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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Coronavirus

In Elemental. More on Medium.

It’s been a long time since I saw a Covid patient in the ER, and I couldn’t be happier

Photo: Camilo Jimenez/Unsplash

I’m an emergency room doctor in New York City, and I haven’t seen a Covid-19 patient in weeks. It feels great having my old job back.

In March 2020, Covid flooded our ERs. At first, it was just a dribble — one or two Covid patients per day. But within a week, the virus had taken over every body in every bed. Every shift in the emergency room brought an endless stream of patients, one after another, all struggling to breathe and in desperate need of oxygen.

The swiftness of Covid’s arrival in our emergency rooms took us by surprise…


Coping With Death

In the wake of Covid-19, we are all grieving. How can we come to terms with death — and what does it teach us about living?

Hanwell Cemetery; Photo: Edward Howell/Unsplash

In 2015, I published a book. It began like this:

“A wake,” my mother said. “To sit with the dead.”

We were on our way to West Virginia, to an unremarkable two-story colonial where my grandfather’s remains had been washed and laid out for viewing. It had been raining all night, but apparently no one in this homey funeral parlor had been sleeping. They’d been sitting up with the body. Sitting up — with the body — all night.

There are no good adjectives to describe my feelings about this. I was seventeen and grieving, but I wasn’t horrified. Shocked…


The longer the wider world remains unvaccinated, the greater the risk that a devastating new variant will emerge

Photo by Yolanda Sun on Unsplash

In a letter recently obtained by The Guardian newspaper, more than 100 former presidents and heads of state urged the leaders of the world’s wealthiest countries to do much more — to commit more money, in particular, but also more aid and resources — toward making and distributing vaccines across the globe.

“No one anywhere is safe from Covid-19 until everyone is safe everywhere,” the letter’s signatories wrote, according to The Guardian.

That’s not just lofty talk, and it’s not just a plea for the sake of the unvaccinated. That is cold reality.

Apart from the deadly threat that the…


What the pandemic revealed about scientific publishing

Image: athree23/Pixabay

I was reading my umpteenth news story about Covid-19 science, a story about the latest research into how to make indoor spaces safe from infection, about whether cleaning surfaces or changing the air was more important. And it was bothering me. Not because it was dull (which, of course, it was: there are precious few ways to make air filtration and air pumps edge-of-the-seat stuff). But because of the way it treated the science.

You see, much of the research it reported was in the form of pre-prints, papers shared by researchers on the internet before they are submitted to…


The science of early memories gives some fascinating answers

Photo: Izzy Park/Unsplash

I was almost six years old when the Gulf War broke. International coalition forces waged war in Iraq, and as a result, Iraq attacked Israel with long-range powerful Scud missiles. I vividly remember the sirens. I remember putting on the gas mask that was distributed to all Israelis due to fear of a chemical attack. I remember constantly having to rush to the “sealed room” — my parents’ bedroom, which had its windows sealed with duct tape to protect against a nerve gas attack. I remember an unfinished dinner with my favorite food that was interrupted by sirens. …


Here’s what living with it feels like

Photo: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona/Unsplash

You know the doctor’s appointment isn’t starting well when the nurse looks at the blood pressure cuff and frowns. “Did I put it too tight,” she asks, “Is your circulation all right?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” I reply absently. “I haven’t been able to feel that arm in a couple of days.” I show her the lump in my elbow and explain there’s one in my neck and one in my back. They’re everywhere, as a matter of fact. And those lumps mean one thing to me: no feeling, or if I’m lucky, pins and needles.

She takes my blood…


Throw out the tedious calculus. It’s not that complicated. The simple answer to the question on everyone’s mind:

Photo: Andrea Lightfoot/Unsplash

Herd immunity to Covid-19 is an enigma. It’s universally sought after regardless of party affiliation, religious creed, or level of vaccine acceptance. Think about it. Are you pro-herd immunity or anti-? Pro, of course! At the same time, it’s so poorly understood. How many people does it require? Is it permanent or temporary? Will it actually change anything? When can I take this frickin mask off?!?

NFL quarterback Cam Newton once said, “Hindsight is always 50–50.” I don’t bring that up to disparage Mr. Newton. In fact, he was quick to correct his mixed metaphor just seconds later. …


If you’re confused by the latest recommendations, you’re not alone

Three mask-wearing individuals in different colored boxes (green, yellow, and red) indicating varying levels of Covid-19 risk.
Three mask-wearing individuals in different colored boxes (green, yellow, and red) indicating varying levels of Covid-19 risk.
Image: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

On May 13, 2021 the CDC issued updated guidance on masks. For the most updated recommendations, please visit the CDC’s website

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance on masks. The updated recommendations for when to wear a mask combine vaccination status and a color-coded schema to assign varying levels of risk — green being safest, yellow less safe, and red the least safe — to different activities.

The hot takes were mixed. Many were glad to see evidence-based recommendations that better outline what’s safe and what isn’t. Others found the update too confusing and…


Hospitals across the country are seeing fewer sick kids; a pediatrician explores why

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

It’s a Friday in April, and after a week on service, I’m down to one pediatric patient in the hospital. Not that I’m wishing for sick children, but as a pediatric and adult hospitalist physician, this isn’t what I’m used to. This isn’t what the entire country and much of the world are used to either.

Where Have All the Sick Children Gone? That was the title of a recent article by Scott D. Krugman, MD, an editorial board member for the renowned medical journal, Pediatrics. Dr. Krugman isn’t the only medical provider asking this question.

In mid-March of 2020…


A closer look at what it really means and some common misconceptions

Photo: Macau Photo Agency/Unsplash

The Covid-19 pandemic has made us familiar with terms more frequently used in infectious disease journals than in common parlance. But in conversations with patients, friends, and family, I’ve noticed that understanding of these terms is often inaccurate or incomplete. This is especially true when it comes to the concept of herd immunity.

Everyone seems to understand that herd immunity represents a crucial transition point for Covid-19, when the likelihood of getting infected drops and our ability to return to normal increases.

The questions around herd immunity have started to pick up as more Americans get vaccinated: How many more…

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Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

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