MetroFocus: May 4, 2020

City Councilmember Ritchie Torres, Chair of the Oversight & Investigations Committee, joins MetroFocus to discuss the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on the city’s communities of color. Torres recently led a historic hearing to get at the root of the racial disparity, encompassing everything from the prevalence of pre-existing conditions among these communities, to the effects that pollution, food access, and lack of affordable housing have had on economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. According to Torres, the hearing, which consisted of over 8 hours of expert testimony, was one of the longest in City Council history.

Isolation. Uncertainty. Lack of control. The mental health fallout from the pandemic is real. And as we shift into panic mode trying to protect ourselves physically, our mental health is paying the price. A recent study by Total Brain finds that more than half of Americans admit they’re suffering from anxiety brought on by the pandemic. Twenty percent of those respondents say they are very anxious, and those numbers are rising. Dr. Evian Gordon, co-founder and Chief Medical Officer of Total Brain, says we may feel the world is out of control, but how we handle our mental health is in our control.

Aired on May 4, 2020. 

TRANSCRIPT

> UP NEXT, 'METROFOCUS.'

WE'RE WORKING FROM HOME, BUT WE'RE DEDICATED TO BRINGING YOU THE IMPORTANT STORIES ABOUT HOW OUR AREA IS AFFECTED BY CORONAVIRUS.

> THIS IS MET REFOCUS WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD, AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ, ROSALIND P. WALTER, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, AND BY --

> WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS,' I AM JACK FORD.

AS THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC HAS CONTINUED ITS RAMPAGE THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY, WE'VE BECOME AWARE OF A VERY TROUBLING FACT, AND THAT IS THAT ITS IMPACT HAS BEEN MUCH MORE SEVERE UPON COMMUNITIES OF COLOR.

IN NEW YORK, WHICH HAS THE HIGHEST NUMBER OF CONFIRMED CASES AND THE HIGHEST NUMBER OF DEATHS, THE CHANCES OF DEATH FOR BLACKS AND LATINOS IS TWICE AS HIGH AS IT IS FOR WHITES, AND THE NUMBERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY ARE SIMILAR.

SO WHY IS THAT HAPPENING AND WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT?

WELL, IN ORDER TO TAKE A GOOD HARD LOOK AT THAT, LAST WEEK THE NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL HELD A REMOTE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE HEARING TO EXAMINE THE CAUSES OF THIS DISPARITY AND TO TALK ABOUT WHAT CAN BE DONE.

AND TO JOIN US NOW TO TALK ABOUT ALL OF THAT AS PART OF OUR CHASING THE DREAM INITIATIVE ON POVERTY AND OPPORTUNITY IN AMERICA, WE ARE PLEASED TO JOIN, AS WE ALWAYS ARE THE CHAIR OF THE COMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATIONS, BRONX CITY COUNCIL MEMBER RITCHIE TORRES.

IT IS ALWAYS NICE TO HAVE YOU HERE WITH US.

LET ME START ASKING HOW YOU'RE DOING BECAUSE LAST TIME YOU JOINED US, YOU HAD JUST BEEN DIAGNOSED YOURSELF WITH COVID-19.

HOW ARE YOU FEELING, AND HOW WAS THAT WHOLE PROCESS FOR YOU?

THANKFULLY, I'M DOING WELL.

YOU KNOW, FOR ABOUT A WEEK OR TWO I HAD A FEVER, COUGH, MANAGEABLE SYMPTOMS.

I MOSTLY SLEPT THROUGH THEM.

YOU KNOW, SINCE I HAVE A HISTORY OF ASTHMA, I WAS CAREFULLY MONITORING MY BREATHING, BUT THANKFULLY I HAD NO SHORTNESS OF BREATH, NO TROUBLE BREATHING.

YOU KNOW, I HAVE, BY ALL APPEARANCES, A SUCCESSFUL RECOVERY.

WE ARE CERTAINLY GLAD TO HEAR THAT, AND IT'S ALWAYS A GOOD MESSAGE COMING FROM SOMEBODY SUCH AS YOURSELF WHO'S IN THE PUBLIC EYE WHO SAYS HERE'S WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO, DO THE RIGHT THINGS, AND HOPEFULLY WE'LL GET BACK TO WHERE WE NEED TO BE BOTH INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A GROUP.

TALKING ABOUT WHERE WE NEED TO BE, HAVE YOU BEEN SURPRISED BY THE NUMBERS HEAR, BY THIS ENORMOUS DISPARITY IN TERMS OF THE LIKELIHOOD OF DEATH FOR MEMBERS OF THE BLACK AND LATINO COMMUNITIES AS OPPOSED TO THE WHITE COMMUNITY?

AS YOU POINTED OUT, COVID-19 HAS BEEN DISPROPORTIONATELY DEADLIER IN COMMUNITIES OF COLOR.

IT'S HARDLY A SHOCK GIVEN THE HISTORY OF THE COUNTRY, BUT IT'S DEEPLY ALARMING.

