The Cost of Disinformation

As of yesterday, Governor Ige signed an executive order clearing liabilities to health care facilities for the rationing of care during this pandemic. That just made my heart sink a thousand times. It also means health care providers are going to have to make the decision on who has the highest chance of surviving to receive care. That is no decision anyone who took an oath to care for people wants to make.

Why have we reached this point? How did we get here?

As a pro-science advocate, the writing was on the wall for a very long time. As much as politicians caved to the squeaky wheels who crafted the anti-ag laws over the last 15 years, this was bound to happen. Hearing after hearing, the least informed made so many false claims and none could ever be corroborated with data. Like a virus, that same disinformation was repeated over and over until it was believed as fact. Not one politician asked these testifiers for evidence ever. Even our former Department of Education Superintendent, Christina Kishimoto, fell for the anti-glyphosate predatort scheme. False claims were accepted as fact to create punitive laws. The main ones hurt by this were the farmers and their reputations.

The enforcement of these laws were written up where a private party could sue for a violation for mislabeling of a GMO, very much mirroring the anti-abortion Texas law. If a papaya farmer’s product lacked a sticker to label it, a consumer could sue that farmer for $1000 and court costs for each item. The state would not be the enforcer but consumers would be through litigation. It was like a job security jackpot for lawyers. Fortunately for us, it did not advance here.

I truly wish that our Hawaii legislators had the guts to stick with evidence based laws from a long time ago. They flirted with anti-vaxx laws and raw milk shares. The fact that the anti-GMO laws made it to the legislature allowed the disinformers to be legitimized in the public’s eye. Legions of backyardeners bolstered their claims through repeating false information.

Our educational system has also failed us when an adult can’t think critically when faced with disinformation. I suspect it has to do with the issue of false equivalency. My oldest daughter hated doing debates on vaccines and GMOs because she knew that evidenced based info was highly lacking in the anti side yet was presented as facts. High school kids who were not taught how to research science based information were flirting with those tales that sucked folks into simply believing it without asking questions. My daughter just despised listening to the ridiculous claims from her own classmates. Instead of debate, there should be instructions on how to research claims as well as teaching kids how the scientific process operates to provide knowledge instead of propaganda.

I have seen countless uneducated comments on COVID related stories where so many make these outlandish claims leading me to ask for evidence. I find it horribly sad when I get some off the wall YouTube video or link to some crank posted as evidence. It gets me even more angry when I see so many of my own classmates posting fake links spreading it among others. Critical thinking and an actual desire to learn has been lost in society and those who are educated and experts in their fields are ridiculed and called shills and sheep.

So what is the cost of disinformation? Lives are being cut short and quality of life is on a downward trend because someone chose to listen to the Aloha Freedom Coalition with their anti-vaxx and anti-mask attitudes. There is no freedom when you cannot breathe nor will you have a choice with what treatments your body undergoes. You will have zero choices on whether you live or die because a doctor will decide if you’ll make it. You are also denied any freedom to have your loved ones around. Your choice has forced you to be in a very lonely situation.

From this day on, I hope our politicians realize the need to support evidence based laws and be responsible for the information shared with the public. As we have seen, disinformation is deadly and highly infectious much like the delta variant. There has been great damage done to our communities right now where so many have died or maimed by COVID.

Right now, we need science more than ever to get through this pandemic. Follow the scientific data in your everyday lives from getting vaccinated, washing hands, and masking up. We as a community have to work together to overcome this pandemic.

Honoring Queen Liliuokalani

I received a timely email today from Congressman Kahele that is pertinent for what is happening in Hawaii and across the US. The lesson learned in her time should be heeded now.

From Representative Kai Kahele’s emal:

Today, as the the delta variant of COVID-19 surges throughout our community, we also reflect on the 183rd birthday of our beloved Queen Liliʻuokalani, who led Hawaiʻi’s people through the smallpox pandemic when it reached the Hawaiian Islands. Here was the then-Princess’s guidance to the Hawaiian people at the time:


“Know that my heart is filled with sadness, and that I am hopeful that this disease will not spread amongst us. I am doing, and will continue to do, everything within my power to prevent its spread, and I am strongly asking everyone to assist me in doing everything to defend against this disease by obeying the directives of those in power along with the medical doctors, and I am strongly urging that people go in large numbers to vaccination sites and to stop gathering in places where there are large amounts of people, and to report those infected with the disease to government officials.”

The Danger of Politics

There are 10,000 active cases of COVID in Hawaii right now and it continues to climb each day. Hospitals are filling up and ERs are inundated. Like places around the US, things are not at a good place.

