May 3, 2023

So the Surgeon General Vivek Murty writes about loneliness. Via the New York Times:

At any moment, about one out of every two Americans is experiencing measurable levels of loneliness. This includes introverts and extroverts, rich and poor, and younger and older Americans. Sometimes loneliness is set off by the loss of a loved one or a job, a move to a new city, or health or financial difficulties — or a once-in-a-century pandemic.

Other times, it’s hard to know how it arose but it’s simply there. One thing is clear: Nearly everyone experiences it at some point. But its invisibility is part of what makes it so insidious. We need to acknowledge the loneliness and isolation that millions are experiencing and the grave consequences for our mental health, physical health and collective well-being.

He also talks about how loneliness will lead to a wave of heart attacks and strokes without mentioning how covid substantially raised the risk. Funny thing to miss!

Also kind of strange that he doesn't once mention the medically vulnerable people who can't risk covid -- or the estimated five million who are suffering from long covid. People like me.

For example: I really need a double knee replacement. I put it off last year because covid was surging, and I couldn't get any information from the hospital where my surgeon worked about what they were doing to mitigate it. (I was looking for information about upgrades to hospital ventilation systems.) I even called the state health department, where a very pissy public employee informed me that hospitals didn't have to provide that information anymore -- but assured me the operating room team would certainly all be wearing masks.

You know, like they always have. But if I don't catch it in the operating room, I'm likely to get it in the rehab facility. What good are new knees when you can't go anywhere anyway? And the research that indicates your immune system gets more suppressed every time you get covid is not good news. (By the way, both times, I caught covid in... the hospital.)

So now I go to aqua therapy instead, but had to quit the last place when they stopped wearing masks.

Recently, I noticed an awful lot of medical people on Twitter talking about how covid is taking off again in their hospitals, and how everyone pretends not to notice. They take to social media to raise the alarm, but no one's listening.

I haven't been in a supermarket in three years. (I really miss Trader Joes, but they don't deliver.) I don't go to family parties anymore unless they're outdoors. I really miss my regular gatherings at the local diner with my cousins. I check in with friends and family on the phone, but have I mentioned that covid did something to my vocal cords, and if I talk too long, my throat feels like it's shredded?

I have a friend who's getting chemo. We occasionally go out to dinner at 3 o'clock, in the restaurant's side room that doesn't fill up until the evening. The last time, the waitress complained she didn't want to serve us when she had to walk "so far."

I've been told it's a horrible imposition to ask someone to wear a mask in a room full of people, akin to taking away someone's guns. (And we know how that goes.)

My point is, this nation is now pretending the pandemic isn't ongoing, that it's "just like the flu" and hasn't left millions of damaged people in its wake. How do you talk about loneliness without mentioning this major factor?

Can you help us out?

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