YOU KNOW, IT'S WORTH POINTING OUT THAT COVID-19 AFFECTS ALL OF US, BUT IT AFFECTS US UNEVENLY.

COMMUNITIES OF COLOR, PLACES LIKE THE BRONX, THE LOWEST INCOME COMMUNITIES TEND TO BE THE HARDEST HIT.

YOU KNOW, EVEN THOUGH MANHATTAN, FOR EXAMPLE, HAS A SUBSTANTIALLY LARGER POPULATION THAN THE BRONX, THE BRONX HAS A SUBSTANTIALLY HIGHER DEATH RATE, YOU KNOW, WHEN IT COMES TO THE AGE ADJUSTED DEATH RATES, AFRICAN-AMERICANS AND LATINOS HAVE TWICE THE RISK OF DYING FROM COVID-19 AND HAVE DISPROPORTIONATELY HIGHER RATES OF INFECTION AND HOSPITALIZATION.

LET'S TALK ABOUT WHY THAT IS.

YEAH.

ALL RIGHT?

AND THEN I WANT TO GET TO YOUR COMMITTEE HEARINGS, WHAT CAME OUT OF THEM, AND WHAT DO YOU THINK MIGHT MOVING FORWARD OCCUR AS A CONSEQUENCE.

BUT I KNOW YOU'VE TALKED ABOUT A NUMBER OF SITUATIONS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO THIS, AND ONE OF THE THINGS YOU TALK ABOUT IS HEALTH CONDITIONS.

YES.

AND THE IMPACT THAT HAS.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?

SO ALMOST ALL THE COVID-19 FATALITIES HAVE AT LEAST ONE COMORBIDITY.

THE TWO MOST COMMON COVID-19 COMORBIDITIES ARE HYPERTENSION AND DIABETES.

THE RATES OF HYPERTENSION ARE THREE TIMES HIGHER IN THE SOUTH BRONX THAN IN THE FINANCIAL DISTRICT IN MANHATTAN.

THE RATES OF DIABETES ARE MORE THAN FIVE TIMES HIGHER IN THE SOUTH BRONX THAN IN THE FINANCIAL DISTRICT OF MANHATTAN.

SO THE COMMUNITIES THAT HAVE THE GREATEST PREVALENCE OF PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS LIKE DIABETES, HYPERTENSION, CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE, ARE AT FAR HIGHER RISK OF DYING OR BECOMING SERIOUSLY ILL FROM COVID-19.

WHAT -- I KNOW THIS IS A FAIRLY COMPLICATED QUESTION, BUT WHY ARE WE FINDING THAT THOSE COMORBIDITY FACTORS ARE SO MORE PREVALENT IN A COMMUNITY SUCH AS YOURS IN THE BRONX?

LOOK, THERE'S NO SINGLE CAUSE, BUT HERE ARE A FEW FACTORS.

YOU KNOW, IF YOU LIVE IN A COMMUNITY -- SO HARVARD UNIVERSITY CONDUCTED A STUDY SHOWING A CLOSE CORRELATION BETWEEN POLLUTION AND COVID-19 MORBIDITY AND MORTALITY, SO IF YOU LIVE IN A COMMUNITY LIKE THE SOUTH BRONX OF HIGH POLLUTION OR IF YOU LIVE IN HOUSING CONDITIONS OF MOLD AND MILDEW, LEAKS AND LEAD AND RODENT INFESTATION, THEN YOU'RE BREATHING IN TOXINS THAT WILL CAUSE RESPIRATORY DISEASE.

YOU'RE BREATHING IN TOXINS THAT WILL PLACE YOU AT GREATER RISK OF COVID-19 MORBIDITY AND MORTALITY.

FURTHER MORE, IN PLACES LIKE THE BRONX, THERE'S OFTEN A LACK OF ACCESS TO FRESH FOOD.

THESE COMMUNITIES ARE FOOD DESERTS, AND SO FOOD, THE KIND OF FOOD THAT YOU EAT, IS A FACTOR IN COVID-19.

WE TALKED --

UNFORTUNATELY, IN AMERICA, THE QUALITY OF THE FOOD YOU EAT, THE QUALITY OF THE WATER YOU DRINK, THE QUALITY OF THE AIR YOU BREATHE OFTEN DEPENDS ON YOUR ZIP CODE.

YEAH.

AND THAT'S A VERY DISTURBING FACT.

WE WERE TALKING ABOUT HEALTH CONDITIONS.

HOW ABOUT ECONOMIC CONDITIONS AND HOW THEY CONTRIBUTE TO THIS DISPARITY?

LOOK, I WOULD MAKE THE CASE THAT THE ROOT CAUSE OF ALL THESE DISPARITIES, WHETHER IT'S DISPARITIES IN EDUCATION, HOUSING, FOOD ACCESS, TRANSIT ACCESS, WHATEVER THE ISSUE IS IS POVERTY.

I THINK WHEREVER YOU HAVE RACIALLY CONCENTRATED POVERTY YOU TEND TO HAVE WORSE SOCIAL OUTCOMES IN EVERY ARENA OF LIFE, AND SO YOU NOTICE THAT THE COMMUNITIES THAT HAVE THE HIGHEST RATES OF POVERTY ARE THE HARDEST HIT, HAVE THE HIGHEST INCIDENCE OF COVID-19.

