We live in the year of anxiety, 2020, pondering what 2021 will bring. Our confidence in experts and the government has taken a huge pummeling. Then we read the CDC’s documents “Operational Considerations for Humanitarian Settings” (accessed 11/21/2020 at site below). Yes, we want the government to have a plan for emergencies, but our hair on the back of our necks perks up as we read such plans as these. Are they well- intentioned, ill-intended or both?
This document discusses a “Shielding Approach”. The idea is that we keep the high-risk population safe from possible coronavirus contact. This part is appropriate and has been a part of public health for decades. The concern arises when the methods to protect become more harmful than the disease itself. Yes, we swallow poisons called chemotherapy when we have a life-threatening disease called cancer. No, we should not cause greater harm to those at risk with measures which pose a significant threat. And “NO”, we should not force the “high-risk” to protect themselves or take away the freedoms of the “low-risk” in the process.
The CDC therefore begins with a noble idea of protecting the “high-risk” but ends with a program that if improperly implemented, leads to separating the “high-risk” who are also vulnerable into their own living areas away from their “low-risk” families. At first, in their “household” level, separating someone into their own living area could be workable and only mildly intrusive into daily life. Interactions with “low-risk” family members would be at a safe distance and needs could be met appropriately.
As the CDC moves into the neighborhood and “camp/sector” level, they venture into sci-fi thrillers where loved ones look through glass panes at their elderly and high risk loved ones or nowadays text them from miles away. “Green zones” sound more like military terms than public health guidelines. Of course, they advise “able-bodied high-risk individuals capable of caring for residents who have disabilities or are less mobile”. So, let’s ship grandma off to her “green zone” camp where able-bodied “Stranger Bob” is supposed to feed and water her while we are not around.
This ostensibly seems targeted at humanitarian situations, meaning refugees and in a disaster area. How easily could it be adapted to the “emergency” zone when too many catch COVID in your neighborhood? If this is just about refugee camps, why even mention “neighborhoods” in the guidelines?
Their timeline… “Plan for an extended duration of implementation time, at least 6 months.”
Other considerations…” Plan for potential disruption of social networks.”
At least they admit… “there is no empirical evidence whether this approach will increase, decrease or have no effect on morbidity and mortality during the COVID-19 epidemic in various humanitarian settings”
They should stick to their one sentence of common sense… “Household-level shielding seems to be the most feasible and dignified as it allows for the least disruption to family structure and lifestyle, critical components to maintaining compliance.”
Yes, we need to protect ourselves and others from this contagious disease, but must also maintain vigilance in protecting our freedom and not let hysteria lead to regretted decisions. Be aware of both the threat of infection and the threat of governmental overreach when you see their hand coming for you.
CDC “Operational Considerations for Humanitarian Settings”. Accessed 11/21/2020
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