Vaccinations had served as a hope to end this pandemic continue to be taken up slowly in many places despite it been given billions of doses with very few bed being filled with those experiencing vaccination side effects. Disinformation continues to flow all over the social media while the unvaccinated are filling hospital beds on ICUs.

Public health messaging has been on the safety of vaccines over and over again. It reminds me of how we farmers would say that GMOs are safe based upon scientific evidence, yet the fearful public refused to believe it. The same emotional responses are being repeated now. I even see science based farmers refusing the vaccinations too and angry about having to wear masks.

Farmers know that when their fields are being hit with pests, they have to treat the fields. If they wait too long to address the issue, they stand to lose the entire crop. Farmers are always scouting fields trying to stay ahead of their problems. This is how they remain resilient and sustainable.

The story of our papayas are very much like the pandemic. When the ringspot virus hit a tree here and there, we’d chop it down, much like the quarantining process. However, a virus is highly infective and spreads rapidly destroying the entire farm.

It is the same with COVID. This disease is the pestilence. Quarantining and isolating only can do so much at this point which is why we need that tool to give added protection to the community. For the papaya, it was the GMO technology that protected our fields and allowed us to sustain ourselves. The same goes for the vaccine to protect our health in the community. The more of us protected, the more we can sustain a healthy population. Basically we need less sick people around us.

Too many on the social media downplay the reality of COVID. This is a highly infectious disease. For some it can be a ticking time bomb that unleashes devastation to your lungs and eventually all of your organs. Like the farmer taking time to apply crop protection ahead of major problems, our community has to do the same if we are to curb this disease.

The anti-GMO activists were so afraid of pesticides that they’d wear hazmat suits to protests. Many of them see those suits on COVID wards and do not get the same level of concern and have even decided to take unapproved, untested remedies. It really shows how they do not understand what they speak upon. It would be a like a farmer with a mite problem spraying their crops with the wrong product that doesn’t work. It’s a waste of time to not use the proper treatment.

Right now, the best defense against infectious disease is to prevent it to begin with. If you value your health and value it, it starts with using the right preventative measure.

Poisoning of People

Just today, Senator Roz Baker and other senators called for the firing of Dr. Lorrin Pang, a long time anti-GMO touter and source of disinformation for his association with a group promoting quackery for COVID. It is quite funny to see this because the anti-GMO folks will fight tooth and nail against Senator Baker because she fought against buffer zones on farms, even if Dr. Pang is wrong.

I was reading a post of a long time anti-GMO activist who remains mad about Senator Baker because she still feels like they are allegedly still in danger from farms. As I read the comments, I saw the same old followers admitting that they are taking the quack cure of ivermectin to protect against COVID. Mind you, these same folks claimed that they have done their research on this and can attest to it.

Well, let me chuckle a bit more because their whole mantra was that farmers were poisoning them. Let’s really dig deeper on that shall we?

The mean lethal dose, or LD50, of the pesticide they banned, chlorpyrifos is 90-270 mg/kg in rats. That means it will take that amount to kill 50% of the testing population. Source: http://extoxnet.orst.edu/pips/chlorpyr.htmhttp://extoxnet.orst.edu/pips/chlorpyr.htm

The LD50 of glyphosate is 4320 mg/kg in rats. Source: http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/archive/glyphotech.html#acute

The LD50 of hydroxychloroquine is 1240 mg/kg in rats. Source: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/236412374.pdf

The LD50 of ivermectin is 11 mg/kg in rats. Source: https://go.drugbank.com/drugs/DB00602

So, if we want to talk about the toxicity of these substances, the smaller the number, the higher the toxicity. So can you guess which one is the most toxic?

Yes, it’s Dr. Pang’s Pono Coalition’s recommendation that so many of his anti-GMO followers are taking over the vaccine. I have to laugh because they mocked me as being sheep but, uh, they are the ones taking enough of a toxic substance made for sheep!

The Breath of Life

When I was a young kid, I grew up with terrible asthma. As soon as I caught a mild cold, the stuffiness immediately went into my lungs. I remember being so congested with constant wheezing waking up my . I remember having dreams of feeling suffocated only to wake up way short of breath. I’d nudge my sleeping parents telling them I could not breathe. They’d get dressed groggily and jump in the car to take me to Kahuku Hospital.

Immediately there, the nurses knew exactly what I needed. They’d grab the nebulizer and inject the medication in and I’d be puffing away. Within minutes, my wheezing would subside and I could feel my airways open up giving me relief. My asthma was so bad that I’d spend several days there getting prednisone and nebulizers to manage the exacerbations.

