July 17, 2020

Truth and consequences

Truth and consequences

Is there one (bitter) pill that, consumed regularly, could save us from COVID-19? As cases surge across the country, our guest, hospital pharmacist Samira Duja, reflects on the challenges of keeping up with the demand for medicine in her New York hospital during the spike—and we take the opportunity to rummage through the medicine cabinet in search of the only remedy guaranteed to slow the spread of a pandemic: clear, accurate information.

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The theme music is Fragilistic by Ketsa
licensed under CC BY NC ND 4.0


Kelley Lynch: 0:02Man, I just get so confused by this whole thing of what is the even truth anymore. What is what's real? What's not? It kinda makes you crazy. I mean, you've been seeing all this stuff that I've been trying to figure out from other parts of my family who believe things that are so entirely different than what I believe. I don't want to be somebody who's like just dismissing it out of hand. And yet, it makes me kind of crazy. It eats up all of my mental space trying to figure out well, is this true? Is there something you know, that I can't see? I don't even know what to believe sometimes.

Cindy Sealls: 0:57Exactly. We're in an ambiguous universe where you don't really know what is going on anywhere. Whether it's the virus, whether it's racism or not, the economy is doing well or not, a mask is good, or maybe it's not. You go online, you can find all kinds of articles for and against. And sometimes even the data around this virus is inconsistent. For instance, I'm just going to give you one instance. I'm always checking the COVID cases and deaths. And I swear to God, Kelley, I don't think one of those things matches. Every one I go to has different numbers. I'm not joking. Okay, if I already have in my mind that this is fishy, this whole thing. And then I go online and I'm going to supposedly reputable websites, you know. I'm not going to Joe's COVID data.com. I'm going to the CDC and John Hopkins and it's all different. Now, I don't know if it's because their reporting is at the times that they have to report the numbers is different. I don't know. And I almost feel like saying to them, report them all at the same time. So yeah. You know , I can understand people being confused.

Kelley Lynch: 2:39But I I think we were headed down this rabbit hole even before.

Cindy Sealls: 2:46And I think a little bit, if there's a little bit of history there where there was some kind of, you know, incident that looks a little fishy, I think that, too, plays into people's like they're into their mind of, Hmm , that seems strange. But also too , I was just thinking, and you have said this before. I think the internet corroborates a lot of our craziness. I remember when I used to go to the barbershop to get my hair cut. It was mostly guys and they would be in there and they would just be talking about the craziest stuff. Yeah. This is going on. And you know, this is going to happen and, and that's going to happen. And then I found out that's kind of part of the black culture to have these suspicions about all kinds of stuff. Before you can have some crazy talk and you had to go to the barbershop to get people to corroborate your crazy talk. Well, maybe you were on the corner or something. And now all of us who have this crazy talk in our head can Google, you know, now you're not thinking it's true, but you're like, bam. Look at YouTube videos galore. The earth is flat. They're lying to you. So you go look at all of this, look at all of this evidence. I feel like I'm living at a barbershop 24/7. Before you know, I was in there like 45 minutes. I was out of there and I would be laughing to myself. Oh my God, those people a re crazy in here. But n ow I'm living in a barbershop. Everything is a f rigging conspiracy theory.

Kelley Lynch: 4:51Hi, I'm Kelley Lynch. Welcome to a new normal a podcast about how we're adapting to life during the pandemic and where we go from here, I guess today is Samira Duja. Samira is a pharmacist who works in a New York city hospital. As cases continue to surge in the U S and around the world. I talked with Samira about the Covid spike in New York. She witnessed most of the crisis from her basement office down the hall from the morgue behind her computer screen, as she tried to keep the medicine flowing. Samira , welcome to the podcast.

Samira Duja: 5:28Thank you for having me.

Kelley Lynch: 5:30Can you tell us about your job? Tell us what you do.

Samira Duja: 5:35Sure. I've been a pharmacist for about 15 years now. More specifically, I am a manager in a hospital in Queens, and I pretty much manage operations, our drug supply for the hospital and managing, like getting in medications. And also just making sure the nursing units are fully stocked. So really like full control of drug, supply management, but also overseeing operations and personnel within that department.

Kelley Lynch: 6:08Can you give us a timeline for how everything played out in your hospital, around the COVID crisis?

