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Is social distancing unraveling the bonds that keep society together?

The relationships that people form with others outside of their homes can translate into crucial help in a disaster. But what happens if they can’t build those ties because of social distancing?

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Having trusting relationships with people ahead of crises is key. Dobrila Vignjevic/Getty Images

With birthday celebrations being downsized, religious services moving back online and indoor playdates getting canceled, millions of Americans are having fewer social interactions because of persistently high case numbers and high rates of transmission.

It’s not just interactions with friends and families that are getting cut. Routine yet beneficial interactions with people at fitness and child care centers and volunteer organizations are also being eliminated.

Social distancing is vital to combating COVID-19. But is it unraveling the social bonds that keep society together?

Social capital adds up

As a sociologist of religion and education, I study how Americans develop social ties, and how these social ties influence people’s lives. Scholars refer to relationships that exist between and among people as “social capital.” When people interact, even briefly, they start to trust one another and feel comfortable asking each other for help. But for that trust to develop, people need to physically interact with one another.

Social capital is highly valuable during times of crisis. During Hurricane Ida, for example, people waded through rising water to save neighbors. A similar thing happened during Chicago’s 1995 heat wave when hundreds of people who lived alone without air conditioning were rescued by neighbors and acquaintances.

Having trusting relationships with people ahead of crises is key – and building those relationships requires people to spend time together.

While isolating at home in spring 2020, I started to wonder: Does the need to social distance affect how social capital gets activated during a pandemic?

From August to October 2020, I interviewed 36 middle- and low-income Jewish parents in the greater Philadelphia area who had school-aged children. There was a range among parents in how involved they were in Jewish communities and organizations. Some were regular synagogue-goers. Others rarely went to services but actively volunteered for Jewish organizations. And some rarely participated in any religious or social dimensions of Jewish life.

How does a study of Jews help us understand the flow of social capital during a pandemic?

Both Jews and non-Jews can develop social capital by participating in religious organizations. It’s not religious rituals that cultivate social capital – it’s all those social interactions that occur outside of religious rituals.

Joyce and Dave Thomas offer free jambalaya, cooked up by one of their neighbors in New Orleans after Hurricane Ida hit and left much of the city without power.
Many restaurants and individuals were trying to help the New Orleans community with free food after Hurricane Ida hit and much of the city was without power. AP Photo/Kevin McGill

Relationships pay off

When COVID-19 hit, millions of Americans needed to avoid social contact and couldn’t participate in religious services.

That also meant they couldn’t participate in the social dimensions of religious life – they couldn’t help people mourn their dead, volunteer in soup kitchens or gather with people for meals during holidays and the Sabbath.

For Jews, limiting social interaction was especially difficult because many rituals require a minyan – a quorum – of 10 people.

My interviews revealed two key phenomena. First, social capital gets activated differently during a pandemic than it does during weather-related disasters.

During hurricanes and heat waves, social capital manifests itself in people physically helping their acquaintances get out of dangerous situations.

But during a pandemic, the physical help itself is what’s dangerous. Working parents couldn’t turn to their neighbors or friends for child care help without putting their acquaintances, as well as their own children, at risk of contracting COVID-19.

Since physical interaction was off limits, the role of social capital transformed. Jewish parents were able to use their social connections in Jewish organizations to get supermarket gift cards, groceries and even lump sums of cash to offset lost income. For these economically fragile families, the immediate resources helped them feel secure and cared for in a time of profound uncertainty.

Parents were more likely to get these resources if they had been actively engaged in the social life of the Jewish community before COVID-19. Parents who weren’t embedded in Jewish communities didn’t even know that they could ask for help.

At the same time, rabbis who had received funds through larger Jewish organizations to help their congregants and community members knew whom to distribute funds to only if they had relationships with them ahead of the pandemic – relationships that were developed through social interactions outside of formal religious rituals like prayer.

An African American woman looking stressed and wearing a face mask by a window.
What happens to social bonds when social distancing limits our ability to physically help each other? blackCAT/iStock / Getty Images Plus

Reciprocity required

The second major finding is that extended periods of social distancing threaten the flow of social capital.

