researcher veterinarian Dr. David Swayne told me, this type of influenza wasn’t conducive to human-to-human spread. 

Yet we failed to learn the lesson here. Our emotional brains remain highly susceptible to the seductive power of our worst contagion nightmares. 

More recently, we have begun to take flu for granted, in part because it isn’t anything new. 

The CDC estimates that during the 2018–2019 season in the U.S. approximately 35.5 million people got sick with influenza, and close to 500,000 people were hospitalized and over 34,000 died. 

This is close to the same number of cases we have suffered with COVID, yet COVID is all we have thought about for over a year now. 

To be fair, a much higher percentage of patients have been hospitalized (2,178,309) with COVID, and close to 600,000 have died. But with over 80 percent of those over 65 (the highest risk group) and 60 percent of the adult population having received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, and a growing amount of natural immunity from those who have recovered from COVID, the number of hospitalizations and deaths has been dropping for weeks.

It is taking far too long for the fear quotient to drop along with it. Too many of us cling to our masks as we cling to our fears. And our public health officials make the problem worse. 

The problem with the CDC guideline shift this past week, to remove masks in most circumstances indoors and outdoors if you have been vaccinated, wasn’t that it was too sudden a change, as some critics have maintained, rather it was that it took far too long. And it still skirts the fact that even if you aren’t vaccinated, you present a very low risk outside or in a well ventilated area inside. 

The time for governmental mask mandates has passed. 

To not honor the COVID threat when it has killed and sickened so many feels sacrilegious, and this notion is used by COVID enablers to further the obsessive fear and hysteria at the expense of other big killers such as depression, cancer, heart disease drug and alcohol abuse, which have all been tragically neglected during the pandemic.

Fear feeds dogma which feeds ridicule of others. It is always helpful when we have guides to lead us from our irrational dilated fears to the promised land of courage and perspective, but one of the most distinctive characteristics of the COVID pandemic is that there are too many self-proclaimed experts flooding the internet, social media, and the airwaves with irrational proclamations. It is difficult in this climate to find a clear fear leader to help you plot your way forward. 

My advice to all is to remember that fear is as contagious as any virus, and that the inflammatory words used to describe the virus can linger and ultimately do more damage even than the virus itself. 


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