Samira Duja: 6:16It started in January, you know, on a departmental level, we had these daily noon huddles where all of like all seven, eight managers gets together and talks about any issues, any problems, any concerns that are going on within the inside of the hospital, but also inside of our department. And back in January, when it hit the news about COVID in China, conversations obviously started happening as far as this is going to affect us down the line and just keeping an eye on the news. From my perspective asking, is there any medications that treat this, do I need to start stocking up? And my infectious disease pharmacist basically saying Samira coronavirus, isn't something that's ever been managed by medication. There's no treatment for it. It's really just supportive care. So there's really nothing you can do right now. And me saying, okay, so this was January. In February, we started having random cases in the States. And one Monday morning I remember coming into work and there's news vans all in front of the hospital. And I wasn't sure what happened, got into the department. And everyone saying they had a suspected coronavirus patient come through and then same thing with a neighboring hospital in Queens. And so that's where the news media was coming from. So now it's like, okay, this is real, right? This is starting to feel real for us. Again, anything we can do to prepare, nobody really knows. Like nobody really knows how to prepare for this. And as far from a medication standpoint, they hadn't really figured out any medications from what we were hearing that treat this. So again, nothing I can do on my end. And then a couple of weeks later, mid March now a week before it hit us, we had cases come through at our sister hospital located in Queens. And what ended up happening was a patient almost seen in the clinic was sent to the ER, they even got admitted and then ended up being positive for COVID. And now the whole hospital's going, Oh my God, this patient just interacted with how many employees. And again, now it's really starting to be real. And about three or four days later, we got our first patient. And so, you know, again, nothing I can really do. I was stocking up on certain antibiotics for pneumonia because testing wasn't up and running, right? So we didn't know if we were going to be able to get testing, to test for this for, in our patients. So I to stock up on pneumonia meds , because one way of trying to rule it out is let's rule out pneumonia. So we're going to treat them for pneumonia. If they're not getting better with the antibiotics for pneumonia, then chances are, they have COVID is how they were starting to rule this out. And so pneumonia drugs completely out of stock now at all my wholesalers because this is exactly what all the other hospitals are doing. So for me, life just got hard, not being able to get these medications in and I'm placing back order after back order , after back order with my wholesaler. And so now COVID actually in our hospital. So these patients are now, our numbers are starting to go up. These patients are starting to get worse and ending up in the ICU. And you know, I remember one of the first things was respiratory calling to say, we need to make sure we're stocked up on albuterol inhalers. So now I'm trying to stock up on inhalers. I'm trying to stock up on IV antibiotics and then patients are ending up in the ICU. And so now ICU medications, where I was buying, you know what I would typically buying in about a month for ICU medications, I'm flying through in a matter of a day. For example, everyone knows propofol was the Michael Jackson drug. Propofol is a sedative. It basically keeps patients sedated while they're intubated in the ICU. And so, you know, everybody who remembers this medication knows that it was the medication Michael Jackson was using to help him sleep and which essentially killed him. But for patients who were intubated, they're needing to be extremely sedated. So they're not thrashing about with a tube down their throat. And so the amount of propofol I would buy in a month, I was going through in a day, maybe hours. And trying to keep up with the supply of propofol of other sedatives of pain meds that are used in the ICU because all of these patients need pain meds to be intubated, too because it's not comfortable having a tube down your throat. So I think every hospital is scrambling trying to get drugs. And what ends up happening is every single hospital is now trying to stock up, completely wiping out the drug supply in our wholesalers. And then it's kinda like everyone's trying to figure out how to get more drugs and how do we keep our patients sedated? And are we going to run out of drugs? So for about a month, maybe two months, I'm waking up at 1:00 AM, 4:00 AM to see, Did they get any shipments in on the overnight? Did something get released on the overnight while everybody else was sleeping? Can I snatch something up? Basically what I live, breathed and ate was trying to get drugs into the hospital. Fortunately, I think we were one of the few hospitals that didn't run out of like propofol or any pain meds, but other hospitals were really suffering. It was like the toilet paper. You get what you can and you'd like snatch it all up. And that's basically what was happening on the drug supply end.

Kelley Lynch: 12:08Was it helpful to you all that governor Cuomo came out with his press conference every day to talk about what was going on In New York?