These asthma exacerbations would happen multiple times and when that feeling of suffocation came on, I’d tell myself I was going to die. I thought I’d not make it to my 18th birthday but somehow, thanks to the great care I got as a kid, I made it.

As a mother, I now can empathize how my parents felt when a kid gets sick. To have to take my then 3 year old to the ER because his respiratory rate was over 50 breaths per minute, O2 sats below 90%, and heart rate racing over 150 beats per min scared the bejeebers out of me that I could lose my kid without proper care. I didn’t want to cry in front of him but I could not help it being so scared to not be able to provide comfort.

With school coming up and seeing COVID cases rise, I knew had to take action to protect my kids as well as my clients in home health. Their exposure could prevent me from caring for my homebound clients or potentially expose them. I was not going to take that chance.

There was a lot stress with trying to figure out what needed to be done to plan for this and fortunately, we were able to get into distance learning. Yes, it is not the same for kids but for their safety, it is worth the sacrifice.

What is even worse right now is the utterly disgusting self-entitled attitude among adults, including many parents, who are worried about their kids but are not vaccinated themselves. Then there are the teachers who have only 80% vaccinated but complaining about the DOE return to school plan. There’s always some excuse as to why they have not taken the vaccine. If you are worried about your kids and your own families, you’d do everything in your power to protect them. I hate hearing the selfish excuse of “my body, my choice” because it shows they don’t give a damn about others they infect.

I knew that my exposures from last year put my kids and others at risk and I jumped to get vaccinated. I didn’t even consider not getting it despite the side effects. I learned early on that the risks of COVID was way worse that the effects of a vaccine. I grew up knowing how awful it is to be short of breath. COVID steals people’s ability to breath.

The cases continue to rise and kids are now at higher risk. The years of disinformation has shown us how dangerous it is and many continue to believe it. Will we ever learn to trust the science again or will it take someone getting close to us very sick to realize that we have to follow the evidence? It is looking like the latter.

Flirting with Disaster

Let’s go back in time to the beginnings of the anti-GMO movement some 10 years ago. Remember when people came out of the woodwork to the Hawaii State Legislature claiming that politicians needed to protect the public against GMOs? It all started with a manipulation of the public by using fake news and fear that sounds all too familiar.

So many were fooled into believing that sites like Green Med Info, GMO Justice Coalition, Center for Food Safety, were all posing as legitimate information prveyors to the unsuspecting masses. The public would call legislators demanding that protections were needed in the form of labeling and banning. Forget the fact that trillions of meals were consumed with little evidence of harm, the anti-GMO activists were determined to get their way ignoring all of the evidence while creating lots of fake “evidence.”

Not only did the activists use fake news and fake sites to manipulate but they also casted a large cloud of doubt upon the regulatory agencies like the FDA and EPA. The public was told that the government agencies that regulated biotech products were not trustworthy without even knowing the process at all. People were led to believe that they were involved in some devious collusion. No activist ever bothered to teach people how the agencies approve products but closed the door by simply saying don’t trust them.

Opportunistic politicians decided to jump on board to this movement to ignore the scientific evidence too to seize upon popular opinion. They wanted to show the public that they were there to protect them. These supposed leaders fueled doubt within the very government that they were in charge of. The message basically was that, “I help run the government that you cannot trust.”

The activists and the politicians were successful in creating global furor that block innovations in its tracks. For years the media was complicit in fueling the rejection of scientific evidence. Poorly vetted stories and pseudoexperts like the Food Babe and Dr. Oz were placed in the spotlight feeding unfounded claims to a poorly educated audience.

So where has that led to after all of these years? We have lost some 435,000 Americans in this pandemic with 25 million cases. We have a deeply divided society with mass confusion as to what we should believe. It doesn’t appear to be getting any better given the latest news of new mutant viruses being found.

It should be of no surprise that a recent Star Advertiser poll found that only 50% plan on taking the covid vaccines. This should not be a shocker given the anti-vaccine campaigns that lead to a resurgence of measles globally and domestically also. It is becoming clearer that rejecting the scientific evidence comes with many unintended consequences.

Let’s think back to how things could’ve been different had we got a good handle on using evidence to base our policies upon. If the political leadership had weighed the facts to decide if labeling was truly needed, we’d probably have more faith in the regulatory agencies. When the politicians decided to create doubt, that sane doubt has remained through this pandemic. Few trust the CDC and FDA or even our own Department of Health at a time where we need to have centralized information being put forth.

