Coronavirus Chronicles — The Big Picture Is a Kaleidoscope

The kaleidoscope is a traditional toy made from a tube with a rotating lens, mirrors, colored-glass fragments, and light. Its main characteristic is that it is ever-changing, so the same random design will never be seen twice. With the coronavirus still running our lives, American society is like that, with prospects that shift minute by minute.

In the past couple of weeks, events have piled up relentlessly. In many states, devices (like ventilators) and personal protective equipment (like masks) are once again at the top of the want list. Measures like early prisoner release are hotly contested. Morgues overflow with corpses, and refrigerated-truck rental companies do not have to worry about going out of business.

The notion that we will be saved by “herd immunity” becomes more fanciful. And this isn’t even a “second wave.” Experts in the pandemic-fighting community make a strong argument that the USA never exited its first wave, and the worst is yet to come. There seems to be a great deal of uncertainty about the possibility of any vaccine, because individual immunity is highly suspect, and even if it does exist, it probably wears off after a year or less.

It’s a mess

American cities are experiencing new cases in the multiple hundreds of percentage points. Texas, crushed by a “tsunami” of cases, is floundering. In Corpus Christi, patients were reported being sent home after waiting for hours in the emergency room. As South Carolina beat its previous record for new cases, the first child died. In Mississippi, 26 state legislators tested positive.

In Florida, a commissioner voted against mandating face coverings in his county, then was reported to be hospitalized in critical condition with COVID-19. Also in Florida, and amid great controversy, Disney World is reopening. Many intense arguments take place over the concept of “Give me liberty or give me death,” and some appear to have chosen death.

From Canada comes the myth-busting pronouncement: “It’s symptoms that are rare, not the disease.” Children can not only get it, they can quite readily transmit it. The province of Victoria ditched any thoughts it might have had about resuming school normally, and will revert to remote learning for its 700,000 students.

Never say goodbye

Even though this disease has only been around for less than a year, the medical profession is beginning to suspect it might never end. People who have ostensibly “recovered” are damaged, and may never be the same. The mental aftermath has been compared to a severe concussion. Adults who supposedly are over it, report after-effects like memory loss, depression, impaired communication skills, sleep disturbances, delusions, and hallucinations. Survivors trying to deal with this unsatisfactory convalescent course have joined together in Facebook groups for mutual support.

On the physical side, the illness is worse for people who went into it with diabetes, and now the evidence is piling up that it can cause diabetes. Nobody knows why, but an autoimmune reaction affecting the pancreas — the organ that produces insulin — is suspected. At least 120 hospitals have joined a global team determined to halt that trend in its tracks.

The long-drawn-out timeline affects kids, too. It might be low-level dysfunction, or it might be a catastrophic onset of the condition known as MIS-C (or PMIS, or MSIS).

Massive changes in how we live

Institutions are trying to cope, figuring out how to subdivide space and time to assure that the smallest possible number of essential workers are on hand at any time. Responding to the news that airflow seems to be of primary importance in preventing the spread of COVID-29, Houston’s Rice University is creating spacious outdoor classrooms beneath tents.

Cities experiment with how to host town meetings outdoors. An Ohio pastor held a service by using tree-trimming machinery to elevate himself above an outdoor congregation. Bands have given outdoor concerts to fans in cars. Probably the most in-demand type of real estate right now is the defunct, abandoned drive-in theater.

In the press, we see an article about the COVID-19 death rate falling — but when there are five different theories about the reason for the drop, a reader immediately grasps that little solid information is forthcoming.

The American sense of urgency right now is focused on two factors: the sudden and immense rise in the number of cases, and what will happen about school. Health officials are saying “No” and politicians are saying “Yes.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Conuscope IV,”, 08/27/18
Source: “Child-to-child transmission of COVID-19 ‘more apparent’ in Victoria,”, 07/12/20
Source: “Could Covid-19 Trigger Diabetes in Otherwise Healthy People?,”, 07/07/20
Image by Selena Wells/CC BY-ND 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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