Samira Duja: 12:18Now, I can't speak for all new Yorkers, but for me, and I want to say most of the managers that I work with, yes. People don't know what was happening on the backend of what Cuomo was presenting oftentimes. You know, I remember there was one evening, we had a press conference from our president and this was when he started mentioning about hydroxy chloroquine being, you know, the drug that's the cure all. And the next day I spoke with my infectious disease pharmacist who said, Samira, I don't understand how this medication is going to help. And I said, okay, well then I'll wait and see. And then by noon, my director got eight or nine phone calls from other physicians and people in the hospital asking if pharmacy carries hydroxy chloroquine and then it became okay, we need to stock up. And within a matter of hours, I had to try to figure out how to get thousands of tablets of hydroxy chloroquine into our hospital when this was already on backorder. It was already in shortage because of it hitting the media the night before. And it's not even proven that it works. So it's a lot of gray area that we're working with. And our governor went through the state board of pharmacy to contact all of the pharmacies in the state, letting them know that no one was allowed to dispense hydroxy chloroquine, unless it was for an FDA approved indication, such as lupus and whatnot. So it helped save the pharmacies from going through that burden of either running out of the drug for patients that actually need it. And as well as like, I mean at this point, and we know that it causes more harm than good, but we probably saved a lot of lives doing that as well. So that was for me, his daily press conferences were great. For me coming home, you know, we weren't, we didn't know what the numbers were throughout the state cause we're working all day. So me coming home and then watching it later, I thought it was uplifting. It was nice to know that we have leadership within the state who was actually really guiding us and taking actual like opinions from people who were in the midst of it and making these decisions and thinking ahead, like telling pharmacies not to actually dispense this unless it was a message for patients who actually really need it. And so I thought he was very proactive. I was grateful for that, for that kind of leadership. And I think he did a lot of good. I mean, he was ahead of the game with opening the FEMA hospital with Javitz center. I don't know how other hospitals are using them. And I know with my system, we were transferring out the healthy patients there. So COVID patients would stay in the hospital, but anyone who's healthy and not COVID, you're going over to there so you're not getting it from us. And so it was great. And that's because a lot of these hospitals in Queens were a hundred percent COVID at one point. So we didn't want to keep them here.

Kelley Lynch: 15:16What about the white house press briefings?

Samira Duja: 15:20I think the white house press briefings in all honesty. For me, it was a lot more harm than good in the sense of, you know, again, they didn't have a lot of facts as far as what was working. They were trying to grasp at straws and looking at research from abroad that wasn't even clear or had enough data to begin with, to say, try this medication or try that. How do you tell people to try something if you're not even sure if it's going to work yet? And so it caused a lot more chaos and a lot more, how do I say it? Um, panic then actual like helping people in the end of the day. So, I mean, as of right now, the only thing that's really been beneficial is just, you know, is the steroids and the immunosuppressants and helping and getting them started on things like that early on in order to keep them from getting into the ICU. But, you know, I think in the beginning, people were trying to find a miracle cure all, and we still haven't found that yet. To me, the federal government was being irresponsible and I understand where they were coming from. They were trying to give hope to people that there's an actual cure for this. But they didn't have their facts straight and they, they, we needed to wait and see what was going to happen. And it looked like what happened in China isn't necessarily what's happening in other parts of the world. Everyone's kind of seeing something a little bit different.

Kelley Lynch: 16:48Now, do you still have a lot of COVID patients in the hospital?

Samira Duja: 16:52Fortunately, no. We're probably at our lowest numbers we've ever seen and it's really, really, really contained right now. So it's amazing from that place, because I don't think in the middle of March or April, we were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. And so I think right now we're all just kind of hoping that it stays at bay and that we're not gonna see a surge coming up like in the fall everyone's anticipating. But right now I think it's been a miracle that we've managed to get the numbers under control. I think a huge part of it is everyone's being responsible, staying home, wearing masks and doing their part. So extremely grateful for that. And you know, we see what's happening in other States. So I feel for them because we've been there and hopefully they can get to the other side of this as well.

Kelley Lynch: 17:42She watch all of this unfold in these other States in the South and in California, Texas, what are you thinking?

