Category: Health and Wellness

The Time for Skepticism is Over. COVID-19 Is a Real Threat.

I get it, I really do.

Science, as the media reports it, which affects what we hear, see and read, can be inconsistent. Just in my lifetime, the simple hen’s egg has gone from being considered an important part of everyone’s diet, to being considered really, really bad for your diet, then to not so bad and now, back to being considered an important, healthy source of protein again. It’s like “science” can’t make up its mind. So, I get it. It’s confusing to know which reports are “correct.”

The Evolving Science of COVID-19

Here’s the thing – science, at its core, is all about discovery and continuous learning. So by its nature, scientists are going to gain access to more information, learn more and update their guidance. It’s important to keep in mind, as we consider scientific reports, that changing recommendations are a normal, constant part of the scientific process.

And when we seek scientific information about COVID-19, it’s not like eggs where we are trying to learn whether you could gain weight or have an elevated cholesterol level by eating them. COVID-19 is a frightening disease that is killing people.

As I write this, COVID-19 is killing on average 20 Louisiana residents every day. And that number is climbing fast. In mid-June, there were about 550 people in the entire state hospitalized with COVID-19. Today (July 15), that number is over 1,300 and it’s climbing fast. Those numbers are real, live, people, our friends and neighbors, who are at risk of serious illness or death.

Make no mistake – the threat from the novel coronavirus is real.

On July 13, Gov. John Bel Edwards put a statewide order into effect requiring just about everyone in the state, with some limited exceptions for young children and people with certain conditions or in specific circumstances, to wear a mask whenever they leave home and go out in public. The order also closes bars except for curbside food pickup and limits social gatherings to 50 people or fewer. With the current infection, hospitalization and death trends from COVID-19 in our state, it’s understandable that he took this step to limit the virus’ spread without going  back to Phase I, in which lots of businesses would have to close down. Again. Nobody wants to go back there.

I’ve heard a lot of grumbling about the order since it was issued, including people saying or sharing some pretty outlandish misinformation about COVID-19 and how it spreads and kills people.

Time to Straighten Up a Few Things

In the five years I’ve been writing Straight Talk, I have NEVER, EVER published anything that I couldn’t back up 100%. I take great pride in the fact that there is no false information being published here. No pablum. No made-up statistics. No exaggeration to prove a point. No lazy reporting. No backing down from tough messages; topics even I don’t want to discuss get an airing out here because the 1.8 million people wandering around Louisiana with a Blue Cross card in their pockets deserve nothing less.

Straight Talk it is.

Today is no exception. As a person who has front-line, eyes-only access to healthcare data that very, very few people ever get to see and a team of clinical professionals here at Blue Cross I can consult with to get a medical perspective, I have information I want to share to clear up a few things.

  1. Masks are not politics. COVID-19 spreads MOSTLY through droplets you produce when you breathe, speak loudly, talk or sing. Researchers at Tulane University have proven this. If you are carrying the novel coronavirus, the closer I am to you when you open your mouth, the more likely I am to catch this horrible disease from YOU. The best ways to avoid this “community spread” are to stay away from you and mask up. If somebody tells you that wearing a mask is some kind of political statement, then you should ask that person if your serious illness or death from this virus is also a political statement. Because that’s what is happening, every day, statewide.
  2. The numbers are real. Early on in this pandemic, Blue Cross began to use our amazing, in-house data capabilities to partner with the state Department of Health to track COVID-19. I recently shared details on this here at Straight Talk. Remember, we pay hospital and doctor bills to the tune of $300 million a month for healthcare delivered to our friends and neighbors in Louisiana. As Blue Cross is paying for all this healthcare, we like to know WHY it’s needed so we can better understand our members’ needs and expectations. What is the disease? What is the treatment? Are U.S. Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) guidelines being followed? There are no politics involved, no attempts to fool anyone. In fact, I see our numbers every day, and they line up perfectly with what the local media is reporting. The numbers are real. You can go ahead and believe them.
  3. Cures and vaccines are on the way, but not here yet. I have 100% confidence in our healthcare system’s ability to take smart people, add money and disciplined research, and come out with drugs that will help people that have COVID-19 get well and vaccines to prevent people from getting it in the first place. Both these things are going to happen. But not yet. The ONLY defense you have against COVID-19 right now is your ability to avoid catching the virus by masking up, avoiding crowds, washing your hands frequently and socially distancing. The only other defense you have is your own immune system, which may, or may not, save you. Preventing getting the virus in the first place is the better way.COVID-19 in Louisiana has killed people of all ages. And while people are more likely to die as they get older, no one can predict what will happen to you once you catch it.

Wear Masks, Wash Your Hands, Watch Your Distance – It Works

It is critical that you, my friends, my neighbors here in Louisiana, understand that I am afraid for you. I’m also afraid for myself, and my family members who have health conditions that could make a bout with COVID-19 fatal for them. Out of respect for all of you, I will be wearing a mask every time I leave the house, I will be social distancing, I will be avoiding crowds, I will be washing my hands a lot and I will be encouraging my family to do the same.