THAT'S NOT AN ACCIDENT, THAT'S A CONSEQUENCE OF RACIALLY CONCENTRATED POVERTY.

WE'VE ALSO SEEN IN TERMS OF THE WORKPLACE CONDITIONS AND THE POPULATION THAT IS SO HEAVILY INVOLVED IN THE CATEGORY OF ESSENTIAL WORKERS --

YES.

-- HERE, HOW DOES THAT ALL REFLECT UPON THESE DISPARITY FIGURES THAT WE'RE FINDING?

SO COMMUNITIES OF COLOR ARE OVERREPRESENTED IN THE ESSENTIAL WORK FORCE, WHETHER IT'S LOW WAGE WORK IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR OR THE PUBLIC WORK FORCE.

THE COVID -- THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 HAS ESSENTIALLY SPLIT THE WORK FORCE INTO TWO, RIGHT?

THERE WERE THOSE WHO HAVE THE LUXURY OF STAYING AT HOME, TELEWORKING FROM HOME, AND THEN THERE ARE ESSENTIAL WORKERS WHO HAVE TO RISK THEIR LIVES ON THE FRONT LINES SO THAT THE REST OF US CAN SAFELY SHELTER AT HOME.

IF YOU'RE AN ESSENTIAL WORKER, IF YOU'RE A HEALTH CARE WORKER WHO IS SURROUNDED BY INFECTED PATIENTS WITHOUT SUFFICIENT PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT, THEN YOU FACE AN INFINITELY HIGHER RISK OF COVID-19 INFECTION.

LET'S TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT CAME OUT OF YOUR COMMITTEE HEARING.

AS I MENTIONED, IT WAS DONE REMOTELY.

IT'S THE COMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATIONS THAT YOU CHAIR.

WHAT WERE YOU ABLE TO GLEAN FROM THE -- FROM THE HEARINGS?

WHAT WAS LEARNED, DO YOU THINK, THAT CAN BE HELPFUL, ESPECIALLY IN TERMS OF MOVING FORWARD?

SO AS YOU POINTED OUT, YESTERDAY WE HELD A HEARING EXAMINING THE RACIALLY DISPROPORTIONATE IMPACT OF COVID-19.

WE HEARD EIGHT HOURS OF TESTIMONY MAKING IT ONE OF THE LONGEST HEARINGS THE CITY COUNCIL HAS EVER HELD IN THE HISTORY OF THE LEGISLATURE.

I THINK WHAT WE'VE COME TO REALIZE IS THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 AFFECTS EVERY ASPECT OF OUR LIVES.

IT'S NOT ONLY A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS.

IT'S AN EMPLOYMENT CRISIS, AN EDUCATIONAL CRISIS, A MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS.

THERE'S BEEN A SPIKE IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, SO WE HAVE TO ADDRESS MULTIPLE CRISES AT ONCE IN ORDER TO FULLY RECOVER FROM COVID-19 AND ADDRESS THE ROOT CAUSES OF RACIAL DISPARITIES IN AMERICAN SOCIETY.

YOU KNOW, THERE'S A SENSE IN WHICH OUR CITY AND OUR COUNTRY HAS A COMPROMISED SOCIAL IMMUNE SYSTEM, AND THE COMPROMISED SOCIAL IMMUNE SYSTEM OF AMERICA HAS LEFT COMMUNITIES OF COLOR ESPECIALLY VULNERABLE TO THE WORST IMPACTS OF COVID-19.

AGAIN, WE'RE SPEAKING WITH NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL MEMBER RICHARD TORRES WHO IS THE CHAIR OF THIS COMMITTEE HE JUST DESCRIBED TO US AS TAKING A LOOK AT THE ROOT CAUSES OF THESE DISPARITIES.

CAN I MENTION ONE MORE FACTOR?

PLEASE DO BECAUSE I WANTED TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT THESE FACTORS AND WHERE WE GO FROM HERE.

AFFORDABILITY IS A CRISIS.

AS THE CITY BECOMES LESS AND LESS AFFORDABLE, THERE ARE MORE AND MORE PEOPLE DOUBLING UP AND TRIPLING UP IN OVERCROWDED APARTMENTS, AND SO THE AFFORDABILITY IS CREATING OVERCROWDED HOMES THAT HAVE BECOME PETRI DISHES FOR THE SPREAD OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE.

YOU KNOW, WE OFTEN TELL PEOPLE TO STAY AT HOME AND PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING, BUT IF YOU'RE A RESIDENT OF AN OVERCROWDED APARTMENT, YOU HAVE NO MEANS OF PRACTICING SOCIAL DISTANCING.

IF YOU'RE A FRONT LINE WORKER RIDING IN A CROWDED SUBWAY, YOU HAVE NO MEANS OF PRACTICING SOCIAL DISTANCING, SO SOME OF THE PUBLIC HEALTH GUIDANCE THAT HAS BEEN GIVEN IGNORES THE LIVED REALITY OF MANY LOW INCOME NEW YORKERS.