Samira Duja: 17:50One of my best friends lives in Dallas and I called her yesterday and we had this talk and I basically said to her, I'm like really upset that we went through what we went through, hoping that other States would see what we were going through and hear our stories and take precautions so that this doesn't happen to them. And it makes me really sad that people feel like they're immune or that they're above it, or that they're exempt from things. Saying that, Oh, that's their problem. You know , it's not our problem because this is something that's affecting, not just New York, but affecting the whole world. And so I think it's a time for everyone to kind of, you know, see that inside of that we have a responsibility to actually be a part of the solution, not be a part of the problem. I feel like some of those States are gonna have a tougher time than we did getting things under control. And in New York, it got out of control because we are so congested, but at the same time, people come together very quickly in New York to try to be a part of the solution. And we see that time and time again with every disaster that we've had. And maybe that's part of the reason why we do really well under stress and manage to get to the other side. But yeah, I feel for these other States and I feel for the health care workers in these other States because you know, until the bigger population takes some responsibility and take some control over this, it's not going to get better. Hospital pharmacies tend to be very secluded from the rest of the hospital. And so we're usually located in the basement, down the hall from the morgue. And I think for my entire staff, it started hitting us how severe this was not even from the workflow, but when we started seeing dead body after dead body, after dead body being rolled past the pharmacy to go to the morgue or being rolled past the morgue to go into the cooler trucks. And that's when I think for a lot of my staff, they started breaking down and crying and they started emotionally, like you saw them start to start to break. Um , cause that's when it got real. And I was also coming home to my sister, who's an ICU nurse. So she was living, breathing it when she was at work. And for her, I remember she would be the one calling the shots at home. She would be like, Samira , we need to start like literally quarantining ourselves from our parents. And so I would, we would both come home, we'd go straight to our rooms. There was very little interaction with our parents and they would try because for them it wasn't really real. Like they see it on the news, but they were like, no, you're, I'm sure you're fine. But then with the news happening with hearing distant relatives and family friends who are getting COVID and not doing well, it started getting real for them as well. And we just basically went to work, came home and then we were quarantined in our bedrooms. Um, and then we'd wait for them to go to sleep for us, to like take our laundry and go to the basement and do our laundry and come back just so we don't, you know , affect them in any way because that was our biggest fear was not getting sick ourselves, but are we going to bring this home to them? Beause my father is 72, my mother's in her sixties. And so our biggest fear was, we don't want our jobs ending up, harming our families in the process.

Kelley Lynch: 21:24Did you ever ask yourself, is it worth it?

Samira Duja: 21:27I saw a lot of different personalities, a lot of different mentalities arise inside of COVID. So for me it was almost like I was given a higher purpose. Like this is what I did six years of pharmacy school for. This is what I went to residency for. It was to go above and beyond what I ever thought was possible and doing what I could do in my part in all of this. That's just how my brain works. For my sister, it was This job isn't worth potentially losing my life for. And so a lot of nurses and nurses again are on the front lines and they're at a high risk of contracting this with the patients that they're taking care of. So for her, it was a daily conversation of Samira, I think I want to quit. I don't know if I want to do this anymore. Like they're not giving us the proper PPE. If they can't protect us as its employees and how do we protect our patients and how do we protect our families? Like, is this even worth it? And so she had that conversation over and over and over again. And I think she still does every time she has a COVID patient, like Am I risking myself? And it's not even about taking care of the patient as much as it is having the protection in the process of taking care of the patients because PPEs was on such shortage masks are in shortage. Um, you know, none of the nurses were getting proper PPE. PPE is you wear it, you go into the patient's room, you leave the patient's room, you throw it out and you put on a new one. The next time you go into a patient's room. These nurses are wearing the same masks for a week at a time. They're being asked to reuse their gowns over and over again. And so that's not what for the past 50 years, our training has been from an infection control standpoint. So they really are, no matter how much the CDC says, you know, our guidelines have changed your guidelines can't possibly change overnight after 50 years of the same guidelines, you know, and a lot of nurses contracted it, physicians, nurses in our hospital contracted COVID, some of them didn't make it. A lot of them did. So, you know , that's going to be a conversation moving forward every time there's a surge, is this worth it?

Kelley Lynch: 23:49So all of these things are happening around the country and we don't have borders within the country, right? I mean, so people can come and people frequently come from Florida where it's booming at the moment up to New York. I mean, there's a real connection there. So does that give you pause?

Samira Duja: 24:11This is a time when we get to really be generous and giving and help our neighbors and really go above and beyond. And which we've seen a lot of over the past few months, you know. But then you also have people who are constantly worried about their own privilege or their own rights. And this isn't about privilege or rights. This is about protecting each other so we have the best outcomes at the end of all of this. And I think that's what a lot of people have been missing the mark on. And fortunately it's not the majority, but it's enough to keep this virus going. This is an opportunity for people to kind of take a pause. And I think for everyone who is like worried about, you know, rights and privilege and getting back to normal, there might be a new normal moving forward and that's okay. So embrace it. And let's figure out how to like shine inside of that new normal, and let's figure out a way to thrive inside of that new normal.

Kelley Lynch: 25:17So what does the new normal look like for you in your job?

