Fear Fatigue More Dangerous Than COVID-19

Jeffrey Barke, MD
By Jeffrey I. Barke, M.D. To read article as published, click here

Our daily lives are filled with risks — lots of risks. Just look at these examples:

• Every year, 30,000 to 40,000 Americans die in automobile accidents, yet none of us is willing to give up cars to avoid the possibility of dying in a crash.

• Heart disease kills more than 600,000 of our fellow citizens annually, yet we continue to eat fast food and pack on extra pounds.

• Diabetes puts more than 80,000 Americans into their graves each year, yet we do not ban the use of sugar.

• Close to 50,000 Americans take their own lives annually, yet we have instituted COVID-19 policies that have increased the incidence of suicide to the highest levels seen since the Great Depression.

• Millions of children are infected with influenza each year, and hundreds die from the disease.  But we have never closed our schools or insisted on masking the population to prevent the spread of flu.

• Child abuse and child sex-trafficking are at record levels in this country, and many specialists believe that it is due, in part, to our schools being closed while adults are unable to go their normal daily routines.

The CDC estimated that as many as 500,000 people died worldwide from the H1N1 virus in 2009 — the first year that that virus circulated. Overall, 80 percent of H1N1 virus–related deaths were thought to have occurred in people younger than 65 years of age. Despite this, we didn't close the schools, mask the population, or shut down the economy.

In 1968, the Hong Kong Flu killed approximately 4 million people globally. Not only did we not shut down our economy in the face of that staggering number, but the three-day Woodstock Rock Festival in upstate New York was held in the midst of the epidemic.

Isn't it time we stopped living our lives and dictating what we can and cannot do based on fear of every new danger? Instead, shouldn't we let each individual decide what risks he is willing to take? The famous declaration in President Franklin D. Roosevelt's first inaugural address seems as apropos today as it was in 1933: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

We are Americans — the freest, most prosperous society in the history of the world. We fought to end slavery, losing over 600,000 Americans in the Civil War. We fought in two world wars and played a dominant role in winning both. Those wars cost the lives of more than 500,00 Americans.

We take risks to enjoy the freedom they gave us — or at least we used to. We ride motorcycles, skydive, climb mountains, and drive too fast. We eat the wrong foods, drink too much alcohol, and live in ways that are often not healthy — and we cherish our right to do so.

"Better safe than sorry" has not been elevated to a national motto. It doesn't appear on any flags; no one is rushing to buy T-shirts emblazoned with those words. But "Live Free or Die"? That's a different story. It is the motto of the state of New Hampshire and was a colonial rallying cry. The words "and the home of the brave" end the National Anthem. Do we still believe that it is?

Fear is far deadlier and a more contagious disease than COVID-19. Fear raises our blood pressure to unhealthful levels; fear influences us to make poor decisions. We fear being criticized, we fear exposing our ideas, we fear offending others, and we fear being infected by a virus that is not much more deadly than viruses of the past.

As a physician with more than 25 years in practice, I will tell you what I tell my patients: you should not fear COVID-19. You should properly prepare and protect the most vulnerable in your homes, your businesses, and society, but you should join everyone else in living your life in maximum liberty with commonsense protections and precautions.

I can also report that we have an effective treatment when symptoms of COVID-19 are seen early and remain mild. These treatments can also offer protection for the most vulnerable.

Stop listening to those who want you to stay in a state of chronic fear. Turn off the mainstream media constantly using fear to capture your attention. Don't let those who want power over our lives to gain more of a foothold in Washington.

Turn on friendships and optimism and life. Turn on church and community and hope. Live with purpose, and fear fatigue will never become a problem.