Parents who received material resources from Jewish organizations or rabbis were often those who contributed in some capacity to the system prior to COVID-19. Some served as greeters or as security guards during synagogue events; others organized meal trains; and some volunteered for their local chevra kadisha, or Jewish burial society.

The key point is that social capital requires reciprocity – people need to give in order to receive. Physical and reciprocal acts of generosity are crucial for maintaining the social bonds of society.

But what happens to our social bonds when social distancing limits our ability to physically help each other? While individuals can still contribute money, there is little opportunity for people to give their time and join in physical communal efforts.

If human interactions are hindered for long periods of time, social capital could break down. This could profoundly unravel the social ties that bind Americans together and motivate them to transcend their self-interests to help others. Americans may survive the pandemic, but will they have anyone left to turn to the next time they need support?

[Over 110,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletter to understand the world. Sign up today.]

Ilana Horwitz does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Government

Fauci Funded ‘Cruel’ Puppy Experiments Where Sand Flies ‘Eat Them Alive’; Vocal Cords Severed

Fauci Funded ‘Cruel’ Puppy Experiments Where Sand Flies ‘Eat Them Alive’; Vocal Cords Severed

While recent attention has been focused on Dr. Anthony Fauci’s National Institutes of Health funding the genetic manipulation of bat coronaviruses..

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Fauci Funded 'Cruel' Puppy Experiments Where Sand Flies 'Eat Them Alive'; Vocal Cords Severed

While recent attention has been focused on Dr. Anthony Fauci's National Institutes of Health funding the genetic manipulation of bat coronaviruses in the same town as the bat coronavirus pandemic emerged, a bipartisan group of lawmakers have demanded answers over 'sick' experiments on drugged puppies, according to The Hill.

"Our investigators show that Fauci’s NIH division shipped part of a $375,800 grant to a lab in Tunisia to drug beagles and lock their heads in mesh cages filled with hungry sand flies so that the insects could eat them alive," writes nonprofit organization the White Coat Waste Project. "They also locked beagles alone in cages in the desert overnight for nine consecutive nights to use them as bait to attract infectious sand flies."

As The Hill's Christian Spencer writes:

The White Coat Waste Project, the nonprofit organization that first pointed out that U.S. taxpayers were being used to fund the controversial Wuhan Institute of Virology, have now turned its sights on Anthony Fauci on another animal-testing-related matter — infecting dozens of beagles with disease-causing parasites to test an experimental drug on them.

House members, most of whom are Republicans, want Fauci to explain himself in response to allegations brought on by the White Coat Waste Project that involve drugging puppies.

According to the White Coat Waste Project, the Food and Drug Administration does not require drugs to be tested on dogs, so the group is asking why the need for such testing. 

White Coat Waste claims that 44 beagle puppies were used in a Tunisia, North Africa, laboratory, and some of the dogs had their vocal cords removed, allegedly so scientists could work without incessant barking. -The Hill

The concerned lawmakers are led by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), who said in a letter to the NIH that cordectomies are "cruel" and a "reprehensible misuse of taxpayer funds." Mace is joined by reps Cindy Axne (D-Iowa), Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Scott Franklin (R-Fla.), Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.), Carlos Gimenez (R-Fla.), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Fred Keller (R-Pa.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Lisa McClain (R-Mich.), Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), Brian Mast (R-Fla.), Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Bill Posey (R-Fla.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), Maria E. Salazar (R-Fla.), Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) via The Hill.

How will Fauci spin this?

Tyler Durden Sat, 10/23/2021 - 15:00

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Biden Suffers Worst Approval Ratings Plunge Of Any President Since World War II 

Biden Suffers Worst Approval Ratings Plunge Of Any President Since World War II 

President Biden’s job approval rating has fallen the most since the start of his term than any other president since World War II. 

A new Gallup poll was…

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Biden Suffers Worst Approval Ratings Plunge Of Any President Since World War II 

President Biden's job approval rating has fallen the most since the start of his term than any other president since World War II. 

A new Gallup poll was released Friday, polling Americans between Oct. 1-19 shows Biden's approval rating plunged from 56% in Q1 to 44.7% in Q3, a whopping 11.3 percentage points that any president hasn't seen in over 75 years. 

