Five Personal Responsibilit-Es for Navigating COVID-19: Experts, Evidence, Equipment (Face Masks), Exercise & Empathy!

Five Personal Responsibilit-Es for Navigating COVID-19: Experts, Evidence, Equipment (Face Masks), Exercise & Empathy!

By Tim E. Renzelmann

Not surprisingly, the same issue that has caused us to either suspend or move most of our activities onto a virtual format, COVID-19, has been a consistent topic of conversations, discussions and expressed concerns at many of our TLC Supportive Community VIRTUAL Updates. I have found the sharing of information, ideas, resources and understandings to be quite helpful and I welcome and encourage you to join us as we learn to navigate the COVID-19 Journey inside the Cancer Journey inside the Life Journey!

There seems to be more-than-a-bit of uncertainty in our lives that can often lead to a fear of the unknown. But as Alan Watts, British philosopher, suggests, “By replacing fear of the unknown with curiosity we open ourselves up to an infinite stream of possibility. We can let fear rule our lives or we can become childlike with curiosity, pushing our boundaries, leaping out of our comfort zones, and accepting what life puts before us.”

Okay... so “leaping out of my comfort zone” is not something that I am likely to do (it’s just not my nature) but his words do inspire me to at least nudge myself forward, even if a bit more cautiously than the child of fifty years ago in me might have done. But, like my running these days, I am okay with just putting one foot in front of the other and heading in the right direction, even if slowly.

So... while the uncertainty along with the polarity of viewpoints and divisive opinions... might I suggest we all “tiptoe” towards an acceptance of “what life puts before us” with these Five Personal Responsibilit-Es”!

The First “E” is for EXPERTS:

As the effects of COVID-19 have been evolving over recent months, epidemiological experts are becoming modern-day rock stars! An expert is defined as a person having, involving or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience. Sounds simple enough... right? But, especially in this day and age, identifying an expert is no easy task!

In an article appearing in Psychology Today titled “How Can We Identify the Experts? Seven Criteria for Deciding Who is Really Credible,” author Gary Klein, PhD observes, “We want pragmatic guidelines for deciding which if any purported experts to listen to when making difficult and important decisions. How can we know who is really credible?”

Klein refers to seven “soft criteria, indicators we can pay attention to” although he admits that “none of these are fool-proof, all of them seem useful and relevant.”

If interested, read the article here:

Personally, in the midst of our current COVID-19 public health crisis, I would probably add an eighth criteria: “Political Neutrality”!

The Second “E” is for EVIDENCE:

It probably goes without saying that an expert should be one who adheres to and relies on evidentiary principles. As recent host of COSMOS, Neil Tyson DeGrasse eloquently put it, “This adventure is made possible by generations of searchers strictly adhering to a simple set of rules. Test ideas by experiment and observation. Build on those ideas that pass the test, reject the ones that fail, follow the evidence wherever it leads and question everything. Accept these terms and the cosmos is yours...”

As we are now approximately six months into this global COVID-19 public health crisis the evidence is accumulating and, along with it, new understandings and approaches. We need to pay attention to the evidence and be willing to let go of disproven beliefs and ineffective practices.

Erin Bromage, PhD wrote a recent blog that caught my attention. Bromage is a Comparative Immunologist and Professor of Biology (specializing in Immunology) at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Although he “sounds” like an expert, he states, “I am not holding myself out as an expert on this virus or epidemiology and I rely on the amazing scientists publishing and discussing their work for the material and data content of my posts. These scientists are the true rock-stars of the response to COVID-19. I just enjoy being able to translate their data and findings into prose that non-scientist lay people can more readily understand as we navigate through this pandemic.”

It is a “12-minute read” that you may find worthwhile:®i_id=78172858&segment_id=27239&te=1&user_id=7495b56796382dd92a87caa898e6687c

The Third “E” is for EQUIPMENT (Face Masks):

The question seems to be “To mask or not to mask?” I am certainly NOT an expert on any of this... but based on what I understand to be true (as well as what remains in question) along with the fact that wearing a face mask is a simple precaution and only a minor discomfort/inconvenience that has the potential to reduce and prevent the suffering of my fellow human beings... it is a practice I believe should be embraced especially when in indoor/confined public spaces or anytime social distancing may be compromised.

Follow this link and watch this tutorial video (scroll down) related to the masksim simulator to see what effects different masking policies may have. Then, decide for yourself, under different circumstances, whether “to mask or not to mask” (for your own health as well as the health of others)!

The Fourth “E” is for EXERCISE:

We all know the many benefits of exercise, activity and physical movement. Researchers from the University of Virginia found that regular exercise may reduce the risk of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), an apparent major cause of death in patients with COVID-19. If, as some project, most of us will eventually get the virus, why not do what we can to enhance our chances to experience less suffering and survive! If nothing else, the exercise will almost assuredly reduce some of the stress and anxiety related to our current circumstances. I know it has been helpful for me!!!

Please consider participating in the 2020 ST&BF Cumulative 5K, 10K, Half Marathon & Marathon and/or the Cumulative Bike Ride? See next article for details!

The Fifth “E” is for EMPATHY:

In this TED Talk, Beijing-based writer and publisher Huang Hung sheds light on how Chinese and American cultural values shaped their responses to the outbreak - and provides perspective on why everyone needs to come together to end the pandemic. It is an intriguing talk that explores the balance and trade-off of personal freedoms (i.e., surveillance, social distancing/masking requirements) and collective health and safety. With different cultural influences, Hung observes that “Chinese people are quite willing to give up certain individual rights in exchange for convenience” while, in comparison, this “probably freaks Americans out.” I would suggest the optimum response lies somewhere between our two cultural differences – a compromise between personal freedoms and collective health and safety.

Tough times, such as those we are currently experiencing, can often be overwhelming and paralyzing. When that happens, it is always good to remember that there is almost always something we can do to improve a situation. So much can be gained by focusing more on what we CAN DO instead of what we CAN’T DO! These are five things we CAN DO: Identify the Experts, Consider the Evidence, Wear Proper Protective Equipment, Do the Exercise and Practice Empathy!

Be well... stay safe... and

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