Samira Duja: 25:24I think for us, what the new normal has become is looking at is how we treat infections in the sense of a lot of hospitals before COVID weren't ready or prepared for airborne infections. Most hospitals have a handful of rooms that were, and I'm talking right now, like operationally, most hospitals only have a handful of negative pressure rooms with people with airborne infection. So for the most part, if you're thinking of infections like tuberculosis is what hospitals were ready for. If they had a TB positive patient and they would have a couple of rooms in the ICU and maybe a couple of rooms on the floor. I think moving forward a lot of hospitals, if they're financially able to, are going to start trying to make most of their rooms negative pressure rooms in case of another pandemic. And I'm thinking like longterm, right? This is going to be a vision that most hospitals are going to try to think of. I think from a day to day new normal, we're constantly going to be monitoring numbers . Like my first thing every morning I look at is how many COVID patients do we have in the hospital? Has it gone up? Has it gone down? Is it at bay? Looking at how many patients we have in the hospital total. And that was always something I looked up a nd now I look at it from a place of. Are our numbers going up because COVID is going up or are our n umbers going up just because surgeries are up.

Samira Duj: 27:03I think for my entire staff and most health care workers, we never had to wear masks everywhere in the hospital. That wasn't part of our normal unless somebody had an infection. Wearing gowns,wasn't a daily normal unless somebody , again, had an infection. But our normal in the hospital is going to be masks and gowns and just PPE all around for a long time to come until we know it's really under control or there's a vaccine. Meetings in the hospital have changed. So for the past three months, we haven't really had any meetings since February and now we're having meetings again. And in our boardroom , everyone is sitting in every other seat. The number of people we're inviting to meetings has gone down. So not every doctor that used to come before are being invited.

Kelley Lynch: 27:56And what about supplies and supply chains and your job in particular?

Samira Duj: 28:00So I feel like supply chain, isn't going to get, it's gotten better in New York. So most of the drugs that were on shortage , I'm now able to get, however, I'm a thousand percent positive that Texas distribution centers and wholesalers that are physically located in Texas and serving the Texas populations in the South and California and everyone else who's getting hit are probably completely stocked out.

Samira Duja: 28:28So what's happening is they're taking stock from the ones that are fully stocked . They're probably taking New Y ork's supply now and sending them to other areas in the country to help them. And so supply chain, until we get it under control, is going to be tough for a while and not necessarily in New York, but whoever's getting hit, it's going to be tough. And then that trickles outward, right? So they get hit, they start buying things out and then it starts trickling outward to all the other States and nationally. So that's g oing t o be a problem. Until we get things under control, it's g oing t o be tough to get these medications or they're not going to be readily available. And the other thing is PPE is going to be PPE is so tough to get right now. You can get masks. You can go on Amazon and get surgical masks, or masks I should say, but they're not medical grade. So it's fine if I wear them going out grocery shopping. But if a nurse is taking care of a COVID patient, that might not be good enough. So this is going to be a longterm.

Kelley Lynch: 29:43You also mentioned that you work in a sort of managerial capacity as well. Do you foresee any changes to that side of the hospital?

Samira Duja: 29:54I have a lot of friends and I have family who go into school and they get their bachelor's in health administration and they get their master's in health administration. And then they start working in hospitals as hospital administrators and they have zero medical knowledge. I never really thought twice about it and then COVID hit and it's these non-healthcare professionals managing the hospitals with their MHAs, which is fine, making decisions for those of us on the front lines. And I'm sitting there going, I mean, WTF, it should be h ealthcare providers who are taking care of patients, making some of these decisions. We have a department called general stores or central supply ay every hospital where they are managing all the supplies that are not drug related for the whole hospital. So s ealing bags, syringes, you know, they're the ones managing getting the PPE in. Because it's not pharmacy it's general store supplying it to the entire hospital. But when the head of that department knows very little about patient care, it's hard for him to make a decision as far as, "Oh, I didn't realize why this department needs masks or I didn't realize that this department actually sees patients to be needing gowns. Because he's now having to question, why do you need gowns? Why am I supplying these? Because it's on shortage. And so that's where I'm like, there needs to be some sort of medical professional in that leadership role where they can sit down with leadership of other departments to at least help them make these decisions because they don't have the medical knowledge to say no to you directly . Historically, the reason why we got administrative personnel to help manage hospitals is because clinicians were not interested. They wanted to be the providers. They wanted to be taking care of patients. That's what they're passionate about. I'm hoping that there's going to be a shift in the upcoming years where more and more clinicians actually start taking on those roles.

Kelley Lynch: 32:00Almost five and a half million Americans have lost their health insurance after being laid off due to the pandemic with all of the stress that this puts on patients and doctors and hospital systems. Do you think it might result in medical professionals being more willing to consider a more centralized healthcare system?