"Biden began his term with relatively solid approval ratings, ranging between 54% and 57% from January through June. His approval dropped to 50% in July and 49% in August as coronavirus infections surged in the U.S. The chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in late August, which included the deaths of more than a dozen U.S. military personnel in a terrorist attack at the Kabul airport, was likely the reason Biden's September job approval rating fell further to 43%," Gallup said. 

We noted in June that Gallup data showed Biden's "honeymoon period" was over and said if the president cannot "tame inflation" could result in further rating declines. And, oh boy, were we right...

Biden also faces an increasing disillusionment among Americans that he can't fix the border crisis, snarled supply chains, high gas prices, soaring inflation, consumer goods shortages, and the coronavirus pandemic, among a whole list of other things. 

His ratings suggest no improvement in Democrat support, declining support among Independents, and only 4% of Republicans polled approve of the job he's done - that figure is likely to go to zero if things don't turn around for the president. 

The 88% partisan gap in job approval is extraordinarily high considering Biden campaigned on "unity." During his inauguration, he said: 

"We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature. For without unity there is no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward."

While Democrats are desperately trying to salvage their $3.5 trillion Build Back Better infrastructure plan, Americans are increasingly becoming confused about what exactly that means and how that will affect them. Repbulicans have requested the president to fix broken supply chain before more social spending. 

Souring support suggests Democrats could be on track to lose big in next year's midterms. 

Tyler Durden Sat, 10/23/2021 - 14:00

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COVID-19 pandemic shifted patient attitudes about colorectal cancer screening

Key takeaways Credit: American College of Surgeons Key takeaways A survey of adults eligible for colorectal cancer screening patterns found a preference for at-home fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) versus colonoscopy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Survey.

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Key takeaways

Credit: American College of Surgeons

Key takeaways

  • A survey of adults eligible for colorectal cancer screening patterns found a preference for at-home fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) versus colonoscopy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Survey respondents reported less use of colonoscopy during the pandemic compared to pre-pandemic levels, with factors related to both COVID-19 infection concerns and the financial strain of having copays.
  • FOBT shows potential as an alternative to screening colonoscopy to improve access to colorectal cancer screening in the context of COVID-19 safety and economic concerns.

CHICAGO: The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on patients’ willingness to keep appointments for non-COVID-19 illnesses has been well documented, but a team of researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University report that for people hesitant to come into the hospital or an outpatient center to get a colonoscopy, home-administered fecal occult blood tests (FOBT) may provide a useful workaround tool. About 30 percent more survey respondents completed home-based test during the pandemic than before.

Kristine Kenning, MD, MS, presented findings from a survey of adults age-eligible for screening at the virtual American College of Surgeons (ACS) Clinical Congress 2021. “The key message from our findings is that barriers to screening have increased during the pandemic, and we have to find a way to work with the community to increase those rates,” said Dr. Kenning, chief general surgery resident at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Medicine, Richmond. “Our study found that people are compliant with, and willing to do, home-based fecal occult blood testing. This test provides a very important way for us to increase screening for colorectal cancer.”

The American College of Gastroenterology clinical guidelines recommend colonoscopy for colorectal cancer evaluation and following a positive FOBT with a colonoscopy.1 About 148,000 cases of colorectal cancers are newly diagnosed in the United States each year, the American Cancer Society reports, and they account for 53,000 deaths.2

About the survey

The cross-sectional survey involved 765 people age 50 years and older. Dr. Kenning and colleagues found that their respondents reported a higher completion of stool tests pre-COVID than the American Cancer Society reported,2 32 percent vs. 11 percent. During the pandemic, 50 percent of respondents said they completed the FOBT. By contrast, 44 percent of survey respondents who said they had colon screening during the pandemic underwent a colonoscopy. This practice appears to demonstrate substitution of stool-based testing for colonoscopy, Dr. Kenning noted. 