SO I GUESS THAT GETS US TO OUR NEXT QUESTION, WHICH IS, ALL RIGHT, WHAT DO WE DO?

I MEAN, YOU'VE ARTICULATED SOME OF THE REASONS HERE, SOME OF THE CAUSES FOR THESE FRIGHTENING NUMBERS, THIS FRIGHTENING DISPARITY.

YOU HAD THE HEARINGS.

WHAT NOW CAN THE CITY DO TO START DOING IMMEDIATELY AND CERTAINLY TO GET IN PLACE IN THE EVENT THAT THIS VIRUS COMES BACK AT SOME POINT IN TIME SO THAT WE CAN PROTECT THESE COMMUNITIES OF COLOR?

LOOK, THERE'S NO SINGLE CAUSE, AND SO THERE'S CERTAINLY NO SINGLE MAGIC BULLET.

JUST TO SPEAK BROADLY, YOU KNOW, IN THE INDUSTRIALIZED WORLD, THE UNITED STATES IS THE ONLY COUNTRY THAT FAILS TO PROVIDE A COMPREHENSIVE SOCIAL SAFETY NET, THAT FAILS TO PROVIDE UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE, PAID SICK TIME, CHILD CARE, SO WHAT WE DESPERATELY NEED IN THE UNITED STATES IS THE KIND OF COMPREHENSIVE SOCIAL SAFETY NET THAT EXISTS ELSEWHERE IN THE INDUSTRIALIZED WORLD, PARTICULARLY IN WESTERN EUROPE.

YOU KNOW, MORE SPECIFICALLY, WE SHOULD HAVE PROGRAMS IN PLACE AIMED AT DRIVING DOWN THE RATES OF POLLUTION IN VEHICLES, IN BUILDINGS, IN POWER PLANTS, AND POLICIES IN PLACE THAT EXPAND ACCESS TO SUPERMARKETS, FRESH FOOD, THE COMBINATION OF CLEAN AIR AND FRESH FOOD ACCESS WOULD HAVE A REAL IMPACT IN DRIVING DOWN THE PREVALENCE OF PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS IN COMMUNITIES OF COLOR.

BUT AGAIN, THAT'S ONLY PART OF THE SOLUTION.

YOU KNOW, THIS IS A FAR-REACHING PROBLEM THAT'S GOING TO REQUIRE FAR-REACHING SOLUTIONS.

THE NEXT QUESTION FOR YOU HERE, WHAT MESSAGE CAN YOU GIVE TO NOT JUST YOUR CONSTITUENTS BUT PEOPLE IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK, SOMEBODY WHO HAS NOW SUFFERED THROUGH THIS VIRUS, CONTRACTED COVID.

MOVING OUT ON THE OTHER SIDE OF IT AND ALSO IS LOOKING AT ALL OF THESE ISSUES THAT WE'VE TALKED ABOUT HERE, WHAT'S A MESSAGE THEY CAN GIVE TO FOLKS?

I AM OPTIMISTIC THAT WE WILL EMERGE STRONGER AND MORE RESILIENT FROM THE CRISIS.

YOU KNOW, OUT OF CRISIS COMES OPPORTUNITY, AND WE HAVE A HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY TO BUILD A MORE DECENT SOCIETY THAT PROTECTS EVERY NEW YORKER, THAT PROTECTS EVERY AMERICAN, AND I HOPE WE ARE WISE ENOUGH TO SEIZE THE MOMENT.

COUNCIL MEMBER RITCHIE T TORRES, WE ARE ALWAYS PLEASED WHEN WE GET A CHANCE TO CHAT WITH YOU.

ESPECIALLY PLEASED TO HEAR THAT YOU ARE DOING WELL.

THANK YOU.

RECOVERING FROM THIS AND THAT YOU ARE WORKING, YOUR COMMITTEE AND CITY COUNCIL WORKING ON ALL OF THESE ISSUES.

OUR THANKS TO YOU AS ALWAYS FOR JOINING US, AND WE'LL PLAN ON TALKING WITH YOU AGAIN SOON, ALL RIGHT?

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

ALL RIGHT, RITCHIE, TAKE CARE.

TAKE CARE.

BE WELL.

> TAKING CARE OF YOUR MENTAL HEALTH IS CRITICALLY IMPORTANT AS WE STAY INDOORS MORE OFTEN.

IT'S IMPORTANT THAT PEOPLE GET ENOUGH SLEEP BECAUSE WE KNOW SLEEP PROMOTES MENTAL HEALTH.

IT'S IMPORTANT THAT YOU GET EXERCISE WHEN YOU CAN WHILE STILL ENGAGING IN PROPER SOCIAL DISTANCING, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, SEEK HELP IF YOU NEED IT.

TELEHEALTH SERVICES ARE AVAILABLE, AND CALL A FRIEND IF YOU JUST NEED SOMEONE TO TALK TO.

NOW MORE THAN EVER WE WANT YOU TO PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR MENTAL HEALTH.

