By Dr. Anthony Policastro

The year 2020 will soon be over. Many of us will say thank goodness. We often look back on what the last year has brought. We look forward to what the new year will bring.

Regardless of what happens when we look back on the last year, the thoughts will be dominated by COVID-19. There were lockdowns. There were masks. There was hand washing. Social distancing became a term that we learned for the first time.

These are all things we can look back on. We can be glad that they are for a very large part behind us. However, there will also be more than 300,000 individuals that will not get to look back on that year. They succumbed to the viral pandemic.

Many people were touched personally like the families of those who died. Some individuals did not have anyone they knew personally die. They have less personal pain for that reason.

What is unfortunate is the number of individuals who still believe that COVID-19 infection is not that bad.

After nine months of daily news about the seriousness of its effects, they remain in denial. They call it a hoax. They say it is not worse than the flu. As they die from it, they tell the medical personnel it can’t be COVID.

It really amazes me at how strong a psychological defense mechanism denial is.

There is no rational logic for their thoughts. They are having their emotions guide their thinking.

They think they should not wear masks. They think they do not need to social distance. All of that thinking is pure nonsense. It is denial, denial and more denial. They are absolutely wrong.

It is somewhat unfortunate to watch what will happen to those individuals. They will see no need for the COVID-19 vaccine. Thus as the rest of the country and the world looks forward to 2021 being better, they will remain out of touch.

The vaccine will ultimately bring an end to the pandemic. The only question is how many of the non-believers it will put into the mortality column before that happens.

I am looking forward to the vaccine being the biggest thing that the new year will bring. We should all be thinking that way.

Unfortunately that is not the case. There will continue to be people who will die denying that they are dying from something that they do not believe in.


Since the post-Thanksgiving spike in daily new cases, the numbers have remained steady at the higher level. There have been between 180,000 and 263,000 new cases every day since December 2nd.

There continue be hot spots around the country like California. That is to be expected.

Locally we have seen a similar result. Sussex County daily cases have remained between 84 and 239 since December 3rd.

By comparison they only exceeded 84 five times between May 16th and November 12th. That was almost a six-month period.

On December 23rd the U.S. reached a new milestone. COVID-19 related deaths hit 1,000 deaths per million people. That means that this year one out of every thousand Americans has died from COVID-19.

There are still some people hung up on the myth that COVID-19 did not cause that many deaths. In July, September and October, the CDC clearly showed that they are wrong.

Each time they compared the total deaths from this year to total deaths in the years 2012-2018. They got the same result all three times.

There were more deaths this year than each of those seven years. The number of excess deaths was about the same as the COVID death figure each time.

There are others hung up on the myth that COVID-19 is not worse than the annual flu.

The average number of annual flu deaths is about 33,000. COVID-19 now stands at 330,000 deaths. Therefore, it has killed about 10 times as many people as the average flu season.

Of course, there also continue to be vaccine naysayers. They complain that the ingredients are toxic and unnatural.

They complain that they are not adequately tested. They complain that the drug companies are just trying to make money. They complain that there are religious grounds for objecting. They complain that the government is overreaching its authority.

The interesting thing about this is that some rumors never die. Every one of these complaints can be found in the year 1898. That was when England passed the Vaccination Act for the smallpox vaccine.

People complained that the material based upon cowpox was unnatural. They complained that it was not adequately tested. They complained that doctors were forming medical vaccine farms to make money.

They complained that their religion did not allow it. They complained that the government was overreaching its authority.

So those objecting to the vaccines are not saying anything new. Their arguments are 122 years old. The good news is the smallpox vaccine laws that were objected to in 1898 have eradicated smallpox from existence.

Many people are concerned about the side effects of the vaccines. There seems to be some kind of side effect in about 50 percent of patients. However, all of the side effects are ones that will respond to a dose of Tylenol.

I will reiterate what I said last week. Take a dose when you get the vaccine, a dose when you go to bed and a dose the next morning. All of this should be done prophylactically. It should decrease the number of symptoms.

Some of the week’s news has centered on a “new strain” of COVID-19 found in England. Viruses are complex structures. COVID-19 is an mRNA nucleotide. It is a string of pieces that are put together.

Over the course of time viruses tend to have mutations. That means that some of the pieces of them are replaced by different pieces. The new virus is called a different strain. It is almost identical to the old one except for those replacements.

The strain in the UK was first noted in September. So it has been around for three months. Recently it was noted that more people were becoming infected with this strain than the older one.

So the conclusion was that the virus spread more easily.

That doesn’t change the approach. Masks are still needed. Social distancing is still warranted. Hand washing is important. However, it does raise some questions that will take time to answer.

The first of these is whether the changes made it more deadly or less deadly. It might be spreading more rapidly because it is not as fatal as the old virus.

A second is whether these changes will change the effectiveness of the vaccine. The vaccines were made in the lab to mimic the original virus.

Small changes may not make a difference. However, there might also be changes to an area that the vaccine is targeting.

We won’t know the answers to these questions for a while. In the meantime, we need to keep following the same practices of avoiding infection.

We need to be getting the vaccine. There is a high likelihood that they will continue to be effective against the new strain.