March 24, 2020

Moral Dilemmas in Pandemics: GOING TO WORK

Very quickly, a stigma is developing around moving around in society right now; human nature default is “either-or” and “black-white” and “this OR that”.  Rarely do people take the time to absorb the real complexity of decision-making we all must do every time we wake up!  I am hearing and seeing many veterinary professional feeling shame about the “essential vs. non-essential” work they are doing (or not doing).  Shaming is a national pastime it seems.

That said, the feeling of shame is a useful human condition; those lacking it are on the spectrum of the sociopath/psychopath.  How we use it, both within ourselves (our response to it) and toward others (as a weapon or a learning tool) distinguishes a broad concept.  If you feel shame, good for you!  Progress!  Take that message, analyze what happened to generate that feeling.  If you “did something” that created it, look around for data to see where you are on the right-wrong spectrum.  If you were closer to the ”wrong” end of things, take that failure as a lesson.  From lessons, we learn and get better.  That is all that can be asked of us.

I’m going down a little bit of a bunny-trail, but I believe learning, as we go, about ourselves and our responses to craziness around us right now will keep our blood pressure normalized, our sleep cycle less interrupted and ourselves and family/friends healthiest.

In a time of pandemic when fears and unknowns are the norm, now is not the time for malingerers.  Our world needs courage and strength and compassion and honesty.  Faking being sick is not a valid technique to cover your fear.  If you are too fearful to interact in society (i.e. go to work), you must tell your employer that and that alone.  Honesty and personal responsibility will allow us all to make appropriate and responsible decisions.

As always, there are techniques for reducing your personal exposure to viral contagion and thus your fear.

  • Stand 10ft away from people when talking; set things down and step away to “hand” someone an item.
  • Wash your hands (or apply liberal alcohol gel) after every encounter where you touched something from another person; and every hour when interacting in the outside world touching things.
  • Consider the option of wearing a homemade facemask from materials outside the supply chain for human health care personnel. (See add’l blog: Moral Dilemmas—Face masks)

All of those apply to BEING the source of contagion too.  Additionally, I am offering a mini-health check up (below) that you can do twice daily if you need to interact in human society right now.  None of this is rocket-science, and I have cited two sources that are as close to original epidemiological/clinical data as possible (many things are still anecdotal and being collated; and there are innumerable health and governmental website posting vague things!)  I am NOT a human health professional; I am NOT promising you anything with this exercise.  But, I’m a damn good veterinary surgeon if that helps you with anything! 😊

Take it easy, folks.  Keep pivoting to ways to assert control over your lives.  Data helps.  Quality decision-making processes help.  Failing, giving yourself a break, doing better next time helps.


Lara Marie Rasmussen, DVM, MS

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Surgeons

Direct Veterinary Surgery, LLC

651 829-1111


Self-initiated health checklist:  COVID19 virus pandemic (prepared by:  Lara Rasmussen, DVM, MS, DACVS 23 March 2020)

For those needing to move in society to work in essential occupations or buy essential supplies, the following mini-health check up in the morning and evening may optimize your decision-making about the odds of contributing to contagion.

Baseline data:  Take your temperature three times after resting for 15 minutes without drinking or eating or chewing gum or showering or exercising.  Average those three values, and this will be your baseline body temperature.  Jot it down near where you will store your thermometer for use.

At roughly the same time every day, AM and PM, do the following two-minute evaluation:

  • Take your temperature: If your temperature is more than 1 degree F above your personal baseline body temperature (or 98.6F, the typical standard that is often slightly higher than most people’s baseline), you may have a low grade fever.
  • Consciously evaluate your cough status over the past few hours. Have you been coughing a dry cough? Is your chest tight?
  • Consciously evaluate your general body feeling (relative to typical status). Do your muscles ache when bending and stretching to dress/undress?  Are your joints stiff and painful when putting on/taking off shoes and coat?
  • Consciously evaluate how your head feels. Do you have any degree of headache?  Does bright light make your head hurt?
  • Make note of whether you have diarrhea or loose stool. Has your stool character changed over the past 24hrs unrelated to potentially offending food/drink?
  • Consciously evaluate whether you are nauseated. Are you uninterested in or turned off by food?  Do you feel like or have you been throwing up? 
  • Consciously evaluate how your throat feels when swallowing spontaneously, drinking and eating. Is your throat uncomfortable during any swallowing?  Does your throat burn when mouth breathing?
  • Consciously evaluate your sense of smell and taste. Can you smell?  Do you have an odd scent overpowering your senses?  Can you taste?  Do you have an odd taste overwhelming your taste of common food/drink?

Finally, ask yourself whether you have any of the above eight symptoms.  If you do, consider during this time of COVID-19 pandemic with the need to dramatically reduce contagion, that you elect to isolate yourself from any human contact for 14 days.  Additionally, advise those you live with to do the same and to do the mini-health check up on themselves for the next 14 days.  Also discuss your personal findings with your employer/employees (if you had direct/face-to-face contact with them over the previous five days) so they can make informed decisions about reducing human contact.

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