> HELLO AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS,' I'M RAFAEL PI ROMAN.

YOU KNOW, AS THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC CONTINUES TO TAKE ITS TOLL ON OUR PHYSICAL HEALTH, OUR COLLECTIVE MENTAL WELL-BEING IS ALSO PAYING A PRICE.

IN FACT, A RECENT OBSERVATIONAL STUDY SUGGESTS THAT OVER HALF OF ALL AMERICANS COULD BE SUFFERING FROM ANXIETY BROUGHT ON BY THE PANDEMIC.

AND THOSE NUMBERS ARE REPORTEDLY RISING AMID A PERFECT STORM OF WORRY ABOUT OUR HEALTH AND OUR ECONOMY, SO WHAT CAN WE DO TO OVERCOME THESE FEELINGS OF FEAR AND ANXIETY, AND WHAT LONG-TERM IMPACT COULD THE PANDEMIC HAVE ON OUR MENTAL HEALTH?

JOINING US NOW WITH ANSWERS IS DR. EVIAN GORDON.

DR. GORDON IS AN EXPERT ON THE HUMAN BRAIN AND THE COFOUNDER AND CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER OF TOTAL BRAIN, A NEUROSCIENCE BASED MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS DIGITAL PLATFORM.

DR. GORDON, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US TODAY.

IT'S A PLEASURE TO HAVE YOU HERE WITH US.

IT'S MY PLEASURE, THANK YOU.

SO DR. GORDON, FIRST OF ALL, YOU KNOW, THIS VIRUS CAN KILL US, AT LEAST SOME OF US.

IT CAN BANKRUPT US.

IT HAS SPREAD ALL OVER THE WORLD.

IT HAS CLEARLY SHOWN US THAT WE ARE NOT AT ALL IN CONTROL OF THINGS, AND HAS FORCED US TO HIDE IN OUR HOMES.

IN SHORT, IT HAS TURNED OUR WORLD UPSIDE DOWN, SO WHY SHOULDN'T WE BE FULL OF FEAR AND ANXIETY?

WOULDN'T WE BE CRAZY NOT TO BE?

TOTALLY.

SO THAT'S TOTALLY TRUE, RAFAEL, AND OF COURSE WE HAVE -- YOU KNOW, WE HAVE -- WE HAPPEN TO OVERSEE THE WORLD'S LARGEST BRAIN DATABASE OF INFORMATION, AND WHEN WE LOOK AROUND THE COUNTRY, THAT IS THE CASE.

THERE IS CLEARLY A BRAIN HIJACK, AND WHY SHOULDN'T THERE BE?

I'M 67 YEARS OLD, AND I'VE BEEN INVOLVED IN A LOT OF THINGS, AND I'VE NEVER SEEN SUCH UNCERTAINTY.

IN FACT, IT'S INCREDIBLE TO SEE THE WORLD BROUGHT TO ITS KNEES IN THIS WAY.

IT'S UNPRECEDENTED.

SO YES, THERE IS A HARSH REALITY THAT WE ALL SEE AND THAT IS THE BRAIN IS ABOUT STABILITY.

IT IS ABOUT SAFETY, AND THE NUMBER ONE THING THAT CHALLENGES THAT SAFETY, OTHER THAN A PHYSICAL THREAT, IS UNCERTAINTY.

SO IT IS TOTAL -- IT'S A PERFECT STORM OF NEGATIVE CHALLENGES TO THE BRAIN.

SO I THINK, RAFAEL THE ISSUE IS THIS NOT REALISTIC AND SHOULD WE NOT BE ANXIOUS, WE SHOULD BE.

I THINK THE CHALLENGE THAT WE SEE WHEN WE LOOK AT THE DATA WEEK TO WEEK AND WE SEE THAT THIS INCREASE IN ANXIETY, THIS PRECIPITOUS INCREASE IS COUPLED NOW WITH FUNDAMENTAL CHANGES IN OUR BRAIN CAPACITIES.

WHAT DO I MEAN BY THAT?

I MEAN THAT THE ANXIETY IS NOW STARTING TO AFFECT THE WAY THAT OUR FUNDAMENTAL BRAIN WORKS, HOW WELL WE CAN FOCUS.

CAN WE MAKE GOOD DECISIONS IN FLEXIBLE, AND THAT IS BECAUSE WE'RE IN THIS FIGHT OR FLIGHT STATE, SO THE QUESTION TO ME IS EXACTLY SPOT ON WHAT YOU'RE SAYING, BUT NOW IT IS A SIMPLE CHOICE.

WE HAVE ABOUT 50,000 THOUGHTS A DAY.

HOW MANY OF THOSE THOUGHTS DO WE WANT TO BE PREOCCUPIED WITH MAGNIFYING THE THREAT THAT COULD LEAD TO OUR INERTIA AT LEAST, AND HOW MANY DO WE WANT TO START SHIFTING TOWARDS REFRAMING THIS CHALLENGE TOWARDS STARTING TO DEAL WITH A SLIGHTLY MORE MEDIUM TERM AND LONG-TERM FUTURE OF HOW WE'RE GOING TO DEAL WITH THIS.