Samira Duja: 32:28I've always been a huge advocate for a nationalized health care system only because I feel like with health insurance companies, there's an agenda there. They're making money off, pretty much you being unhealthy. And so if there's an agenda there, then are they really taking care of you? But we have the highest medical expenditures or healthcare expenditures in the world, but we don't have the outcomes to show for it. And we're seeing that we're seeing that blatantly right now with COVID. I've always been a firm believer that if there was a centralized system or governing system that provided health insurance for all, and we didn't have these disparities between different communities, having healthcare , not having healthcare spending this much or spending that much, that maybe our outcomes would be better. And I've heard a lot of people say, well, that means that you're probably going to get paid less. My response to that is great. I don't mind taking a 20% pay cut if that means every single person that I know has health insurance and is able to get care when they need to get care. I've had people in my own family say, Oh, well then you know, your uncle, who's a physician. Won't be able to make the same amount of money. I was like, well then if money is all he cares about, then he probably shouldn't have become a physician and then they get quiet. So I think people need to take a look at what their own agendas, because for me, I went into healthcare for a reason, for a purpose. And it was to help people and yes, my salary, yes, I love my salary and my salary serves me, but at the end of my life, if I look back and think like, okay, I took that pay cut, but this is the good that came out of it. I'm okay with that. I think more and more people in general are going to be speaking up around a centralized healthcare system. But I think also more and more doctors and nurses and et c e tera, who took care of these patients during those times would be, I'm hoping they speak up and say something and lobby and whatnot. We're already seeing a lot of change happen within this country. It could be because of a stressor of everything that was happening with the passing of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd and et cetera, et cetera. We're already seeing that change starting. At least the ball is starting to roll. And so I think it could be with the healthcare system. Maybe right now, we're still in the midst of COVID that we don't see that ball rolling yet, but maybe in six months or maybe in a year's time, we will see that happen if COVID is still around. And not that I'm wishing it, that it happened, but it might be that momentum that overcomes that inertia for us. Because I think we are seeing certain things starting to shift.

Kelley Lynch: 35:18Are you at all concerned that as you open up more and I've heard that your schools are going to be open, for example, are you at all concerned that it might set you back?

Samira Duja: 35:33I'm terrified. That's constantly in our minds , as people are getting more interactive with each other, like what's going to happen. So far, we're right now, we're in phase three. Long Island is in phase four and things are still looking good. I don't know what's going to happen when schools start. My best friend is a pediatric cardiologist here in Long Island and she's been seeing so many more cases of this immunologic syndrome that happens in kids. And they're seeing it happen with these COVID patients and kids. And she's like, there's 300 times more that they're seeing it throughout the country, as opposed to before. And pediatric patients, even though they weren't symptomatic with COVID, they're having this like immune response now. And I'm fearful for kids with schools opening up and these little kids having this response and then them coming home to their parents or grandparents. So we'll see, I'm hoping the numbers are so low that maybe that won't happen. But time will tell, I think like our new normal is going to be, how do we stay connected and stay protected?

Kelley Lynch: 36:49Do you think this experience has had a big impact on how you think about life and your priorities?

Samira Duja: 36:56What are you passionate about? What do you love? What do you like? What is it that you've been putting off doing for a long time that needs to happen now? Because again, I watched so many people pass who now no longer have that opportunity. And so for me, I had to take, stop and take a look around my own life and think about what have I been putting off? What am I really passionate about? What am I not doing that I've been dreaming about doing? And then start rearranging my life that way. Now is the time. Life is now. Now's the time to really take things on, but you haven't taken on before. So I've managed to kick my mom out of the kitchen for a couple of nights a week. And she's been good about that. She's a great cook, but I think her palate always, you know, used to Bengali cooking or traditional Bangladeshi cooking. And so that's where I have exceeded her because I'll bake Italian dishes and it tastes like you go to the restaurant. And so that's what I've been doing is cooking and posting new recipes on Facebook which has been great, because it takes away from the politics. At the same time, I know therapists right now, their calendars are packed , um, because people are having to deal with their own mental health and in these times. And so that's also something to like, you know, I think a lot of people are embracing things that they haven't before and I want to think that the way everyone's growing inside of this is really amazing.

