It seems to be a foregone conclusion that ever increasing quarantine measures will continue to be put in place to battle COVID-19 – the stricter the quarantine, the less fatalities. But is this necessarily true? Humanity seems to generally focus on the carnage at hand and leave all thoughts of the future to the wind. Deal with the impending crises and then we will deal with the consequences of our actions. So let us take a look at some of the possible consequences of quarantine.
Mass panic and fear is reinforced by constant sensational media bombardment, political rhetoric and public measures taken by government officials. More fear equals more stress and stress is a direct contributor to chronic health conditions as well as directly suppressing immune function. Panic can also cause rushes on stores for food and essentials creating unnecessary scarcity and further panic.
Then there is the seemingly rapid decline of the economy as people are told to stay and work at home. The majority of the population does not have a job that lets them work from home so instead they simply lose their paycheck for the coming weeks to months. How many people can actually afford to live without income for that long? In addition, markets decline and can lead to dwindling retirement funds and other savings. To cover costs, people are forced to incur more debt. All of this contributes to more stress and fear.
Educational facilities are closed and switched to remote learning. Not every student has the stable internet or equipment for remote learning, especially in lower income and rural areas. Is remote learning from a computer screen really as effective as learning in person? What about the social component and its role in the development of students? Students have graduations and numerous social events postponed or cancelled further adding to stress. Social interaction is very important for children learning how to be in a world together – not as isolates.
‘Social distancing’ measures cause isolation which can lead to difficulty in developing natural herd immunity, which in turn may draw out the course of this pandemic (and quarantine). Humans are naturally social and are healthier when they embrace this in their lives – isolation generally predisposes an individual to more chronic health conditions and negative emotions which lead to more stress (and hence depressing immunity further). This is also encouraging a general distrust of your neighbor, something fundamental and necessary to foster in any totalitarian movement.
Then there are the restriction or elimination of rights guaranteed by the Constitution. The first which comes to mind is the right to public assembly – with public gatherings restricted to no more than 10 people at a time (no gatherings at all in certain states), it is quite hard to worship together or protest any legislation which may be enacted during these times, among other things. Another thing potentially at risk is the right to informed consent in medical diagnostics or treatment. If there is a new drug treatment (like a vaccine) will this be mandated on the population for the sake of the pandemic? Will people have to take a diagnostic test in order to be allowed back to work or public spaces? The Declaration of Independence proclaimed the right of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. How does that factor in when many are not allowed to work by order of the government?
None of the above points are guaranteed to happen, and this is certainly not an exhaustive list of potential adverse effects. This is an evolving crisis where the only certainty is what we don’t know. It is simply important to be aware that while COVID-19 can be devastating for some people, so can the consequences of quarantine. My hope is that we did not jump off a cliff in reaction to a bee sting… no one knows for sure if the cliff is shallow or deep.
This is general information only and not intended to diagnose or treat your specific health or medical conditions. If you have a specific health or medical condition consult with your healthcare professional. You can also contact Dr. Pintauro directly.