Two weeks ago I wrote about how we were worried about the wrong things and we are STILL worried about the wrong things.Yes COVID-19 is a serious threat, but the more serious threat is stupidity, panic, and hoarding, and we need to put the HEALTH back into Health and Safety.
I posted the CDC list of the most common causes of death, they are (the numbers are from 2017 the latest available):
Top 5 causes of death in the US (according to the CDC):
1) Heart Disease (647,457)
2) Chronic Lower Respiratory illness (160,201)
3) Stroke (146,388)
4) Lung Cancer (145,932)
5) Alzheimer’s Disease (121,404)
But by all means, let’s panic over COVID.
To be clear I am not advocating that anyone should not take reasonable precautions. But if you have a healthy immune system and hoard disinfectants, wipes, hand sanitizer and other preventive supplies you are making things worse.”
I was surprised by the blow back. A couple of smug puss bags pointed out that these aren’t communicable diseases. True fact. So continuing that logic, it means that you most likely WON’T die of a communicable disease, in fact, unless you have a compromised immune system and aren’t elderly you won’t die from COVID-19.
As I mentioned last time the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that as many as 49 MILLION people will get the flu this season (not counting COVID), and 20,000-50,000 people will die in the U.S. from the ordinary, run-of-the-mill influenza. At this point in history, where social media and dim-witted politicians make up facts as they go, the corona pandemic has captured the imaginations of people worldwide. And why? Because you might get sick? You might have a heart attack and die, or die in traffic, but somehow, dying of a disease that doesn’t spread that easily and probably won’t even make you sick has done what scores of terrorists have failed to do—create a worldwide panic.
When I posted the top causes of death I had a fair amount of panicked and irrational people snipe at me because (those aren’t communicable diseases). Well the point is you are more likely to die from noncommunicable disease then you are from COVID or anything else. Gun violence by suicide is a top ten cause of death. The argument is that people didn’t choose to get a communicable disease. Far enough, but I doubt many people will choose to get long-cancer, or have a heart attack, or get emphysema. Did their lifestyle choices contribute to their afflictions? Maybe, perhaps even probably. But plenty of them did not. People sometimes die of Lung cancer because employers allowed them to work in conditions where they would breath carcinogens. COVID is spreading rapidly, but not as rapidly as it may seem. In the United States many asymptomatic people are getting tested and that is giving us a clearer picture of the extent of the problem. We don’t have accelerated growth (according to my doctor) we have accelerated testing and the number of cases will start to jump exponentially as more and more people are tested. This is not a reason to panic. We don’t need the emergency room clogged with hypochondriacs and causing a rush that choke our hospital resources and cause truly sick people to have to wait for hours for something that should take minutes.(Not unlike when Chick-a-Filet opened a restaurant near my house causing a four mile traffic jam to get in there—it’s just mediocre chicken people and those of you horcking it down are well on your way to the number one cause of death.
My message is that we need to stop hoarding, (It is easing, I only saw one hoarder when I went out to get some groceries that I needed. ) The man in front of me was buying 10, 5 gallons of bleach and 4 bottles of window cleaner. I remarked on it after he left, but my wife observed that maybe he was cleaning up a murder scene.
My point is, yes by all means stay home, wash your hands frequently, and socially distance yourself but for the love of all that’s Holy remember (God help us) we are also supposed to be health professionals we need to do more:
- Avoid posting disinformation that does nothing more than spread panic and rumors.
- Fact check, through the CDC or WHO (the health organization not the band).
- Discourage people from hoarding (except my book which I noted can be used as toilet paper in a pinch). In fairness those who are hoarding soap and toliet paper are likely using it for the first time and honestly don’t know how much they will need.
Hoarding is selfish, stupid, and deprives people who need the materials; it’s akin to dressing as a woman to escape the sinking Titanic, or resorting to canabalism—you may survive but ultimately you have to live with yourself. My daughter and her family had nearly run out of groceries because she works as a caregiver to a elder care facility and is working round the clock (she can’t just duck out to buy groceries.) My wife had to go to four different stores (travelling over two hours one way) to buy groceries. So those of you who absolutely NEED to panic, do it by screaming at your television set and stop hoarding.
- Keep things in perspective. This is not the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918. We know what causes it; they did not. Public awareness is far greater than it was then. COVID tends to be hardest on people with underlying symptoms the Spanish Influenza was harder on otherwise healthy. Basic hygiene will kill the virus,not so the Spanish influenza. Yes this is a health crisis, but medical (that includes EH&S) professionals have to stop fomenting fear. Roosevelt said we have nothing to fear but fear itself, well in this case there is plenty to fear but nothing to panic about. Panic does nothing but make people do irrational things and get people killed.
