According to Dr. William Haseltine, the way out of the COVID pandemic is not simply scientific. Rather, it’s about shifting mindsets to focus on caring for others.
That’s not exactly what you’d expect to hear from a distinguished expert on virology and infectious diseases. Haseltine, chair and president of Access Health International, recently spoke with Susan Ryan, senior director of The Green House Project, during an episode of the “Elevate Eldercare” podcast. His conversation with Ryan about the current COVID situation, and how to cope with it, was decidedly practical and blunt.
During an era of divisiveness, anxiety, and partisanship, the emphasis on caring, compassion, and social responsibility is heartening and welcome. It’s clear science alone is not enough to put the pandemic behind us. Two years into the crisis, Haseltine’s recommendation makes sense. COVID continues to wreak havoc on so many levels, making it difficult to move forward. He advocates for a societal change in attitude that can have far-reaching social and demographic outcomes.
He said variants will continue to emerge and we must modify behavior to outsmart the virus. Of course, Haseltine did offer traditional public health-based suggestions during the podcast such as wearing a mask, getting vaccinated, and obtaining a booster shot. Haseltine also spoke about the development of promising preventative drugs to help fight the novel coronavirus.
However, vaccines alone won’t be enough to fight COVID, Haseltine said. With the current spread of the Omicron variant, we need to be vigilant and look at other methods to protect the health and safety of everyone, including elders. Haseltine, who is known for his work on HIV, sees parallels between the coronavirus and HIV. Both viruses initially caused panic, fear, and misinformation. By collaborating and concentrating on empathy, the scientific community has been able to educate the public and develop drugs that enable HIV patients to live normal lives despite the disease. The same lessons can be applied to combating COVID.
Despite all the suffering COVID has caused, there has been a silver lining of sorts, Haseltine said. The pandemic has increased cooperation, collaboration, and diversity within the scientific community. It’s also forced everyone to take a hard look at both the healthcare and eldercare systems — and think of new ways of doing business and to seek to build healthier infrastructures.
Partnership, education, compassion, and ingenuity are all themes The Green House Project can get behind. We are encouraged and inspired by Haseltine’s straightforward call to action. It represents a savvy combination of kindness, data, and science that we believe has the best chance of getting us out of the current situation and into a brighter, safer and more benevolent future for us all.