We are living in an unprecedented time and the COVID pandemic has been the most challenging and stressful experience in our lives, but together we can defeat this nasty virus and make our community stronger than ever.

It is hard to believe that we are almost a year into this outbreak, but yet still a long way from a return to normal and now is the time to take it seriously.

We are in a race every day, not only to make an effective vaccine and treatment, but also to set a new record of SARS-CoV-2 cases. The total number of cases surpassed the eleven million mark and unfortunately, we are heading to the two hundred thousand new cases per day at an astronomical pace with a death toll of over 246 thousands.

What does it mean to all of us when our country sets a record for new cases and breaks it again the very next day? It means only one thing: the virus is in control and we are not. The COVID-19 rules have not changed, nonetheless we are relaxing our behaviors and sticking our heads in the sand. Instead of allowing this raging virus to double faster, we need to double up on the basic public health measures and block the transmission from snowballing.

The upcoming months are going to be very difficult and what is needed to be done to flatten the curve sounds simple, but takes sacrifices. We need to have universal proper mask wearing, avoid being in crowded places, keep the 6-feet physical separation, and clean our hands frequently. These tools will never be considered normal.  However, these mitigation measures continue to be the most powerful weapons we have in our arsenal. No one has the desire to go back to the lock down and the 5Cs are the opposite strategy of the lockdown. We need to keep rolling while we continue to be cautious and cognizant of what we are doing.

We have alarmingly high rates of asymptomatic infections that can spread the infection like a wildfire. Furthermore, across the nation, the healthcare systems are stretched thin with both hospitalizations and deaths soaring in the past two weeks. Keep in mind that our population has tons of the risk factors that make them vulnerable to the drastic consequences of the COVID-19.

Most recently, we have started to encounter the tail of COVID-19. According to the CDC, one in eleven hospitalized patients for COVID-19 gets readmitted within 2 month of discharge. A lot of people are having the lingering symptoms of COVID-19 like shortness of breath, fatigue, brain fogginess, depression, anxiety, blot clots, and the post-traumatic stress syndrome.

 It is not true that we are testing more, yet we are finding more COVID-19 patients. The surge is going to put more of a strain on the testing capability and imagine what can happen when COVID-19 intersects with the flu season. More people will need tests and this will tighten the rules governing who gets a test. The flu and COVID-19 are a dual threat, and now it is more important than ever before to receive the flu shot. A fascinating observation from Brazil shows that the flu shot can lessen the severity of COVID-19. Patients who had received their 2020 influenza vaccination and who contracted SARS-CoV-2 fared better in several ways than those infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus who had not been vaccinated. It seems that the flu vaccine boosts the innate immune response which is a less specific pathogen-recognition immunity than the adaptive immunity or perhaps stimulates the interferon generation which seems to be blocked initially in patients with severe COVID-19. This is consistent with cross-agent protection and this is the year we should not avoid getting vaccinated for the flu.

At some point, we will return to pre-COVID levels.  I have no idea when, or what it will take to make life feel safe again. Would it be the COVID-19 vaccine, the inhaled interferon, or the SARS-CoV-2 mono-/poly-clonal antibodies that carry us to the finish line?  It has taken significant sacrifices to get this far, and we don't plan to give up now. The vaccine is coming into waves and the first ones who are going to be vaccinated are healthcare professionals and the first responders, as well as the ones who are highly vulnerable like the nursing home residents. The vaccine will be made available for the majority of the public by mid-2021.

We need to take all the steps needed to combat the virus and achieve our victory. We should not learn the hard way as our health is our wealth. This is the time to bend the curve and not wait until it’s too late. We need to place the virus in a cage to regain our freedom. Even if we start today with our intensive efforts to stop the spread, it may take weeks to work. With the holiday season approaching, the CDC and the Kentucky Department for Public Health are strongly suggesting that people stay home and avoid large family gatherings.  Unfortunately, these situations carry the highest risk of transmission of the virus and I urge you to take care of yourselves and your loved ones.

I wish you Happy Holidays filled with love, joy and most importantly health.

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