Akin to its century-old predecessor, the Spanish Flu, the COVID-19 Pandemic has brought to light some of the direst medical and social fallacies of our contemporary society. While life has adapted to what we now perceive as ‘the new normal’, the rippling impact of such an epidemiologic global catastrophe is now irrevocably tied to our future. A clear look into our long-term development lies in our undivided attention to the here and now.
Unequal access to healthcare – a problem that has plagued the US medical system since its very inception. The social stratification that a disparaging healthcare system entails is clearer now, more than ever, and sadly enough, the general population has once again become the utmost collateral victim.
The pandemic’s first social attack was on the economy. Following the worldwide outbreak of the virus in March of 2020, unemployment rates began to rise alarmingly fast. This, in turn, promptly affected the available insurance options that the now-unemployed workforce had access to, and this was at a time when immediate medical attention was vital in actively fighting and containing the damage that the virus could have on the body. A lack of documented insurance automatically equates to a refusal in free medical consultation or treatment, and directly exposes the helpless citizen to countless other financial or medical issues down the line.
As previously proven by yet another epidemiological situation, the H1N1 pandemic of 2009, racial and ethnic minorities have a higher risk of exposure to the virus due to their cohabitation in densely populated urban areas. Just like with H1N1, ethnic uninsured victims of COVID-19 have been less likely to receive medical treatment and attention, despite their preponderance to exposure, simply because of their social presence outside the regulatory insurance database of the US.
The consequences can be observed in the statistics of infected cases and mortality rates. In May of 2020, a 28.4% margin of total cases in Illinois were people of color, with a mortality rate of 42.9%; whereas, in Louisiana, the percentage was even greater – 70% of COVID-related deaths were people of color, even if they comprised only 32% of the state’s total population.
Virology Diagnosis Hazards
Obtaining a medically-approved COVID-19 diagnosis is, in theory, not a complicated process. The standardized PCR testing for COVID-19 is a procedure that, through DNA analysis, signals the positive or negative presence of the virus inside the human body. The procedure only requires a swab of the back of the nose in order to obtain the necessary genetic material, but the application of the said testing procedure is much more intricate and potentially hazardous than it might first appear.
Due to the nigh-unprecedented necessity of mass testing for the virus, functional kits and available testing clinics have resulted in a consistent trial and error process, and the at-times questionable execution of the test procedure has led to cases of a patient’s health being threatened even before their test result.
The nasal swabs that are used for the DNA-collection procedure have a mid-way breaking point, which serves to prevent outside contamination before the test sample is inserted into the closed-off laboratory container. However, this implies the hazard of the swab breaking while inside the patient’s nasal tract, which could potentially necessitate a foreign-body removal procedure.
This can be caused either due to the medical staff’s carelessness in factoring patient health complications, such as a deviated septum, or due to the materials from which the nasal swabs were created, which can be attributed to manufacturer qualitative negligence.
Cracks in the Sanitary Industry
The worldwide circumstances have made us irrevocably reliant on the sanitary tools that we have at our disposal. Through thick and thin, sanitary measures and virology prevention tactics are the most effective solution to the COVID-19 Pandemic, and their mass implementation is the key to our survival. However, there are a number of potential sanitary product and service liabilities that need to be kept in mind, lest our over-reliance will cause irreparable damage to our long-term health and well-being.
One stark issue becomes apparent when we look at the alcohol-based hand sanitizers that are in market-wide circulation, and that issue lies in the chemical compounding of the products. FDA-approved guidelines regarding sanitary products for personal use clearly state that consumers should not be exposed to a hand sanitizer that contains traces of methyl alcohol.
Also known as methanol, methyl alcohol is a highly flammable liquid used in fuels and solvents, being highly toxic to the human body, unlike ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, which is commonly found in alcoholic beverages and ethically manufactured hand sanitizers. Residual traces of methanol can remain on the hands after direct contact, and, if ingested, the consumer is susceptible to methanol poisoning – which can manifest through severe symptoms such as blurred vision and permanent blindness, irreparable nervous system damage, or even death.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given leeway to the necessity of hand sanitizer mass-production, and as a consequence, manufacturer negligence has once again stepped in, with multiple cases of methanol contamination now surfacing. One such case, that of Medek LLC, has garnered extensive media coverage due to their timely product recall, imposed by FDA regulation.
The company’s patented hand sanitizer showed conclusive methanol contamination of its chemical formula, as well as a potentially reduced ethanol quantity, falling below the minimum 60% that is necessary for safe disinfection purposes. With this in mind, the situation with Medek has once again proven that being the victim of another party’s negligence or ill intent can take a hard toll, but a personal injury lawyer could at least provide some financial relief, while simultaneously facilitating clients to seek their own justice in the face of greed-fueled big brands.
Another severe problem is found in the way that virology prevention measures are being applied in enclosed shared communal spaces – such as nursing homes, orphanages, and prisons. Because of their tight-knit nature, health and safety measures should be kept under strict scrutiny in such institutions, with minimal infection risk through resident-staff member-visitor interactions. The reality, however, is quite dire.
These institutions quickly became prime targets for the imminent spread of the virus when the pandemic began. Within weeks, they were already focal points of infection, and that is all because of poor execution of sanitary and disease prevention efforts. Ranging from irregular or ineffective surface disinfection to improper resident isolation and social distancing, to general carelessness in face-covering etiquette, the majority of these institutions are oftentimes both ill-equipped and ill-prepared to deal with infectious diseases, and this is never more apparent than during a global pandemic.
Consequently, the group that faces the greatest risks are the elderly residents of nursing homes, noting their high susceptibility to the virus’ deadly implications. The majority of US nursing homes are notoriously under-staffed, or they suffer from a general lack in patient quality of life, especially from a virology-oriented perspective. In addition, important medical devices such as a Hematology analyzer machine (which is used to run blood panels in times of the pandemic), are often missing from these institutions.
The aforementioned sanitary liabilities play a great part in this, but the root of the problem lies in the fact that the majority of employed nursing home staff are not registered, nurses. While a registered nurse needs to be on-site for at least eight hours every workday, as per institutional regulations, this does not equate to an employer obligation to hire only staff that have graduated from an approved school of nursing, following a national licensing examination. Because of this, nursing home staff members generally lack the skills, knowledge, and expertise that is necessary for the myriad of issues that an elderly resident might be exposed to on a daily basis.
A New Perspective
Perhaps the subtlest yet most nuanced side effect that the COVID-19 Pandemic has had on society is the gradual shift in collective priorities that is taking place as we speak. Through a cultural, societal, and intrinsically medical shift in human behavior, we have now adapted to a world where permanent face-coverings are a common necessity, where disinfection measures are readily available, and where a viral illness trumps any other health concern, no matter how severe it might be. What remains to be seen is whether this practical lesson in virology will have taught us any long-lasting lessons by the vaccine’s inception, or if history shall yet again repeat itself come 2120. A new pandemic, another social dilemma, an age-old mentality.
Image Source: Unsplash.com