If you love your family, friends and neighbors, and yourself, how can you possibly do less? Are you really going to wait until someone you care about is in the hospital or dead before you start believing this is real? Is wearing a mask REALLY that much trouble for you? Is it REALLY that much of an inconvenience, considering it can save lives?

Straight Talk is COVID-19 is not political, it is a disease that sickens and kills people from every ideology. Don’t let someone who has bad information or is twisting facts to force his/her opinion on others convince you to stop taking these basic health precautions. You don’t want to be one of the more than 84,000 people COVID-19 has sickened in our state, or the more than 3,000 it has killed. I don’t want to lose any one of you to this virus.

Posted on: July 15, 2020


14 comments on “The Time for Skepticism is Over. COVID-19 Is a Real Threat.

  1. Charles L WILLIAMS

    I have know Mike for over a decade. He has spoken locally at our invitation several times and I trust Mike. His trulyis Straight Talk. Thanks, Mike.

    • Michael Bertaut

      Thank you Charlie for your kind words. It’s my own health, my wife’s, my 82 year old parents (Dad had a double bypass in February) that I’m asking people to protect. Think about everyone you know who’s over 65, or has high blood pressure, diabetes, or any other health condition. Just simply taking the time to wear a mask in public is a huge reduction in the risk that you will contract Covid-19, or spread it around if you already have it. Thanks for your support!

      • Eileen Wilcox

        I agree, I’ve also known Mike for over 15 years and he is one of the smartest guys I know and has always been able to take really complex issues and break them down to simple words that the rest of us can understand. I trust in his point of view as he always looks at the data before forming and giving his opinions. Thank you Mike!

        • Michael Bertaut

          Thanks Eileen, for your kind words. I would really just like everyone to remember that not only can #maskupla wearing a mask save people’s lives, but masks = jobs. That is, our economy cannot begin to recover until we make it back to Phase III or Phase IV. No football, no festivals, no normal gathering activities are possible until we do that. Our only tools right now, in the absence of a vaccine, or medication you can take to keep Covid-19 from infecting you (there is NO SUCH THING as a medicine you can take that will stop Covid-19 from infecting you, btw) wearing a mask, social distancing, and washing our hands more are our only weapons in this battle against Covid-19. Please, for the sake of your friends and relatives who may be in danger from the virus, mask up Louisiana.
          Masks = Jobs.

    • Michael Bertaut

      Thanks RT! It’s becoming increasingly clear that we have done a lousy job as a state of protecting those who work in public-facing jobs, which are held in larger proportions by minority workers, who are suffering disproportionately from this disease. These folks who work so hard deserve our consideration, our time, and our protection. Masking-up greatly reduces the chances that you will spread Covid-19 to someone else if you already have it, and believe me, you can totally have it and be symptom free. Mask UP! It will also lower the odds that you will catch it yourself. Mask UP!….

    • Michael Bertaut

      Thank you Kathy for your kind words! Masking-Up is all of our responsibilities, and you will certainly not see me anywhere outside my own home without a mask, without distancing. Please do the same!….mrb

  2. Donald J D'Avy

    Very sobering words Mr. Bertaut. I’m already following the rules but will continue to spread the message including forwarding your terrific post. I think that most Louisianians are finally starting to believe that this threat is real, but it only takes a few skeptics and selfish people to endanger all of us.

    • Michael Bertaut

      Thanks for your kind words! I can’t remember a time when our staff has worked harder to get the hardest, best messaging out to the 1.8m Louisianans wandering around out there with a Blue Cross card in their pocket. We are determined to shine a bright light on things that work and ultimately save lives, and an even brighter light on behavior that puts more lives at risk. Thanks for standing with us in this critical time for our state….mrb

  3. Rhonda Briggs

    Please forward the Tulane University research. I have done my own research and there are many health concerns for healthy people to wear masks constantly. Social distancing should be observed and, of course, washing your hands.

    • Michael Bertaut

      Thanks for your comments. There are tons of studies we have found on the wearing of the N-95/grade masks and the longest recommended continuous interval is 8-12 hours. I’m not aware of any recommendations for people to wear masks “constantly”. I’ve also seen zero peer-reviewed research that wearing face coverings when you are at work, running errands, etc has any detrimental effect. IF someone is too ill to wear a mask due to respiratory problems, they would be at an enhanced risk of catching and having a serious case of Covid-19 and should take EXTRA precautions prior to going out at all, not less precautions in my opinion. Tulane’s research on how Covid-19 aerosols and spreads is here:
      When I read it, it prompted me to be even MORE careful about wearing a face covering in public, rather than less.

      I would encourage you to read the latest Straight Talk article, where we examine the steps Europe took, their public health philosophy, and now their infections rates are a tiny fraction of ours here. Latest article is here:

      Above all, it is imperative that we do everything possible to protect ourselves from catching, incubating, and spreading Covid-19 to others. Our current trends in hospitalization and deaths are scary, moving in the wrong direction rapidly.

      If the mask mandate holds, and I pray it does, we should see those numbers begin to reverse course by the end of the month.

      Stay safe!…mrb

  4. Sally Palmer

    Is a face shield acceptable? I am currently using one and it covers from the top of my forehead to 5 plus inches below my face and fully ear to ear.

    I have allergies and find a face mask makes my condition much worse.


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