Ask Dr. Halverson: Lessons learned from the pandemic

web 4 17 Halverson photo
By Dr. Jim Halverson
I called the editor of the Ojai Valley News in late March of 2020 after speaking with several of my physician colleagues in Ojai.
We wanted to communicate the facts about the COVID-19 pandemic to our Ojai Valley residents. I asked if the Ojai Valley News would publish an article that I would write for the upcoming week’s newspaper, and she agreed. 
Sixty weeks and 60 articles later, I feel confident that those of you who have taken the time to read these articles are very well prepared to continue to discern what is the truth about COVID-19. Weekly updates are no longer necessary. You know who to trust for the truth and where to find regular updates on the status of the ongoing efforts to bring some sense of normality back to our lives. 
It has been a very difficult 14 months. The tremendous number of lives lost are tragic not just for those who died but for their loved ones. The lingering effects of COVID-19 symptoms for many are challenging. The economic, educational and social changes that have occurred have been severe.
We are now on the verge of ending this epidemic in our area and in the United States. Here are some of the lessons that I have learned or that have been reinforced from dealing with COVID-19 on a daily basis. I will apply this knowledge and wisdom not just to COVID-19 in the months to come but to many of life’s challenges that arise in the future. 
TRUST THE SCIENCE. I always have. I always will. I have so much respect and gratitude for the thousands of scientists, health care workers and volunteers for clinical trials who have helped to produce effective treatments and vaccines for SARS-COV-2.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA ONLY FOR ENTERTAINMENT. Seeing how friends and family are doing via social media is entertaining for me. I ignore people’s “opinions” on COVID-19 issues and have also learned to ignore their political opinions and criticisms of others. 
I CAN ONLY CHANGE MYSELF. I have complete confidence in what I say about COVID-19 because of the time I take to research and study the scientific data. I have changed many actions in my life to protect myself, my family, and the people I come in contact with from catching SARS-COV-2. Most of you have also. Some have not and will not change. That is their choice. 
ADMIT WHEN YOU ARE WRONG AND DO WHAT IS RIGHT. I believed masks would not be helpful when this pandemic started. So did most of our health care leaders. Research proved us wrong. Knowledge was acquired and actions were changed. That is the definition of wisdom.
THANK EVERYONE FOR THEIR EFFORTS LARGE AND SMALL. All of us have been affected in many ways by this pandemic and we have all made changes to protect ourselves and others. THANK YOU.
DON’T ALLOW COVID-19 FATIGUE TO STOP YOU FROM STAYING UP TO DATE ON THE EVER-CHANGING COURSE OF THIS PANDEMIC.  On June 15, California will adopt the new mask guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control on May 13. These guidelines will continue to be updated as the case numbers change in our area. Social-distancing guidelines will change. Travel guidelines will change. Areas of our country will experience surges. New variants will emerge. A booster vaccine for COVID-19 may be recommended. Stay informed. This pandemic will continue in many areas of the world for a long time.
STAY OPTIMISTIC. When this pandemic started in March of last year, I expected that it would last for a couple of months. The virus has proved itself to be a very formidable foe. There were times when I could have believed that the pandemic would last for many years. I never did. I had faith that we would persevere and develop effective treatments and vaccines. It kept me motivated to encourage my family, my friends, my office staff and our community to have faith. It kept me motivated to write this column every week. If the need arises in the future, I will write more.
Thank you to the Ojai Valley News for publishing these articles weekly. Thank you for reading them and letting me know your thoughts and concerns. I will end this column as I ended the first one on April 4, 2020: When this is over, may we never again take for granted a handshake with a stranger, full shelves at the store, conversations with neighbors, a crowded theater, Friday nights out, getting the kids ready for school, coffee with a friend, a roaring stadium, a deep breath or life itself.
Stay properly informed. Follow your local, state and federal COVID-19 regulations. Stay hopeful. Stay safe. Be well.


— Dr. Jim Halverson is a longtime Ojai physician who has written weekly about COVID-19 since the early days of the pandemic. All of his articles have been compiled by Ojai resident Phil Caruthers in one document, with each headline listed. The articles are also available on the Ojai Valley News website under the drop-down “Columns” menu.