Kelley Lynch: 38:28Do you have a vision of the kinds of changes you would like to see us make? I think globally, nationally,

Samira Duja: 38:36Where I would like for us to be in five years from now is really a sense of a community like we've never had before. And especially given in the middle of all of this, we are also having protests and black lives matter and that conversation in the States also around the world. But I think the other end of this, what I would love to see is for people to get outside of themselves and realize we're part of one community essentially. And that's every single person on this planet is a part of something bigger than themselves. I think if we can get to that place just as a community, we would be thriving so much more coming out of COVID.

Kelley Lynch: 39:20Thank you so much, Samira.

Samira Duja: 39:21Thank you for having me.

Kelley Lynch: 39:32Hey Cindy, Hey Tanvir how are you guys?

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir: 39:35Surviving.

Cindy Sealls: 39:36Doing great.

Kelley Lynch: 39:38I know that usually I ask you guys what you think, and then we have a discussion, but today I've come prepared with a question. The thing I found most interesting was how these press conferences reached right into the hospital and had these very immediate consequences. And the contrast between the two different kinds of press conferences really got me thinking about where we are in this country at this moment. And I think the thing that we are struggling with as much as the virus is truth. So what do you guys think?

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir: 40:35It's interesting because if I look back in my country, for whatever reason from the beginning, we did not find any clear information shared from the leadership or even the media. So it actually gave way to the speculations. You know, like people were guessing and people were floating ideas. Most of the time that did more harm than help.

Kelley Lynch: 41:12That's where all of these conspiracy theories thrive. That's where, you know, we already have a situation where there's so much mistrust in government from all sides.

Cindy Sealls: 41:26Just reading an article in scientific American before the trust in government was over 70% and then Vietnam happened. It dropped precipitously to make maybe above 50, but then Watergate happened. So then it drops below 50 and it went back up again in the eighties with Reagan, but not much only, still just below 50. And now it's down to 20,

Kelley Lynch: 42:0120%?

Cindy Sealls: 42:0120% of the American people trust the government. So now you say you have this pandemic, you want to tell people what to do in the pandemic. If they don't trust you, why are they going to do what you say?

Kelley Lynch: 42:23Well, and isn't it that we've also had kind of a systemic, I think, particularly coming from the conservative side, there's been kind of this systemic attack.

Cindy Sealls: 42:34Absolutely on. Then they bring that up in the article and his first inaugural speech, Ronald Reagan said in this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem. His other famous quote about that is the nine most terrifying words in the English language are I'm from the government and I'm here to help.

Speaker 1: 43:08They've spent the last 40 years hammering that message home. So what do you think about that?

Cindy Sealls: 43:17I think that the chickens come home to roost. I mean, how can you say don't trust me, you don't trust me. Don't trust me. Don't trust me. Okay. Wait a minute on this one, though, you have to trust me.

Kelley Lynch: 43:29That's the boy who cried Wolf.

Cndy Sealls: 43:31The boy who cried Wolf. Say you're in graduate school, you're taking a class and the professor gets up and says, listen, this school is a piece of crap. They don't know what they're doing. Don't trust them . Okay. So now pull out your books. We're going to go over this stuff. And the students are going. You just told us that you don't know what you're talking about. So why should we believe what you're now going to tell us or try to teach us? Or when your behavior encourages distrust like the police, then it's hard to get that trust back. It's hard to make people trust you again. The other thing in that article was about social distrust, not just government, 70% of Americans don't believe that other Americans have their best interests at heart. I think, and I haven't done any research, but think it might be because we have demonized the other side. So anybody who doesn't agree with us is bad.

Kelley Lynch: 44:42Whichever side you're on.

Cndy Sealls: 44:43whichever side, you're on.

Kelley Lynch: 44:46One of the other places where there's a lot of questions is around the data and in this country, or shall we say in the Western world, we have all sorts of data being systematically collected and still we can't agree, but we do have a lot of data. And then when you think about developing countries like Bangladesh, data is really hard to come by on a lot of things. I mean, for education, for health, there's just a real lack of data. I was reading the Great Influenza book again. He was saying that they believe that probably 10% of the population of developing countries died during the 1918 flu.

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir: 45:48I'm going to ask you a question. Do both of you know that 3 million people died in a man-made famine in 1943 in Bengal?

Cndy Sealls: 46:02Did not know that.

Kelley Lynch: 46:04I have known that doesn't mean that I remembered it.

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir: 46:10Yeah, that's my point is information depends on who is sharing it, who is collecting it, who is writing it. So when you say that 10% of the population of the developing countries died in 1918 Spanish flu that we are talking about the colonial period then. So if the number would depend on the colonial rulers. If that went against them, you are looking at a reduced number or no number at all. Because in colonial rule, the colonies were moneymaking machine. People did not matter. You could get rid of an entire population or an entire area of people just because they were inconvenient for extracting your resources. So, so when you talk about numbers in 1918, I don't have any faith in those numbers.