Had we stopped giving anti-vaccine activists a stage at political forums, we may have less hesitancy with vaccines and less fear. The politicians gave them the stage to sputter fear and factless claims over and over again. The public was listening and started to believe that the shot is worse than the effects of COVID, which is absurd to me as a healthcare worker.

A poorly educated public, access to a wide array of websites, distrust in government, and too many not using critical thinking skills have led us down this deadly path in this pandemic. People are dying and some still refuse to wear a mask. We even have very selfish-minded people claiming that “my body, my choice” is better than taking a vaccine to protect others in the community. Our own Department of Education Superintendent Kishimoto is repeating that same anti-vaccination sentiment to the public, despite the fact that all public school kids must be vaccinated before attending class. The leadership is still not much more educated than the general public right now. Herein lies a problem.

As an elected leader, it is of utmost importance to lead with facts. By following the science, we can hopefully come to a point of agreement of the direction we must choose. If one uses deceit while knowing the truth, the public will pay for the consequences eventually. I so appreciate that my State Senator, Jarrett Keohokalohe, has helped my community get vaccinated by sharing information on the clinic that started this week. The message that sends to the public is a vaccination is just one step towards ending this pandemic. I have not once heard him state something contrary to the scientific evidence or repeat catchy phrases used by the science polluters. He is leading and informing the masses.

As I sat at the Windward Comprehensive Vaccination clinic this past week getting my 90 year old neighbor vaccinated, I got a bit teary eyed seeing so many seniors in my community getting their first shots. My neighbor joked that the entire Kaneohe community was there that day. I also overheard many of them saying they choose to get the shot to protect the rest of their family and loved ones. Yes, their body, their choice to protect others. These folks were listening to the scientific evidence and acting upon it.

There were no protesters around trying to deter people from doing this. It was my community willing doing their part to protect everyone around them. We were together to help save lives and follow the evidence towards a greater good.

We are living during a pandemic and that is why we must choose SCIENCE now!

The line to check in.
The waiting area was filled with vaccinated seniors.
My dad got his first vaccination from the Windward Health Comprehensive Clinic too.
Right after I took my neighbor for her shot, I received my second Pfizer dose.

My Body, My Choice Part 2

Today I received my second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at 2:10 pm HST.

1/26/21 7:20 pm

My arm is a bit achy and heavy feeling. My appetite is a bit down from feeling a little bit tired. It might just be from running around to get my neighbor vaccinated and going to the market. No fevers.

8 hours since receiving the second dose:

No fever but nausea and headache. Arm is sore. Feeling a bit wiped out. Took 2 extra strength Tylenols with some relief in arm pain.

I know this is nothing compared to a full blown COVID infection.

20 hours post second dose:

Tylenol is working. No arm pain and nausea is gone. Feel a bit tired but not bad that I can’t work.

26 hours post Pfizer covid vaccine:

No more nausea. Mild arm ache with movement at the shoulder. Feeling some fatigue this afternoon. Still no appetite but I forced myself to eat a little.

56 hours post dose 2 of Pfizer:

No more nausea and appetite is back. Arm is only sore with movement. Fatigue is very mild.

Vaccinated!

Like so many others in healthcare, I have been patiently waiting to get vaccinated against COVID-19. I had no doubt in my mind to pass this opportunity by. We are in the midst of a pandemic where over 350,000 lives have been lost. That is a heartbreaking number to realize the amount of human loss in less than a year.

I have been advocating for science for a very long time and I will not stop. Science is a process to help us figure out things and solve problems. It is how we are going to get out of this pandemic and get life back to normal.

To help alleviate fear or hesitancy around this vaccine, I will be sharing my experience following my injection to be open and transparent about what effects I get from it.

I was fortunate to get an appointment the very next day I called at my local Kaiser Clinic. I am thrilled to be able to get this but also sad knowing how many never had a chance against this disease. I got my shot at 2:11 pm and did the 15 min wait with only tenderness at the site. I will be blogging more on this post as things happen or not.

1/5/21 6:14 pm

It has been 4 hours since I had my shot and my left arm is achy but no other issues. I’m still reveling in the fact that I was able to take it.

1/6/21 7:00 am

Woke up feeling like my arm could not work. Had left shoulder pain and could not lift arm over my head. No fever or fatigue. Just an achy arm.

1/6/21 5:27 pm

It has been over 24 hours since I received the short. My arm hurts a lot less than this morning but I have started getting some mild headaches.

1/7/21

Arm pain is present but mild allowing me to use it. Still having mild headaches and some fatigue.

1/8/21

No arm pain and headaches. Fatigue is resolved. Back to normal!

