Dr. Andy Walsh Talks Coronavirus, Faith and Science on LIFE Today Live
Chief Science Officer at Health Monitoring, Andy Walsh says concerns about overwhelming the healthcare system are valid — but that caring for one's mental health is also key.
LIFE Today Live welcomed Dr. Andy Walsh Thursday. Walsh spoke with Randy Robison about his thoughts on America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think the concerns are plausible, the concerns about overwhelming the healthcare system,” Walsh told Robison. He’s not a physician. Walsh holds a PhD in molecular microbiology and immunology. He works for Health Monitoring, a public health software company. As the Chief Science Officer, he currently supports public health departments as they navigate the COVID-19 crisis.
In an attempt to flatten the curve, the White House issued guidelines on March 16. They asked people to avoid groups of 10 or more. Other recommendations included avoiding discretionary travel, eating in restaurants, and unnecessarily leaving one’s home. Many state and local governments around the nation have responded similarly. Some have even closed businesses and issued “shelter-in-place” orders.
Not all local governments are responding the same, however. That makes sense since the virus hasn’t affected every place in the same way.
Spanish Flu, Seasonal Flu — COVID-19 Differences and Similarities
Walsh said we can look to history to inform our response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. During the flu pandemic of the early 1900s, “we used some of these same measures of social distancing.” Those included “closing schools, canceling other gatherings, encouraging people to stay home. And we saw that that did have a significant effect. And places where they didn’t do that saw much more of a sharp peak in the number of cases and a more significant burden on the healthcare system over a shorter period of time.”
When asked whether COVID-19 is similar to the seasonal flu, Walsh said there are “significant differences.”
“Nobody has any existing immunity to this virus,” he said. A lot of people have “at least partial immunity” to the seasonal flu, thanks to the flu shot or past illnesses. This provides both “an individual protection factor and a collective protection” against the seasonal flu.
He went on:
Everybody who gets exposed to [COVID-19] is likely to get infected to some degree, whether they develop symptoms or not, and they’re likely to pass it on to other people. And so that’s why there’s this concern that a large number of people are all going to get sick all at once if we allow the virus to spread without any kind of control measures.”
Be Mindful of Your Mental Health
The social distancing efforts are important. But Walsh admitted they cause “a big shift in how we operate, and that’s going to have mental health consequences.”
“I would definitely encourage people to reach out to their friends and neighbors, even if they have to do it electronically,” he said. “Checking on people, get outside for exercise as appropriate in your area, you know, do the things that you need to do to take care of your mental health as well as your physical health.”
Watch the full interview for more, including Walsh’s thoughts on the compatibility of religion and science. Take a look at his new book, Faith Across the Multiverse: Parables from Modern Science.
Liberty McArtor, former staff writer of The Stream, is a freelance writer in the great state of Texas, where she lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex with her husband and son. Follow her on Twitter @LibertyMcArtor, or learn more about her at LibertyMcArtor.com.