Kelley Lynch: 47:28That's a great point.

Cndy Sealls: 47:28That is , that is interesting. Isn't it? That they wouldn't report it. It's kind of like Woodrow Wilson, you know, but they did not say anything about all those people who were dying because they didn't want people to panic.

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir: 47:48Not panic, actually, it's people to react.

Cndy Sealls: 47:54Yeah. React to what's going on.

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir: 47:57Look at the Vietnam war. You know what happened when the number skinny people started reacting. So, this whole idea of control the numbers of control, the information source, even back then in 1918, that was even more in play because now we have a more open air kind of situation where there are so many channels of information sharing that even if the government tried, or even if a uthorities t ried, they could not stop all the channels. But back in 1918, there w ere only a few channels and they w ere under a uthorities control. So whatever number we have from those days, those are just numbers.

Kelley Lynch: 48:48Today we have more numbers than we know what to do with, but still, it seems like nobody can agree on what's true and what's not true. Facts .

Cndy Sealls: 48:59There are facts and there are alternate facts, right?

Kelley Lynch: 49:03And honestly, people don't even know which is which.

Cndy Sealls: 49:06Yeah, because, well, wait a minute. Which is which, because supposedly facts are the facts. You know, the, what is the definition of a fact? Let's see a fact, a thing that is known or proved to be true.

Kelley Lynch: 49:28That is why I got out of philosophy. It was just too much shifting sand underneath my feet.

Cndy Sealls: 49:35That's what we have Kelly. There's too much shifting sand in the world today where we don't, none of us really knows what is true. And we can't even find definitive corroborating evidence. Think about it. Because now you can go online and find whatever quote, unquote fact you want to find.

Kelley Lynch: 50:06So I've thought about maybe I thought that maybe the best thing is to just go to news sources that I feel like I can trust.

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir: 50:15Well, don't get your hopes high. Yeah, because these are owned by corporates who actually have their own agenda. The way they edit news, they don't lie, but you and I both know what we perceive as fact can be manipulated in such a way, just by editing that it could give completely a different meaning than what it looks like. It's like the famous example, a glass half-full half-empty. It's the same thing nobody's lying. But by saying that the glass is half-empty, it's a negative connotation. And by saying, laugh is a glass is half-full. It's a positive connotation. So both the parties are giving the exact fact, but the way it's presented that changes the whole idea.

Kelley Lynch: 51:18The fact that there are no facts or the fact that there are facts and we can't agree on them actually has a really big impact on what we understand to be true and what we can all agree to do as a result of that.

Cndy Sealls: 51:34Right. That's right. So I think that's why people really liked listening to Cuomo. Because it seemed that he was being willing to be open and honest about what was going on, what people needed to do, what people needed to know. He didn't seem not to sugar coat anything. Um, and I think that that helped people in New York and that area feel confident that state administration was doing all that they could to try to help them.

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir: 52:17You feel confident of, you know, in the government or authorities decisions. Like when they say stay home, if you know how many people are actually dying or being affected because of your actions, you become more responsible. You act more, much more responsibly when you have authentic information.

Kelley Lynch: 52:42That's a really great point.

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir: 52:45You have to prioritize human life over any kind of venture, any kind of profit, any kind of politics, unless you do that 138,000 people. It's just a number.

Kelley Lynch: 53:06I'm feeling a bit bad because I was going to have this thing up on Wednesday. Like I normally do and then I fell down a rabbit hole. I just couldn't figure out what the truth was. And then I got that email today that was another untruth. And then my computer gets hacked. So, that didn't help. All I know was I spent a lot of time dealing with somebody else's untruth. And some people listening to us are probably thinking they already went down some sort of a rabbit hole because maybe their truth doesn't fit with our truth.

Cndy Sealls: 53:47Maybe. We're sorry that we took you down into the rabbit hole. Uh, and we hope you can get out, but we gotta go. Bye!,

Kelley Lynch: 53:57Yeah. Hey, don't forget. Subscribe, review, follow us on Instagram. Although we don't even know if we're going to get a picture this week, so take care.

Cndy Sealls: 54:11and we'll throw you a rope so you can get out of the rabbit hole and come and crawl back into another one with us the next time.

Kelley Lynch & Cindy Sealls: 54:18Bye. Bye.