“Our study looked at attitudes toward colorectal cancer screening and how they were impacted during the pandemic, both related to concerns about the pandemic as well as to economic impacts,” senior author Emily B. Rivet, MD, MBA, FACS, said. “What we learned is that fecal occult blood testing was seen by patients as a viable alternative to conventional screening colonoscopy.” Dr. Rivet is an associate professor in the department of surgery, division of colorectal surgery, and an affiliated professor of internal medicine at VCU School of Medicine.

Patient concerns about copays

Notably, a greater percentage of respondents indicated being unemployed during the pandemic than the year prior: 7.4 vs. 2.6 percent. In addition, 41 percent of respondents expressed concerns about copays; 57.6 percent of those respondents said this was a factor for delaying screening. Dr. Kenning noted that she is working with Carrie Miller, PhD, MPH, the principal investigator of the larger survey, on a follow-up assessment of the pandemic-related impact on attitudes toward colorectal cancer screening. Dr. Miller is post-doctoral fellow with VCU’s department of health behavior and policy.

Other screening delays

Copays were not the only deterrent to getting scheduled colorectal screenings during the pandemic, the study found. Almost two-thirds of respondents—65.9 percent—confirmed concerns about COVID-19 exposure when scheduling colonoscopies; and 59 percent of them said this caused them to delay their screening. 

To address those concerns, respondents endorsed that being offered protective equipment (gloves and masks), visits to smaller offices, or weekend screening appointments would increase their likelihood of following through with the colonoscopy; respectively, 30.7 percent for each of the two former factors and 19.7 percent for weekend screening. However, 48.1 percent of respondents said they were willing to do an at-home FOBT as an alternative to colonoscopy, among whom 93 percent indicated they would be willing to undergo a follow-up colonoscopy if the FOBT was positive. 

Lessons learned from the pandemic

“Even pre-pandemic, the rates for colorectal screening in the United States were very far from 100 percent, so I think the lessons that we are learning from this pandemic and working with patients to find alternatives to what the conventional approaches have been in the past are going to be applicable to care moving forward. This approach applies even if we do eventually enter a post-pandemic state, which is, of course, what we are all hoping for,” Dr. Rivet said.

Dr. Kenning said the survey results show that there is still much work to do to improve colorectal screening. “Colorectal cancer screening has decreased significantly during the pandemic and still hasn’t improved to the rate that it was before,” Dr. Kenning said. “Making sure that we’re offering all of the options to patients is very important so that, whatever form of screening they’re comfortable with, they’ll start down that pathway in order to get the screening they need.”

The survey results also underscore the need to tailor colorectal cancer screening to each patient’s concerns and needs, Dr. Rivet said. “It’s important to have a conversation about all of these different alternatives and what the different positives and negatives are,” she said.

Study coauthors are Dr. Miller and Bernard F. Fuemmeler, PhD, MPH, also with the department of health behavior and policy at VCU; and Jaime L. Bohl, MD, FACS, with the department of surgery at VCU.

“FACS” designates that a surgeon is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

The study authors have no relevant financial relationships to disclose. The survey was funded as part of a larger survey led by Dr. Miller on colorectal cancer and funded, in part, through support of an institutional training grant awarded by the National Cancer Institute (T32CA093423).

Citation: Kenning K. et al, COVID-19 Pandemic Impact on Colorectal Cancer Screening. Scientific Forum Presentation. American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress 2021.

______________ 

  1. Shaukat A, Kahi C, Burke CA, Rabeneck L, Sauer BG, Rex DK. ACG Clinical Guidelines: Colorectal Cancer Screening 2021. Amerc J Gastroenterol. 2021;116(3):458-479. doi: 10.14309/ajg.0000000000001122
  2. American Cancer Society. Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2020-2022. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2020:22. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/colorectal-cancer-facts-and-figures/colorectal-cancer-facts-and-figures-2020-2022.pdf 

# # #

About the American College of Surgeons
The American College of Surgeons is a scientific and educational organization of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical practice and improve the quality of care for all surgical patients. The College is dedicated to the ethical and competent practice of surgery. Its achievements have significantly influenced the course of scientific surgery in America and have established it as an important advocate for all surgical patients. The College has more than 84,000 members and is the largest organization of surgeons in the world. For more information, visit www.facs.org.


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