A highlight from COVID, Quickly, Episode 7: The Coming Postpandemic Grief Epidemic and Mask Whiplash

60-Second Science
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We bring you up to speed on the science behind the most urgent questions about the virus and the disease we demystify the research and help you understand what it really means. I'm tanya lewis. I'm josh fifteen scientific. American senior health editors. Today we're going to talk about an oncoming wave of disabling briefs that could hit lots of people and we'll try and unconfirmed about the complicated new mask wearing guidelines from the cdc. This is a sad story but it's important people who've lost loved ones to covid are at high risk for a mental health problem called prolonged grief disorder. How is that different. From normal morning well it's paralyzing tiny. This is a high level of mental anguish that keeps people from leaving their homes taking care of their families and holding down a job. It's a recognized syndrome that can go on for a year or more without up ordinarily after losing someone close you can be anguished and then you start to function again in time but people with prolonged grief described their lives as simply waiting to die. The scary thing is that it looks like there will be a huge number of these people because of covid katie harman courage one of our siam dot com contributors crunch some numbers in a story. That's now up on our website about five to ten percent of bereaved people. Get this condition. There are almost six hundred thousand cova dead in the us and each one leaves behind about nine close mourners research shows. This means there could be a quarter million to a half million. People disabled by grief in the coming months mental health specialists sake cova desk make brief people particularly prone to this problem. The deaths are often sudden. Those left behind are cut off. From normal morning rituals says catherine sheer a psychiatrist. To columbia university plus travel and activity restrictions. Make it hard to make. Connections and rebuild lives at on economic hardship in general anxiety. And you've got a real problem and there are already signs that the pandemic triggers disorder research published earlier this year found indications of prolonged grief in nearly thirty eight percent of pandemic bereaved individuals in china. That is more than triple. The typical rate the disorder can also exacerbate suicide alley and substance. Misuse can people. Get help for this condition. That could be really tough. We're not ready for something. This big in terms of mental health resources grief disorder disorders usually treated with months of therapy. That works but we don't have therapists. There are about thirty psychologists and fewer than sixteen psychiatrists per one hundred thousand people in the. Us numbers are even lower in poor communities that have suffered the most deaths during the pandemic people in such areas who tend to be people of color often can't afford insurance to cover mental health treatment so there aren't easy answers. Experts say a safe return to morning rituals vaccinated or mask could help so could relieving. Other pandemic stresses like getting evicted or going hungry. That relief gives a grieving family. A chance to deal with the loss of a parent for example and the biden administration has promised two and a half billion dollars to aid state. Mental health services. But i don't know if that money will bolster the grief counseling. That's needed here. If you do need help if you or someone you know is struggling or having thoughts of suicide there are places to turn call the national suicide prevention lifeline at one eight hundred two seven three eight two five five or contact the crisis text line by texting talk t a l k two seven four one seven four one. The cdc recently issued new guidelines saying that vaccinated. People no longer need to wear a mask or social distance in most indoor and outdoor settings with a few exceptions like hospitals. What do you make of the guidelines and are you ready to get your mask. The new guidelines came as a surprise to many public health experts and to the public. Just a couple of weeks ago. The cdc was saying that vaccinated people needed to wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor settings. So it felt a bit like whiplash. Some accused the cdc of caving to public pressure. But the cdc says its new guidelines are based purely on the evidence that vaccines are extremely good and not just preventing people from getting infected but also from transmitting the virus to others. Still some experts say. The guidance was premature as angela. Rasmussen a viral adjusted the vaccine and infectious disease organization at canada's university of saskatchewan pointed out in a recent article in slate. It's not so much the science subject to the vaccines really do protect people. It's the way that science is being communicated. The biggest problem is. There's no way to know if someone who's not wearing a mask has been vaccinated or not. It's basically an honor code and that could leave unvaccinated people including young children or immuno-compromised people vulnerable to getting covid plus it makes it virtually impossible for businesses to enforce mass guidelines which could make essential workers feel unsafe. And we're already seeing some places that are getting rid of their mask. Mandates even though more than half the country is still unvaccinated tanya. You asked our siam colleagues. Many of whom are now fully vaccinated about if when and where they're going to keep wearing their masks. What did you hear many told me. They were happy to ditch their masks. Outside uncrowded areas one even said she felt near giddy but they were planning to keep them on indoors in places like grocery stores or public transit. They wanted to set an example of protecting others and also protecting their children are loved ones who are unvaccinated others said they were happy to comply with state or local guidelines. But we're ready to stop wearing masks in situations. Cvc says are safe especially the people who are glasses who were constantly having to fight the fog. Personally i've been happy to take my mask off when i'm outside away from other people but i plan on keeping my mask on when i'm in most indoor settings with strangers at least until more people are vaccinated in the number of cova cases much lower. What about you josh. I keep mine in my pocket. And i put it on when i run into crowds indoors or outside. Sounds reasonable for my part. It's not that. I think the vaccine won't protect me. Though no vaccine is one hundred percent effective. It's more the fact that given so many people are unvaccinated. Guess whether or not i am. It's not a huge inconvenience to where one if it helps model behavior that keeps other safe and happy to keep it on. Now you're up to speed and thanks for joining us. Come back in two weeks for the next episode of covid quickly and check out. Sam dot com updated an in-depth cova news.

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