YEAH, AND I WANT TO GET TO THAT.

YOU HAVE THREE SUGGESTIONS OR THREE TIPS ON HOW TO DEAL WITH IT.

BEFORE WE GET TO THAT, I WANT TO TALK ABOUT -- YOU CALL IT THE HIJACKING OF THE BRAIN.

I WONDER IF YOU COULD ELABORATE ON THAT.

SURE.

HOW HAS THIS FEAR, THIS UNIQUE FEAR AND ANXIETY HIJACKED OUR BRAIN?

SO THE BRAIN FROM WHAT WE KNOW -- AND WE LOOK AT THE ESSENCE AS BEST AS WE CAN AND BRING ALL THE PIECES TOGETHER, BUT EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS, THAT THE BRAIN HAS -- IT'S GOT BIASES, AND IT'S ABOUT SAFETY.

SO WHAT IS THE BIAS?

THE BIAS IS ABOUT THREAT.

WHEN WE HAVE A THREAT, THE BRAIN WILL DEAL WITH THAT FIRST, SO THE HIJACK IS BECAUSE THE PROPORTION, THE IMPACT OF THE STRESS HAS BEEN SO UNPRECEDENTED THAT IT IS HIJACKING US.

NOW, SOME PEOPLE HAVE DIFFERENT DEFENSES TO IT.

WE KNOW THAT ONE OF THE GREATEST DEFENSES IS DENIAL.

SERIOUSLY PEOPLE, WHAT ARE WE DOING.

AND OF COURSE THAT'S UNDERS UNDERSTANDABLE, TOO, BUT IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS, THIS IS A VERY REAL THREAT FOR WHICH WE HAVE NO REAL SOLUTION.

SO OTHER THAN DISTANCING.

SO IT IS VERY REAL, AND IT IS A REAL BRAIN HIJACKING.

I'LL JUST TELL YOU ONE OTHER THING.

IN THE BRAIN 85 BILLION HIGHLY INTERCONNECTED NEURONS, HUGELY INITIALLY FOCUSSED ON SAFETY, SO WHEN I SAY HIJACKED, I MEAN THAT THE FEAR IS SO DOMINANT THAT WHEN WE LOOK IN OUR DATABASE ABOUT HOW FEAR WORKS, THE BRAIN IS WIRED FOR THIS KIND OF STUFF.

SO TRIGGERING IT, WE KNOW THAT POLITICIANS DO THIS ALL THE TIME, AND THEY BECOME EXPERTS IN IT.

BUT TRIGGERS US IN THIS WAY IS KIND OF UNIVERSAL.

YOU CAN SEE THE WHOLE WORLD HAS BEEN HIJACKED BY THIS.

IT'S NOT AN ISOLATED KIND OF POCKET OF PEOPLE, THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE, THE VAST MAJORITY OF PEOPLE.

YOU TALK ABOUT -- YOU ALSO MENTION FIGHT OR FLIGHT OR FIGHT OR FLIGHT MENTALITY.

I WONDER IF YOU COULD SPECIFY FOR US AND EXPLAIN SOME OF THE P PECULIAR BEHAVIORS AS ASSOCIATED WITH FIGHT OR FLIGHT, FOR EXAMPLE, THE HOARDING OF TOILET PAPER.

HOW IS THAT ASSOCIATED WITH FIGHT OR FLIGHT?

THERE'S THAT AND THERE'S ALSO THIS SECOND PIECE I SEE WHICH IS REAC REACTIVITY.

I'VE BEEN ON WALKS, I'VE BEEN IN THE SUPERMARKET, I'M IN MY 41st DAY OF LOCKDOWN.

PEOPLE WERE SHOUTING AT EACH OTHER.

PEOPLE WERE BEING SUPER REACTIVE BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT HAPPENED IN FIGHT OR FLIGHT.

FIGHT OR FLIGHT IS TO DEAL WITH THE IMMEDIATE THREAT, THAT'S WHAT IT'S ABOUT.

WHEN THAT STARTS PERSISTING, ALL THE MYOPIA, THE NARROW SHUTDOWN FOCUS AND THINKING AND REACTIVITY TO GET OUT OF DANGER BECOMES -- STARTS BECOMING INAPPROPRIATE, SO THAT'S WHY PEOPLE ARE STARTING TO OVERLY COMPENSATE, HOARDING STUFF OR BY BEING REACTIVE TO PEOPLE OR BY DENIAL.

THESE ARE VERY EXTREME REACTIONS TO A VERY UNDERSTANDABLE MAGNITUDE OF THE THREAT.

WHAT'S BEEN YOUR OBSERVATION ABOUT HOW WE'RE DEALING WITH SOCIAL DISTANCING?

I MEAN, APART FROM THE FEAR OF THE PANDEMIC, FEAR FOR OUR LIVES, FEAR FOR OUR WELL-BEING ECONO ECONOMICALLY, THERE'S THIS SOCIAL DISTANCING WE HAVE TO LIVE THROUGH.

