“I believed the virus to be a hoax. I believed the mainstream media and the Democrats were using it to create panic, crash the economy and destroy Trump’s chances at re-election. And so, believing the pandemic to be a hoax, my partner and I hosted family members on Saturday, June 13. On Sunday, June 14, I woke up sick.”
— Guest columnist Tony Green (7/24/20)
By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (7/30/20)
Dear Fellow Readers,
What do our actions and opinions with coronavirus say about us during a pandemic?
A great deal of what we face is not easy to sort. I noted in the last column how we surpassed a global milestone of 16 million confirmed cases and only a few days later we’ve exceeded 17 million. Some countries like Canada are managing the crisis well with 117,000 confirmed cases living next door to the United States with 4,526,481 confirmed cases — and counting, as of Wednesday afternoon.
But what about our personal choices? Do we have children facing a return to school? How do we feel about the prospect of choosing to be vaccinated or not?
Rural Wisconsin schools lean towards reopening without a face mask requirement for students or teachers; a few districts intend to rely on students for self-screening with no temperature checks. School districts in the larger cities lean towards delayed openings and hybrid learning options. Some see this solely as a discussion about the need for children to learn face-to-face and socialize with their peers. How teachers feel may not completely align with administration. Many statements regarding reopening are being offered without accompanying details on protocols. Understanding that children 10 years or older transmit the virus just like an adult, it underscores our national failure to bring the virus more under control in advance and our failure to be properly prepared with testing and tracing.
Returning to school is a difficult decision for parents, students, teachers and staff. While not as imminent, vaccines will continue to be in the news as we approach what certainly looks like multiple options. There is a great deal of mistrust with vaccines; development and availability are only part of the challenge if vaccines are to have a positive impact on managing the virus. A number of development programs are entering Phase 3 testing with tens of thousands of volunteers. One of the more balanced reviews of vaccines is offered by Sarah Zang writing for The Atlantic, A Vaccine Reality Check. Zang covers the waterfront from “promising data” to the realities of making available hundreds of millions of doses and other challenges and concerns. Zang ends with a quote from Ruth Karron, Johns Hopkins vaccine expert “I think the question that is easy to answer is, ‘Is this virus going to go away?’ And the answer to that is, ‘No’”. But every reader is likely to find both encouragement and concerns presented.
Coronavirus vaccines are now such a developed story that Moderna is already being criticized over dosage pricing for being more expensive than other announcements and after receiving Operation Warp Speed funding in exchange for a promise to price in lieu of profit. Or consider CanSino, a vaccine developed with the backing of China’s Central Military Commission. Early test data shows inferior antibody development but it will be inexpensive and China is already targeting distribution in Latin America.
Finding one’s way
In the face of failed leadership we all try to navigate the pandemic responsibly. For the umpteenth time Trump shows a single flash of ‘proper tone’ and is yet again celebrated as having turned the corner, and right back to promoting hydroxychloroquine. Even worse, Trump is promoting the coronavirus conspiracy theories of Houston doctor Stella Immanuel who claims to have successfully treated hundreds of patients with hydroxychloroquine, dismisses the need for masks, and opined, “sexual visitations by demons and alien DNA are at the root of Americans’ common health concerns.”
Some of our supposed leaders are touting conspiracies and modeling the worst behavior. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) is one of the Trumpster Representatives that has refused to wear a mask while in the Capitol. Gohmert was spotted speaking with Attorney General William Barr ahead of a Tuesday hearing and was to be traveling to Texas on Wednesday with Trump but pre-screening showed him testing positive for coronavirus. Instead of isolating himself, Gohmert returned to his office to personally inform staffers face-to-face so they wouldn’t have to learn through the news.
Or consider the Miami Marlins Major League Baseball (MLB) team in a nation that highly values sports. The Marlins had four players test positive before a Sunday game against the Phillies – and chose to play anyway. Subsequently eight more tested positive and then an additional four. The Marlins self-quarantined in Philadelphia, the Washington Nationals opted to not travel to Miami for a weekend series and Miami’s schedule is suspended at least until Monday. The Marlins players voted to play? MLB has only done the minimum by having the players stay in place while a few games are suspended but what about a full quarantine plan? Did no one consider this prior to opening the season?
Trump, Gohmert, Miami Marlins — and the opening quote from Tony Green. Green, a healthy middle-aged self-described gay conservative man, starts by describing his symptoms including his ending up in ER. He voted for Trump, was all “God given-rights” and “hoax” but only two days after his exposure his partner and parents were also sick… then his father-in-law’s mother, one of his partner’s sisters… Or consider a COVID party in New Jersey with 700 attendees that took police five hours to break up.
The pattern — much as we’ve seen in Wisconsin — is post-reopening “young people are infecting older family members in shared homes”.
A good case can be made for reopening schools. The coronavirus will spread. We could have had stronger protocols but we are where we are which we many will lament in the fall. What is the plan should a teacher become infected? Don’t look to MLB or the Marlins or Gohmert or Trump or the ‘hoax’ crowd for good answers. Look past your friend’s social media posts that spread disinformation, some of which may very well be by way of Russia – still pumping out disinformation.
Pandemic of poor leadership
Trump continues to push for reopening while doing nothing to make it more realistic. His coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, told an audience in Tennessee that everyone should be required to wear a mask followed by Gov. Bill Lee (R-TN) refusing to commit.
If only we had proper leadership. If only poor leadership didn’t discount science. If you want a ‘good science’ update, look here for a review of the coronavirus experience for Indiana – Random testing in Indiana shows COVID-19 is 6 times deadlier than flu, and 2.8% of the state has been infected. Stepping back a bit from the front line, I’ll end with an interesting thought piece from The Nation on reframing a pandemic and the cure given the likelihood we’ll get to do this again in our lifetime.