There is a lot of mixed information, and most likely a lot of misinformation, out there about the current outbreak / pandemic of what, for simplicity, I’ll call C-19. There are, it seems to me, two general category errors that a lot of people are making, currently.
The first is panic / gloom-and-doom pessimism: “It’s going to kill us all! Millions dead! It’s the end of the world as we know it! And it’s all Trump’s fault!” To people on that side of the spectrum, let me say, take a chill-pill. For one thing, there is no situation that it helped by panic. For another, the stark and, yes, frightening “worst-case scenarios” are precisely that: what might happen if governments and people do nothing.
But a lot is being done. Social distancing and voluntary isolation – even, yes, government-enforced shutdowns and quarantines, as little as us liberty-minded folks like them – do a great deal to break the chain of transmission. So do closing borders, although it can certainly be argued that that should have been done sooner!
Moreover, there are tremendous efforts underway in labs across the nation and world to bring new antiviral therapies and even vaccines online, and there is a lot of promising being done. We are by no means out of the woods yet; but the chance of a mass die-off is, while not zero, at least fairly unlikely. Particularly if proper precautions, such as those in the graphic above, are utilized.
And that brings me to the other significant error I see in this: the idea that “oh, it’s just a bad cold!” Or, “oh, it’s just another flu” – with the assumption being that it’s not that big of a deal; it’s an over-reaction, or worse yet a hoax, and I don’t really have to change my behavior or worry about this thing.
That attitude, frankly, could get you killed. Or worse yet, get someone you care about killed: your grandparent, your friend or relative who is immuno-suppressed or has an underlying condition you didn’t know about. Too many knowledgeable people, who have no reason to be advancing a hoax, have sounded warnings about this for me to take it lightly.
I was, frankly, horrified to see the videos of college kids on Spring Break in Florida hanging all over each other on the beach like nothing was wrong. Yes, when you’re that age, you think you’re immortal, invincible – right up until something happens. Stupidity shouldn’t be lethal, but it often is – and it’s not always the stupid one who suffers.
So it’s not only or even primarily what might happen to them; it’s what they may take back to their communities, and more vulnerable members of those communities. And while younger people do tend to have milder effects from this thing, they’re not immune: 1 in 5 of those hospitalized in the US are younger adults, between 20 and 44.
But if ignorance, foolishness, and chance-taking go with the young, what is even more frustrating is older adults, including some who should be thoughtful, intelligent, and responsible, who are not yet taking this with the seriousness it deserves. Most of those are skeptics because they assume that it is an attempted Deep State takeover, or part of the vendetta against President Trump, or both.
To be fair, I think there are very real dangers to our Constitutional rights and civil liberties stemming from government actions to limit the effects of this virus, and they will increase the longer the threat continues, and the more drastic the steps taken to contain it. “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” as the old saying goes.
This is particularly the case since, unlike (for instance) World War Two, in which the American people had to put up with some pretty extreme government limitations – including rationing of fuel and foodstuffs, censorship of mail, and even limitations on travel – there is not necessarily a clear and obvious end-game.
The war against the Axis had a definitive conclusion: surrender, and the signing of peace-treaties. The war against a virus isn’t likely to end on the deck of a battleship. Like the also-nebulous “War on Terror,” there will always be a new virus, a new threat, and a new (or worsening) temptation to misuse power, even for good reasons. And of course, not everyone in the government has pure motives, and the Deep State does exist.
But that is a separate (though related) issue from limiting the spread of a dangerous virus. If the government oversteps, that’s a problem; but it is, in my view, a more serious and immediate problem to refuse to take the danger posed by C-19 seriously, or neglect to take appropriate steps to mitigate it, just because one is concerned that the government will take Rahm Emanuel’s infamous dictum (“never let a good crisis go to waste”) to heart.
At minimum, the suggestions in the infographic above provide reasonable, common-sense precautions that will help prevent or limit the spread not only of C-19, but of other dangerous viruses as well. The top two apply to everyone (and the instructions for hand-washing should apply to all times, not just pandemics); the lower one is for those whose state or municipality has not already imposed more stringent restrictions.
Yes, by all means let’s keep a weather-eye on the government! But in the meantime, let’s also do what we can to prevent C-19 from becoming even more of a problem than it is already. The life you save may be your own… or a beloved grandparent’s.
And don’t forget to wash those paws!