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Best response to COVID-19 is assessing risk

The crowded beach at Grand Bend on Canada Day, Wednesday July 1, 2020. Mike Hensen   / Postmedia Network

It is not entirely your family member’s fault that he or she ignored public health recommendations and took their children to the beach.

The longer the COVID-19 pandemic goes on, the more families are being put in an untenable, lose-lose situation, where they are effectively being told they have to choose between the health of their children and the health of their parents.

There are three major parts of this problem:

1. Health risk from COVID-19.

2. Psychological damage risk from the COVID-19 response.

3. People, in general, are not very good at understanding risk.

The ways individuals treat the threat of COVID-19 are far more numerous than the ways health experts have talked to them about that threat.

This is always a problem with experts explaining things to non-experts, but it gets significantly worse because of how much conflicting information there is about COVID-19.

Many individuals are now making the assumption if anyone who is elderly or infirm gets COVID-19, it will be certain death.

Others believe this is the equivalent of a really bad flu season and that the medical and political establishment are grossly overreacting.

The more this happens, the more the facts about COVID-19 become irrelevant and fear, fatigue, or both, are in control.

The middle ground is being lost.

The psychological damage from the COVID-19 response is not helping.

With mental health issues being less commonly understood than physical diseases, the confusion caused by what experts are telling the public becomes even more problematic.

Some parents are being alarmed into believing their children are showing signs of long-term psychological damage and irreversible trauma from isolation.

Some are concerned their children may attempt to harm themselves, others that their kids have forgotten how to be happy.

There is a general fear of mass depression and post-traumatic stress disorder among children in some social circles.

You also have the other extreme, where some either believe or are being told this is all overblown, their children are just whining, and they need to “suck it up.”

Imagine you are a parent who believes there is a clear and present threat that COVID-19 will kill your parents if you go to large gatherings, but also believes your child will be permanently harmed if you do not go to large gatherings.

What do you choose? Risk killing your parents by going out, or risk letting your children waste away by not going out?

It doesn’t matter if one or both of these things are actually true. All that matters is if people believe them to be true.

For some, there is a fear of widening “their circle” at all, due to a lack of trust in anyone they could include in “their circle.”

Even if people do not trust advice from experts, they can, let’s hope, compare what they think of the risks posed by COVID-19 to other risks they accept every day.

Perhaps that will bring them some comfort.
For example, road injuries are the 9th to 11th leading cause of death every year. In 2017, approximately 1.24 million people were killed worldwide.

That is not going to stop most of us from driving to the grocery store, or from ever driving again.

Driving safely does not mean you are immune from becoming a statistic when it comes to road deaths.

But what it does do is lower your risk.

When it comes to COVID-19, consider what you need to do to lower your risk to an acceptable level for you and your family, and then find out the best ways to meet that goal or objective as safely as possible, without unnecessary hardship.

By contrast, the worst thing to do is to become so frustrated by public health warnings that you disregard all of them and do whatever you want, consequences be damned.
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        Toronto Sun
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