Practice Perfect 711
COVID Impressions

Pomp and circumstance. As of the time I’m writing today’s Practice Perfect, it is a Sunday, and we are celebrating my son’s high school graduation. We are doing an online graduation via teleconferencing because, as everyone on this planet knows, we’ve been hit by a pandemic of the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus and there’s no such thing as an in-person graduation. After getting things ready for the graduation, I stood staring at one of our decorations and couldn't help but be struck at how it was such an apt metaphor for these unusual times. Take a look at the image below.

What’s wrong with this picture? There are actually two problems, one that’s fairly obvious and the other less so. The obvious issue is the “Class of 2020” banner is backwards. The second, less obvious issue is that the banner is abnormally low on the wall (note how close it is to the top of the chair). It happens to be just low enough to be above the head of a 5-foot, 7-inch person sitting on a chair. As I stood looking at this banner, I couldn’t help but think how much a sign of the times this very strange image is. As I’m sure you guessed, the reason for the objects in the image to be the way they are is in response to using a computer to run our telecommuted graduation. Initially, my wife and I attached the banner properly with the words reading left to right, but when we tested the height on the computer, the words were backward because of the mirror image effect of the computer camera. You may also note the white color of the letters – the other side had a pretty black and gold color. Like this banner, life has been almost completely turned around.

The pandemic has caused all of us to rethink how we live and what we do, as well as our relationships with each other, almost as if we are living through a slightly altered version of reality. Now, after almost three months of living under COVID-19, this seemed like a good time to touch base with our readers and talk about some personal impressions of the experience so far.

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  1. I don’t love N95 masks, but I love being healthy - I used to be slightly annoyed by having to wear a surgical mask in the OR (I’m very claustrophobic), but after walking around with an N95 with my nose perpetually squeezed as if I have a cold, I now love the freedom of a surgical mask. On the other hand, I really appreciate being alive, so I’ll happily live with the N95!
  2. Foolish people annoy me - I often encounter people who either refuse to wear face masks (ridiculous), yell at other people for wearing face masks (downright horrible), or those who wear the mask over the mouth leaving the nose open. Somehow this last group bothers me the most. I mean if you want to go without a mask in a time when a respiratory virus has infected more than 2 million people and killed more than 100,000 in the U.S. go ahead and be an idiot. But those folks who wear the mask but pull it down to uncover their nose may as well not wear the mask at all. It’s a respiratory virus, people! Did you forget your nose is a major entry point to your lungs? The idea of trying to cut corners with something like this seems so foolish I have a hard time coping (as you can tell).
  3. Thank the universe for the Internet! - What would this pandemic look like without our access to the online world? Things are bad now but imagine what it would be like without an ability to communicate with each other over distances or continue to do some administrative work. For me personally, I would not have been able to teach my residents, work for my College, or do telemedicine visits for patients. Teleconferencing has empowered many of us to keep our jobs and maintain a major part of our personal incomes. Can you imagine what the economy – bad as it is now – would look like without the Internet?
  4. Change is inevitable and often unexpected - This pandemic seemed to hit quickly – or at least created the need for social change very rapidly. Within literally 3 days, my university’s campus was closed, we were teaching students online, I was treating only the sickest patients, and I was working from home much of the time. I’ve never been averse to change – since it seems to be the one constant in life – but this pandemic accelerated change in a way no one would have expected. And we still don’t know to what extent this change will be permanent.
  5. Luck has something to do with it - Some people were lucky and managed to succeed in the face of the pandemic. For example, Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon became even richer due to the increased benefit of online shopping and efficient home delivery. Similarly, podiatrists with a heavy wound care or trauma aspect to their practice needed to keep seeing patients, leading to less loss of income than those who had heavily elective practices. Since chance favors the prepared mind, it makes sense that those who have a diversity of income sources are more likely to better survive situations like these. This is something to think about for your future.
  6. Heroes - and cowards - show their true colors in an emergency - My heart is warmed every day when I see the wonderful people who put their lives at risk every day to care for others. From doctors and nurses to techs and janitors, mail people, and construction workers, all of these amazing heroes, and many others, worked to save lives and keep our society functioning. A little while back, I interviewed podiatry residents to see how the pandemic affected their lives. A few of them had been recruited to work with COVID-19 patients running ventilators and working many exhausting hours. What amazing people! They could have used any number of excuses to get out of work, but instead they stepped up and saved lives. For the rest of their lives, they and we will know that they had the guts to do what was necessary despite their own personal risks. We will always be in their debt. If I’m nervous about seeing COVID positive or COVID rule out patients, all I have to do is think about our young podiatric heroes and follow their example.
Best wishes.

Jarrod Shapiro, DPM
PRESENT Practice Perfect Editor

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