- Stop telling people to keep one hand on handrails. The purpose of a handrail is so that you can reach out and stop a fall, it was never intended to be in continuous contact with people’s hands. Instead, encourage people to keep their hand that is closest to the handrail free and hovering about four inches above the rail.
- Eat foods that make you gassy.. Becoming flagellant will facilitate social distancing.
- Don’t buy baby wipes because you can’t find toilet paper. Young parents have it rough enough without you gobbling up your supplies.
- Don’t be an asshole. I saw on the news today that despite all the bars and restaurants, college students are still descending on Florida cities for spring break. As one future Senator said, “If I get COVID I get it. But I am not going to miss partying because we’ve been planning this for months. What will it take to get through to these people? Martial law.
- Don’t quote any fact or figure on social media that does not come from the CDC or the WHO. Your wife’s maid of honor who went to Harvard and owns her own biomedical firm is not a credible source. Every urban legend begins with, “my friend’s husband is a cop and he told her and she told me.” Stop spreading nonsense. There are plenty of newscasters doing that. And when you see a questionable claim research it and debunk the ones that are specious claims.
- Be a leader. This is the time and appropriate situation for Health & Safety personnel to step up and lead, in their words and in their deeds. By refuting hysteria and easing the minds of the panicked masses. This won’t last forever, and without sounding ominous, this isn’t the last global crisis we’ll face. Face it with courage. Face it like a grown up.
There are a lot of people looking to us to
This is a great opportunity for the Health and Safety community to do real and widespread good. We don’t often have an opportunity to save lives but in this case we actually do. Don’t disappoint me and don’t disappoint the people (not just workers, but friends, neighbors, and our family) by teaching them the right way to act by acting the right way. We need to reassure people that by taking some basic precautionary measures. Please people be smart a lot of folks are counting on you.
Today in Michigan we had the first COVID related death of a person in his 50’s, the chief medical officer for the hospital system said, “This many had underlying medical conditions that contributed to his death, but this sadly is not the last death from this disease we will see. With that said, I want to reassure everyone that while many people will get sick, many more will not. And of those who do get sick 85-95% will survive. Please call your doctor if you feel like you have symptoms and follow medical advice.”
WARNING: What follows may just teach you something but you won’t get any CEUs for it, you’ll just be better educated and informed but seriously who wants or needs that?
Some time ago, I read an article in the Metro Times (a Detroit Weekly) about a Facebook group essentially dedicated to encouraging attacks on women, Democrats, Muslims, and LGBTQ persons. There were hundreds of specific threats of violence. You don’t have to buy my book, but I wish you would. But if you want to help follow this link. Search LinkedIn to find out where these people work and encourage their employers to fire them. This isn’t a political statement, I would react the same way if people were saying that White Heterosexual Christian Men were the targets. Purveyors of hate need to feel real-world consequences. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good to do nothing.
Violent acts begin with violent thoughts that turn into violent posts on social media. How long are you going to continue to throw your hands up and say, “what can I do?” My second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. answers this question. This is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. In light of all the talk and panic around gun violence, and the shamefully bad advice some “experts” are giving I hope some of you will read it and pass it along to your executives and HR leads (go ahead, expense it, they will be glad you did.)
Before you dismiss this as yet another shameless plug for my book I want you to ask yourself these questions:
- What if anything is my employer doing to reduce its risk of a workplace attack?
- Do the people who are doing the hiring at my workplace know the warning signs of a workplace attack?
- What can I do to prevent workplace violence?
I should warn you, this isn’t a book that is pro- or anti-gun ownership rights. The book has extensive sections on spotting an unstable employee (some people’s lives will take a dark and desperate turn long after you have hired them but there are always signs), the types of work environments that tend to trigger these events, and I recently returned from Dublin, Ireland where I spoke on how companies can leverage technology to protect workers from workplace violence. But all the books, and magazines, and speeches in the world won’t change a damned thing if you keep thinking that it can’t (or probably won’t) happen to you or someone you love. You can bet your life that we will see more similar shootings in the weeks or months as people who are currently at the brink of sanity see the news reports and think, “now’s the time”. WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!!! This book is peppered with the sarcasm, self-deprecating humor of the first book, but it also makes use of my extensive knowledge of violence prevention in the workforce (that I gained as head of training and OD for a global manufacturer.) You should buy it. Seriously I’m not telling you how to live your life but you should buy it. Okay, I AM telling you how to live your life, just buy the damned book.
Of course, my first book is still for sale, and is ALSO available in the eBook format you might rightly ask yourself, why on God’s green Earth would I read a book that contains previously released material? Simple, like the rain-forest and the polar bears my work is disappearing from the web very quickly. All but a handful of my works for Facility Management Magazine are gone, and you can basically only go back two years on my blog (eight year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides, about a third of the book is newly written material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. People who have read it say that it belongs in everyone who works in safety’s library. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more it can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com.
As always, Read. Learn. Live. Share. Inspire