My experience pretty much reflects the data collected during the trials. I did not have a fabulous story to tell on my vaccination experience.

New Year Thoughts

2020 was a huge year of change for many of us. Life went completely upside down for me and my family. It didn’t mean all bad but it meant a huge refocusing.

At the start of the pandemic, I was working at my job of 11 years. Because of the fear of being in a nursing home started to grow, my hours there meant going to multiple facilities to gain more hours. I had the unfortunate luck of being at a facility with a positive worker that sparked change for me. I landed up deciding to get out of skilled nursing facilities and go into home care.

As my work in the nursing home declined, my home health worked increased and I saw the firsthand effects of COVID. It was heartbreaking to see what this terrible virus could inflict upon people. I saw folks who led active lives completely debilitated by this pathogen in a matter of days. It was eye opening to see how life can change in a blink of an eye.

Seeing this reaffirmed my support for science. When we have a problem, we need the scientific process to determine how we will navigate through it. There was really no other way to address this but with science, however the damage has been done over the years by the social media and poor reporting by the news.

Right on cue, politics got in the way of getting a good grasp on what the next steps would be and lots of confusion flooded the media as a result. The US is now paying for the effects this with rising infections and overburdened hospitals. As the vaccine is being rolled out, getting it out to people is now another challenge ahead with many fearing the solution because of hesitancy.

The latest word on the news is that the vaccination campaigns will take at least 10 years at the rate we are heading. Will that mean 10 years of mask wearing and social distancing? It might if we do not get a real handle on the cost of disinformation.

The very source of disinformation platforms like Facebook and Twitter are only now cracking down on false information. They were the source of bad information for over a decade and we now see the need to stop this from continuing. Too many said that fake news was not a big deal only to realize now how deadly it is.

I just received word that I have the privilege to get the COVID vaccine and I and getting it as soon as I can as a health care worker. It is my duty to protect my patients in the community and in facilities. Do I fear the potential side effects of this mRNA vaccine? No. I prefer not to be a guinea pig to COVID.

In this New Year, I hope more people open their eyes to the amazing possibilities that science can do for our lives. That’s all we’ve got to solve the problem in front of us. Time to science the crap out of this pandemic.

Pandemic Priorities

Life changed for many starting in March. Thousands of businesses had to close putting lots out of work. Things are still not back to normal yet.

What have we learned from this pandemic? Based on my observations while shopping, people want what works, and they don’t care about the toxicity either. Bleach, Lysol, and other disinfects were flying off shelves in a matter of minutes while the all natural, earthy marketed stuff sat on shelves untouched. The more expensive organic toilet papers and cleaners sat untouched while the conventional stuff were completely gone. People even listened to the EPA’s findings that found Lysol to be effective at killing this virus but scoffed when it came down to glyphosate.

With hundreds of thousands out of work, food became a priority. Cars would line up for hours to get a food box and I doubt any drove by demanding organic food. The carcinogenic stuff like Spam, Vienna Sausage, and corned beef were hard to find on the shelves. Even flour has been hard to come by while the expensive gluten-free, organic flours remained well stocked. Why were consumers not buying up these products that marketers were so keen on labeling as “better” for you?

Truth be told that people know that those “harsh” chemicals work and food is food when a pandemic hits. So many were demanding GMO labeling years ago really didn’t care about that label while shopping. People were scared and stocking up on what they know are comfort staples. Food elitism took a backseat.

Right on cue, the disinformation activists have started up again with spreading doubt and distrust. Facts have been distorted and fantastic stories are spreading all over the internet like wildfires. Claims that Bill Gates has a devious plan is being believed by so many. Public health officials are being threatened and harassed to the point that they are quitting. Why is this happening?

I have a theory as to why this has been happening. For years, politicians allowed anti-vaccine and anti-GMO forces to have a spotlight. They believed that by allowing them a say was important for making policies. None of what was being claimed could be refuted by the politicians. This was basically a mish mash of beliefs that was allowed to stand. The scientific community being the minority could not compete to get facts at the forefront. For years this was allowed to happen and distrust has grown to the point where the US is losing its grip on the pandemic.

Many want to blame one person for this problem but do not look further than our own politicians across the states and globally who supported the squeaky, factless wheels to garner votes. Now these same politicians are facing the screamers amidst a pandemic and are frozen to act. They’ve dug themselves into a hole and it’s taking everyone down.

Will it take the devastation of a pandemic to make us see the importance of science based policies?If we don’t, we will all pay for the consequences of the muddying up of facts in some way or another.