Weekly Live- 20200610
-Getting back to normal vs creating a higher standard.
-Covid19 updates.
-Risk awareness.
-Things worth living for.

-Hello everyone, this is Siddharth Tambar from Chicago Arthritis and Regenerative Medicine. Welcome to our weekly live event. It’s Wednesday, June 10th. I hope everyone is doing well. Last few months have been something, really pretty intense. Here in Chicago, we entered phase three of our COVID recovery, which generally means that people are starting to be able to do more, some more regular activities. Restaurants are allowed to have patrons eat at the restaurant if they’re sitting outdoors and appropriately spaced. And people are progressively starting to go back to work and we’re seeing a lot more people outside and doing activities.

We’re starting to go back to some version of normal life. And it makes me think of a couple of things; you know, what is normal? Should we be better than normal? Where do we go from here? I’ve heard a lot of people say that we’re moving into a new normal, or we have to think about what is a new normal. It was suggested to me that instead of new normal, why don’t we think of a elevated or higher standard of where we want to be?

So I think COVID-19 has made us all think very differently about; the things that we value, how we’re living, a lot of things. And the recent social protest connected with the George Floyd murder, I think make us think about maybe normal isn’t good enough. Maybe our goal should not be to get back to just regular life, Maybe this is a moment where we start asking, how do we elevate and actually live better in terms of our expectations from our interactions with other people in, terms of what we want out of life? And maybe normal is not good enough. Maybe an elevated standard and a new normal is what we should be aiming for.

I know here at work, we’ve been thinking about that. And for the last year, we’ve made a big commitment in terms of communicating better with patients. And I think the last three months, we’ve taken that even higher to the point where we’re committing more resources, even bringing on an additional employee to help out with client service related issues. Because normal was not good enough, because I think our patients deserve a higher standard and hopefully we can deliver upon that higher standard.

So one of the things that I think is interesting, how do we balance risk and benefit? How do we think about getting back into some of the usual things that we do in life, but take into consideration what are the risks that we have to deal with in this kind of newer COVID world? And you know, what things are worth the risk, what things are not worth the risk?

A couple of examples. During the social protests, these last week and a half, there were a lot of people out and people had concern about; is there risk that you’re going to suddenly spread COVID-19 to a lot of people? And that’s interesting because in large groups of people, where you have less social distancing, that potential risk is there, but are there certain risks that are worthwhile taking?

Now, I wouldn’t be thrilled if a 85 year old individual that has multiple medical problems, was out there without mask. But the flip side is; if you’re a young person, a middle aged person, you’re still healthy, you’re wearing a mask, you’re being sensible, you’re protesting non-violently. Maybe that risk is worth it because the benefit is you’re trying to create a better society. It’s an example of where I think thinking about risk and benefit is not a static thing, it’s a much more dynamic thing.

On that same level, the World Health Organization this past week or last couple of days, came out saying that they’re not exactly sure about the risk of asymptomatic spreaders of COVID-19. That’s a little bit disappointing. It’s good news that if the risk is not as bad of asymptomatic spreaders, but the flip side is; we literally just stopped the whole world because of concern about asymptomatic spreaders. I think this is one of those things that’s still up in the air and we still don’t fully understand. And so, I think still maintaining the usual precautions is important, but I think it emphasizes that if you’re in a position of authority, like the World Health Organization, that you need to be careful with your words and how you’re guiding people. Because, if you say one thing one week, and then you say another thing a couple of weeks or couple of months later, that’s a little bit of a problem. Like, we literally stopped all of the world’s economic activity almost to account for asymptomatic spreaders.

But the flip side is; I think for those folks who are considered low risk, getting back into some version of their usual life, maybe they can slowly start creeping back into that. Which is what people are doing and I think that’s smart. I still think it would be sensible that if you do have any medical issues, that you still talk to your trusted physician to get guidance in that regard, that what are your own personal risks? What are things that are worthwhile getting into? And kind of balancing that,
An example of that is; I was speaking with a patient of mine, an 85 year old woman. She’s 85, she’s got things like diabetes, blood pressure but she’s relatively healthy. She’s got a lot of osteoarthritic issues that I help care for. In her words; she hasn’t been this stressed as COVID-19 has put her under stress. And the last time she was under this amount of stress was when she was a little kid living in Northern Italy during World War II bombings. That’s pretty profound to hear somebody say that and it’s affected her life in a lot of ways. For example, it’s because she’s had less social interaction with friends and family, because she’s had less physical activity that she would normally do with those social outings her back has started to ache. She’s a little bit less strong, a little bit weaker and that’s causing her back to be a problem. We’ve been able to maintain her back issue for the last three, four years with some treatment but really just a lot of physical activity. And trying to figure that out for her and realizing that that is a significant issue for her because it’s not only that she has back pain but in turn, that means that it’s hard for her to cook, it’s hard for her to do other things that she enjoys, gardening. And so, trying to figure out a sensible solution for her that’s still is cautious and risk conscious, has taken some effort. And a lot of it has been some small things, things like, well, what about if we try to get you some regular physical activity every hour or two? What if you work with a physical trainer remotely? Little things to try to get her back into that.
But the reality is that this is one of those costs of COVID-19 that I think, that really won’t register in terms of problems officially but it’s one of those things that is really meaningful because it affects her life, it affects her children’s life, it affects her quality of life, it also affects her husband as well. And so, it’s a big deal. So the other thing there is, she’s thinking about; what are the other things that she can get back into? I think it’s her and her husband’s like 60th wedding anniversary, something remarkable like that. And so, they’ve made some plans with their family where they’re going to cautiously try to have some kind of get together in that regard. Where they’re still maintaining some safety measures, social distancing and all that, but realizing that maybe the risk of that is low enough but the benefit is so high that she should absolutely do something like that. And so, I think the next several months are really going to be a lot of balancing benefit and risk and trying to figure that out.