WE'RE SOCIAL ANIMALS, AND WE'RE NOT MEANT TO BE HIDING AWAY IN A HOUSE FOR WEEKS, AND WE'RE NOT MEANT WHEN WE'RE WALKING DOWN THE STREET TO WALK ACROSS THE STREET WHEN SOMEBODY'S COMING BY.

IT'S JUST BIZARRE.

THAT HAS TO BE HAVING AN IMPACT ON OUR BRAIN.

WHAT IMPACT IS THAT HAVING?

WELL, YEAH, WE ARE SOCIAL ANIMALS, AND CLEARLY HAVING OXYTOCIN, THE BONDING CHEMICAL IS A VERY INTEGRAL PART OF OUR LIVES.

IT DRIVES A LOT OF BEHAVIOR.

THE TWO CHEMICALS, THE REWARD CHEMICAL, DOPAMINE AND OXYTOCIN, HOW DO WE GET THE BONDING?

FIRSTLY WE'RE LOSING IT, AND PEOPLE ARE STARTING TO GET A LITTLE UNNERVED BY IT, BUT THERE IS ALSO A SOCIAL CONNECTION THAT'S HAPPENING ON THE WEB, THE FACT THAT I'M TALKING TO YOU TODAY.

NOW, CLEARLY THERE'S LIMITS TO THAT, BUT PEOPLE ARE ALSO LOOKING AT -- AND TALK ABOUT THE NEW NORMAL.

THEY'RE LOOKING AT WAYS TO CONNECT TO PEOPLE, TO FRIENDS, TO FAMILY IN NEW WAYS, SO THAT'S NOT NEARLY THE SAME, AND IN ANSWER TO YOUR QUESTION, THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR THAT.

BUT PEOPLE HAVE BEEN SURPRISINGLY ADAPTIVE.

I MEAN, I'M SHOCKED AT HOW MUCH PEOPLE HAVE ADHERED TO THIS.

IT'S WELL OVER 90% OF PEOPLE ARE DOING THIS AND CERTAINLY IN CALIFORNIA, I AM SHOCKED AT HOW PEOPLE ARE JUST WITH THE PROGRAM.

THERE'S NO QUESTION ABOUT IT.

IT'S AMAZING.

HOW MUCH LONGER CAN WE GO THROUGH THIS?

YOU KNOW, I DON'T KNOW, BUT I DO KNOW THAT, YOU KNOW, EVERYTHING IS A TRADE-OFF IN LIFE, AND SOONER OR LATER THE STRATIFIED STEP BY STEP OPTIONS ARE COMING, BUT NONE OF THEM ARE GOOD.

SO YOU HAVE SOME TIPS.

YOU HAVE SOME SUGGESTIONS ABOUT HOW WE CAN BEST DEAL WITH THIS UNPRECEDENTED REALITY THAT WE ARE FACED WITH.

GIVE US THOSE TIPS.

SURE, I MEAN, THE FIRST THING RAFAEL, JUST TO CONTEXT IS WHAT WE SEE IN THE BRAIN IS THAT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A VERY ADAPTIVE BRAIN AND NOT, IT'S JUST SELF-INSIGHT.

SO THE FIRST THING IS, I THINK, FOR PEOPLE TO JUST ASSESS THEIR OWN BRAINS.

DO PEOPLE -- THIS IS THE OPPORTUNITY, IN MY VIEW, WHERE IT IS AN OPPORTUNITY WHERE WE'RE LOOKING AT YOUR OWN BRAIN AND UNDERSTANDING YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES.

THIS IS A GOOD TIME FOR THAT BECAUSE WITH THAT YOU CAN USE IT STRENGTHS OR WEAKNESSES IS ANXIETY A WEAKNESS, ARE YOU REALLY OVERREACTIVE?

IT'S IMPORTANT TO KNOW.

IF YOU DON'T MEASURE IT, YOU CAN'T MANAGE IT.

BUT THEN YOU CAN DEPLOY TOOLS, VERY SIMPLE TOOLS TO BREAK THE -- OR TO SHAKE, I SHOULD SAY, SHAKE THE BAD 50,000 THOUGHTS WE HAVE A DAY.

NOW WE HAVE A CHOICE, WE CAN LIVE IN NEGATIVE, PROBLEM FOCUSED OR SOLUTION FOCUSED THOUGHTS.

50,000 THOUGHTS A DAY, SO THE ISSUE IS WHAT CAN WE DO FOR REAL, NOT A KIND OF LIST OF THINGS BUT SPECIFIC WAYS THAT WE CAN IN THE MOMENT SWITCH FROM THESE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS TO POSITIVE THOUGHTS.

I'LL GIVE YOU AN EXAMPLE JUST TOP OF THE LIST.

RAFAEL, THE THING IS THIS, IF WE WANT TO SWITCH OUT OF THE FIGHT FLIGHT, BREATHING AT SIX BREATHS A MINUTE IS ONE OF THE BEST SWITCHES WE HAVE SEEN.

