Walking Away from Pandemic

Terry H. Schwadron

May 5, 2021

I’ve been pretty good about following the ever-bouncing ball on coronavirus information, personally adjusting as needed and digging deeper when I don’t. Still, we finally have reached that stage, just as we in the United States might be envisioning normalcy, when it all seems unnecessarily confusing again.

Clearly, a lot of other people are torn as well, and when science, the Centers for Disease Control, and our national leadership cross their wires, Americans just decide to act on what they want to be true.

It appears that confluence clears the way simultaneously for those who lobby for continued restrictions, those who want businesses open wide with no masks, anti-vaxx proponents and conspiracists all to co-exist almost with equal say. Depending on what channel you turn on, you’re liable to hear “evidence” for whatever you want.

That’s hardly Science, nor is it the end of worldwide disease.

Public health has become personal privilege in a country of privilege.

While we’re watching India and Brazil, among others, suffer huge (and under-reported) numbers of pandemic deaths, and we hear news reports of varying quality mention mutations, we’re also getting advice that we can, in effect throw outdoor masks away if we’ve been vaccinated and worry instead about filling office buildings again. We’re suffering unending, futile criticisms of vaccine expert Dr. Anthony Fauci from the likes of Sen. Rand Paul over masks and liberty instead of coordinated peer pressure to get the remaining half of the country to take a jab for personal and public protection. At the same time, we now learn that as daily vaccination rates are dropping, there is widespread consensus among experts that “herd immunity” is not attainable — at least not in the foreseeable future, and perhaps not ever. And it came as New York City says it is ready to open all venues for concerts and business, mixed messages. As a result, the government announced a shift in strategy to seek more single shots and to put vaccines in states where they will be used.

It is baffling that we can’t get clearer advice, that people so distrust elites and experts as to overrule any advice they get, and that in a country which is providing enough free vaccine to all, that all won’t take it for the protection of others, or to put this particular disease back in the drawer.

Where We Stand

OK, so the latest thinking is that for the United States, the threats of death from coronavirus are decreasing even as cases continue at a sizeable rate. The mutating virus, the probability of booster shots, the emergence of more treatments earlier and some (any?) adherence to physical distancing might keep our pandemic experience within more manageable levels.

Legitimate hesitations aside, Americans clearly are sticking our heads in the sand by seeing this as a local issue, not a global one. While disease rages elsewhere, international transmission is a certainty, of course. We’ll have this disease with us for years to come, continually changing.

The new question is whether it is worth the risks of taking a vaccine to largely wipe out the worst that coronavirus can bring.

The best non-conspiratorial, if statistical, arguments of anti-vaxxers is that while the raw numbers for coronavirus cases remain high, the percentage of those falling ill are no more than annual flu. And, increasingly, deaths are now dropping even among the sick, as older populations have been largely vaccinated, and the average age and condition of new patients is younger and better.

That statistical view accounts for neither personal, human emotional cost nor an excuse for inaction by governments towards providing appropriate avenues for health care overall.

That mindset, in turn, opens the door for those who see politics in every aspect of life to find fault with governors or presidents who seek too great a hold over personal decision-making through business lockdowns or heavier restrictions on gatherings. We have a right in this country to make ourselves and our neighbors sick, goes the argument. And even if we do, it’s an infringement on individualism to have government rules. It seems more important that there be no vaccination proof document or app than it does whether we rid ourselves of contagion.

From there, it’s only a hop, skip and jump to blame Bill Gates or some mystery cult for seeking to control us or implant us with chips. I watched as I got both jabs.

After my double vaccine, I can report that I haven’t been communicating with Bill Gates any more than I did before. He’s not going to the grocery store for me, not doing the chores, not filling out my voting ballot. If this is control over my individualism, I hate to see what lack of control looks like.

Now What

What I do know is that for experts to say now that herd immunity is not possible is to all but give up in persuading anti-vaxxers into taking a chance on the jab.

We were at our first outdoor gathering in a year of maybe 20 or 30 where people doffed masks, and then talked about how freeing it was, though generally people kept a three-foot distance from one another. At the same time, we were aware that this would not be possible in many other countries.

It is a time of weird contradictions.

The young school students in the family are still going to school physically less than fulltime, offices don’t know whether and how to fully return workers, Joe Biden confuses people by speaking to a limited, vaccinated, spaced Congress crowd, and then masking or unmasking. The rules are that there are no rules, really, and if there are, it’s because one political lobby or another is perceived as having swayed the outcome.

We’ve changed administrations, but useful words from the CDC still feel unduly nuanced, late, and less than effective. The recent release of a government chart to guide mask-wearing was widely decried just for being complicated — because it is.

State government proclamations aside, we’re left practically to follow Common Sense for those who’d just as soon not get sick or make someone else sick. But one would hope that decisions are based on some kind of reliable information rather than on wishes.





Journalist, musician, community volunteer

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