Vulnerable, high-risk Americans feel left behind

The world of Denisse Takes today is very small. She makes a living producing songs from her living room, playing “Animal Crossing” online with friends, and leaving home in Burbank, California, only occasionally to walk her dog.

Even as her social media feed is flooded with friends and family members returning to their normal lives, she sees no one except her husband, who donated her kidney in 2015. so that Ms. Takes, 37, can receive a compatible donor kidney. .

The drug that keeps her immune system from rejecting the organ also stops it from making antibodies in response to the coronavirus vaccine. She said her body was so bad at fighting infections that she had to go to the emergency room for the common cold. She is sure that Covid-19 will kill her.

But isolation and depression – heightened as the rest of the world seems to come out of the pandemic without her – has taken its toll on them, too. “Honestly, I keep trying to hold on to my husband,” Ms. Takes said.

Millions of Americans with weakened immune systems, disabilities, or illnesses that make them especially vulnerable to coronavirus have been living this way since March 2020, isolating at home, keeping their children out of school and Skip medical care rather than risk exposure to the virus. And they have boiled over to talk from politicians and public health professionals who they see as undermining the value of their lives.

As Year 3 of the pandemic approaches, with the public support for drastic fall prevention measures and governors of even the freest states move on to the unmasking missionthey find themselves dealing with burnout and grief, rooted in a feeling that their neighbors and leaders are willing to accept them as collateral damage in order to return to normal.

“I can still see your world, but I live in a different world,” said Toby Cain, 31, of Decorah, Iowa, who has cancer of the lymphatic system and has had six rounds of chemotherapy and radiation therapy during the pandemic, making her especially vulnerable. Covid-19.

She lives alone, eats most of her meals alone and surfs social media alone, lamenting the family weddings and friends’ children she’s missed – at least so far. Here, when she quietly gave up social media altogether. “It’s like living behind a veil while the rest of the world moves forward,” she said.

More than seven million adults in the United States, or about 3 percent, Characterized by medical professionals as immunocompromised caused by an illness, drug, or other treatment that weakens the body’s immune response, which means diseases like Covid-19 can be more deadly for them, and vaccines offer less ability more protection.

Tens of millions more Americans have at least one medical condition, such as asthma or diabetes, putting them at greater risk of contracting Covid. How much larger can be very different; many people live with little anxiety, while others at higher risk of illness feel the need to isolate from society.

That’s not what Aaron Vaughn, now 12, of East Lynne, Mo., hoped for when he received a heart transplant in June 2020. Born with half a heart, he thought the transplant would give him. more freedom after many long years in the hospital. . But with the virus still circulating, he hasn’t been to school or restaurants – his last trip was to Pizza Hut, his favorite place at the time – since the start of 2020, and saw no one but his family and doctors.

“If I can go to school, that would be great,” Aaron said, adding, “I can’t go anywhere but the hospital.”

He was vaccinated, but because of the drugs he was taking to prevent his body from rejecting his heart, the doctors told him to act like he didn’t. His siblings, also vaccinated, went back to school last month, but they wore face masks, making them stand out in their conservative community, where roadside signs encourage people to do not get the coronavirus vaccine.

His parents said they received hate mail for asking neighbors to wear masks or get vaccinated – some neighbors gathered around and prayed for Aaron when he needed a transplant. His mother, Sarah Vaughn, said: ‘It’s hard when people turn to politics, which could kill my son.

The restore mask quests States like New York, Illinois and California are the latest source of stress for vulnerable Americans, who are concerned that the rest of the country is easing precautionary measures without any Any considerations on how to keep them safe. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that it has It’s too early to give up the maskpartly because of the potential impact on vulnerable people, but the agency indicated on Wednesday that it would new guidelines will be issued soon.

“Always wearing a mask indoors is not a forever strategy,” said Dr. Megan Ranney, emergency medicine physician and principal at Brown University’s School of Public Health. emergency department and principal at Brown University’s School of Public Health, noting that immunocompromised and vulnerable individuals are always at risk. However, she added, “We need to make sure we have stricter protections in place where people don’t have a choice about whether they go there or not.”

The best long-term protection, says Dr. Ranney, is to keep the overall infection rate low: The less the virus circulates, the less likely someone is to be exposed. She says most people can be vaccinated, but millions of Americans refuse, and there isn’t enough funding coming up to improve ventilation in public places.

Many Americans are at high risk of feeling fear and anger explode in public last month in response to a comment from the director of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky. Quote research says only 0.003 percent of those vaccinated have died from Covid-19, she told ABC News that 75 percent of those who died despite being vaccinated had “at least four comorbidities, so, really, these are the people who were unwell in the first place. ”

That prompted Imani Barbarin, who has a number of conditions that put her at high risk, including cerebral palsy and diabetes, to create the hashtag #MyDisabledLifeIsWorthy on social media, sparking outrage from others angered by it. government approach.

“We really wanted to survive this,” said Ms. Barbarin, 31, “and we have seen a complete disregard for our needs, for our community and for our voices. during this entire pandemic.”

After a barrage of criticism, Dr. Walensky apologized to disability advocates in a meeting and promised that senior CDC officials would meet with them regularly. But Julia Bascom, executive director of the Autism Advocacy Network, who was present at the meeting, said the remarks reflected a familiar attitude: “Persons with disabilities inevitably die, and those with disabilities are bound to die. That death is easier to understand and less tragic. ”

Dr Cameron Webb, senior policy adviser on equity on the White House Covid-19 Response Team, said the backlash had prompted the Biden administration to re-examine its approach to those with disabilities. security hole. “There was a lot of pain,” he admitted, adding, “We wanted to do better.”

He pointed at recent guide from the Department of Health and Human Services says that patients cannot be disenfranchised due to disability, even if hospitals enact crisis care standards. He said the administration would announce more action this week, including a working advocacy group.

Experts say there are many ways that government officials and the health care system can help vulnerable people without requiring the rest of society to take unreasonably stringent precautions. duration.

Govind Persad, an assistant professor of health law at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law, suggests using federal pandemic relief money to upgrade ventilation systems in businesses and schools. Prophylactic antibody treatments such as Evosheld widely available to immunocompromised individuals, and manage scarce distribution of antiretroviral drugs so that they reach those most at risk, rather than those with the most resources to find them.

“It would be frustrating if countries failed to protect those at higher risk and then tried to frame everything as an individual-individual trade-off between those who want to maintain Maintain mask requirements with their removal.

Ms Cain, a cancer patient in Iowa, said prophylactic antibodies seemed to be her only chance to regain her normal appearance, but supplies were limited, even after Health Secretary Xavier Becerra announced on monday that the United States will double its latest orders.

“It is extremely upsetting to see elected officials or others in power minimize or overlook the severity of the crisis we are experiencing,” she said.

In rural Missouri, 12-year-old Aaron spends his time in online classes, playing Minecraft or Call of Duty with friends, and creating YouTube videos of himself trying spicy food. His friends keep asking when he’ll be back at school, but he knows it won’t be soon.

For his parents, the loss of support from those around him continued to hurt. His father Chad Vaughn said: “People say, ‘I’m living in fear. “And I was like, ‘You damn it, I’m living in fear, and I’m tired of it.'” Vulnerable, high-risk Americans feel left behind

Fry Electronics Team

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