I think one of the other challenges that a lot of us are going to have is how do we get back into our normal physical activity routine? I know the last few months I’ve had to change a lot of things, in terms of maintaining my shoulder health, my back health. Things that I was normally doing, I’ve had to sort of adopt other ideas with home related exercise rather than going to the gym. And I think it’s going to be interesting that as some of these facilities reopen, how do we get back into that? And I think, again, it’s a matter of being smart and targeted and risk aware that likely I’ll probably go back to playing tennis once where I play tennis opens up, because you’ve maintained kind of a natural amount of distance. I’d probably be a little bit more cautious upfront for those first few weeks or even month when they reopen the actual sort of gym facilities. But I think it’s one of those on a case-by-case basis where you recognize the benefit of doing certain activities and you have to balance that with other things.

I know in that same respect, one thing that we’re trying to do at work we’ve had, I mean, my office team has been incredibly busy and really hustling to try to make sure that patients and client service has been maintained the last few months, even when we’ve had COVID-19 going on. And so, we’re trying to set up some sort of outing where we can kind of meet outside of work in a safe space that sort of is able to let the rest of the team kind of cool off, enjoy themselves and sort of recognize some of their hard work. And I think, it’s a low-risk activity that we’ll figure out how to do but the benefit is; it’s a matter of connecting with the people who are working so hard and doing the right thing, that there’s some benefit to that.
I think there’s a version of that, that we have for everyone. Some sort of regular recommendations I would have for folks who are older, that are dealing with some of the challenges of being confined in social distancing is; keep in mind that there are certain things that are still worthwhile doing. You can still take a walk outside. I think when it comes to important life events, birthdays, do we totally avoid them now? I don’t necessarily think so, I think you can do some of these things in a risk-conscious, low-risk way. I think if you’re asymptomatic and you know that the number of people that are going to be at the event is going to be relatively small and limited, you can still partake in some of those activities.

Part of getting out of COVID-19 is recognizing what things are still important and are worth living for. And I think if we take nothing else from the last three and a half months, it’s resetting what is worthwhile for life. I think in the normal groove of life, there’s a lot of just distractions and things that don’t really have a lot of importance that we all get stuck in. And I’d like to think that in this new normal, this elevated standard, that hopefully we start to think about that. Maybe we really allocate our time and efforts on things that are more meaningful to us, because realizing that some things are still worth the risk and there’s a lot of things that really aren’t.

Lastly, the last recommendation for some of my autoimmune patients who are taking medications, good news is; we’re still on track. Meaning that if you’re on meds, understand that the evidence and data out there is that it’s still okay to stay on those medications. I still think you utilize the same precautions that we’ve all been taking in terms of social distancing, as well as wearing masks but understand that there’s no evidence that folks who are on these medications are at higher risk for complications. And as long as you’re asymptomatic and you’re doing well, you’re staying in touch with your physician, you’re making risk-conscious decisions, it’s okay.

I think this, it’s such an interesting time right now that we’re all so risk-conscious and thinking about things in ways that are different. Whether it’s, how do we want to live in a more equitable and just society? Or whether we’re thinking about what things are really worth the risk of living? I think we can come to some decisions individually and hopefully as a society to make smarter, better decisions that make life worthwhile living and make it better. So that we’re not just getting back to the usual normal but that we’re actually trying to live and get to a higher standard.

I appreciate your time. I hope everyone is doing well. Leave me your thoughts, and until next week, have a good day and live well! Thank you, bye-bye.

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***About this video***
In this video Siddharth Tambar MD from Chicago Arthritis and Regenerative Medicine discusses doing better than normal.