NOW, YOU GO, HANG ON, YOU KNOW, WE ALL KNOW THAT BREATHING SLOWLY IS GOOD FOR US, YEP, BUT IT TURNS OUT THAT SIX BREATHS PER MINUTE AND YOU FOLLOW A BREATHING PACING TO GET IT ACCURATE, IT'S GOT DEEP UNDERLYING PHYSIOLOGY.

IT'S LINKED TO YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE CONTROL.

SO IT'S A REAL SWITCH.

IT'S NOT SOME, YOU KNOW, NICE ATTITUDE.

IT'S A REALLY SERIOUS PHYSIOLOGICAL SWITCH.

SO THERE'S ONE SIMPLE TIP OF FOCUS.

THE SECOND ONE IS POSITIVITY.

YOU KNOW, WE ARE WHAT WE FOCUS ON.

IF YOU WANT TO FOCUS ON MAGTIVETY, YOU'LL MAG NIFY IT AD IT WILL CONSUME YOU.

WHAT ARE THE STRATEGIES?

WHAT ARE THE STRATEGIES TO, WHAT IS WORKING?

LET'S SEEK IT OUT, BUT IT REQUIRES TRAINING.

YOU CAN'T DO THIS JUST FROM SORT OF, YOU KNOW, HAPPY THINKING.

YOU'VE GOT TO REWIRE YOUR BRAIN, GET A NEW HABIT THAT INSTEAD OF BEING CONSUMED BY PROBLEMS, START LOOKING IN A REALISTIC WAY TO TRAIN YOURSELF TO PICK UP WHAT IS WORKING AND MAGNIFY THAT, AND THERE ARE TOOLS THAT CAN HELP THAT, LITTLE GAMES ALMOST.

BUT THEY'RE TOOLS, THERE ARE TOOLS TO DO THAT.

AND THEN THE THIRD THING IS FOCUS.

WELL, FOCUS IS BEST ACHIEVED IN SMALL STEPS BECAUSE WHEN WE'RE ANXIOUS, WE'RE SUPER DISTRACTED BECAUSE WE'RE NOT IN THE FLEXIBLE STATE.

WE'RE IN AN INFLEXIBLE STATE, SO TAKE SMALL STEPS, BE IN THE MOMENT AND COALESCE INTO BIGGEST STEP INTO FINISHING TASKS THAT ARE IMPORTANT TO YOU.

THERE ARE THREE WAYS THAT I THINK THE DIGITAL TOOLS ON THE WEB CAN BE HELPFUL TO PEOPLE TO GET THEM TO TRAIN THEIR BRAIN AND NOT JUST THINK ABOUT IT IN A PLATITUDE IN A SENSE.

REWIRE YOUR BRAIN.

IT CAN BE DONE, IT CAN BE DONE PRETTY QUICKLY AND VERY SIMPLY IF YOU FOUND THE RIGHT TOOLS AND MATCH THEM TO THE WAY YOUR BRAIN WORKS AND WHICH YOU FIND MOST HELPFUL.

LISTEN, WE HAVE ABOUT A MINUTE LEFT, AND IN A MINUTE CAN YOU TELL US THINKING POSITIVELY ABOUT POSITIVITY, WHAT ARE THE POSITIVE THINGS FOR OUR MENTAL WELL-BEING THAT COULD COME OUT OF THIS CORONAVIRUS CRISIS FOR US?

YEAH, GREAT QUESTION.

WELL, FIRSTLY, BEING MORE FLEXIBLE.

JUST THE NOTION THAT THESE KINDS OF THINGS ARE PART OF LIFE, AND IF WE'RE NOT FLEXIBLE AND ADAPTIVE, IT'S NOT GOOD.

IT DOESN'T END WELL, AND THE STRESS AND THE ACCUMULATED STRESS CAUSES ALL SORTS OF DOWNSIDE.

NUMBER ONE IS FLEXIBILITY.

NUMBER TWO IS REFRAIN.

KNOWING OUR BRAINS AND THINKING STRATEGICALLY ABOUT THE SHORT, MEDIUM, AND LONG-TERM GIVES US A KIND OF GAME PLAN TO USE OUR BRAINS EFFECTIVELY TO DEAL WITH THE SITUATION GOING FORWARD, AND THEN FIND SPECIFIC WAYS TO MEASURE AND TRAIN YOUR BRAIN, REWIRE IT IN A GRANULAR WAY, NOT IN JUST A SORT OF SIMPLISTIC AND CHECKLIST WAY.

SO HOPEFULLY ALL THIS, WE WILL LEARN FROM THIS AND MOVE FORWARD IN A POSITIVE WAY.

DOCTOR, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US TODAY.

IT'S BEEN A PLEASURE.

IT'S BEEN A PLEASURE TO SPEAK TO YOU.

THANK YOU.

> FOR THE LATEST NEWS ON THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC AND YOUR COMMUNITY, VISIT US AT METROFOCUS.ORG, FACEBOOK, AND TWITTER.

GOOD NIGHT AND STAY SAFE.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ, ROSALIND P. WALTER, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, AND BY --

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ, ROSALIND P. WALTER, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, AND BY --

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