COVID-19 is Apolitical. On this issue, you cannot be.

Let me start with a little background. I am not an epidemiologist. I have no degrees in medicine. I do, however, have a lifelong obsession with the subject. When Ebola was discovered in 1976, I read an article, I believe it was in National Geographic, about this horrible disease and how rapidly it spread. To put this in perspective, I was just shy of 8 years old. To say it made an impression is a vast understatement. It scared the piss out of me. Since that time, I’ve followed the news, read the journals, listened to the experts, and am therefore a well informed amateur. I understand in depth the necessary responses to an epidemic. While my fear was and continues to be focused on Ebola and other similar diseases, COVID-19 is no joke. In fact, we can view it as a dress rehearsal for the next epidemic. Make no mistake, there will be another one. At the rate we are growing as a species, it is highly unlikely that we’ll get another century of respite once we get a handle on this one.

I voted Democrat. Not because they best represent me, but because they represent me slightly better than the Republicans, who I have nothing in common with. That is a rant for another time, save that in our country, there is a center right and far right party, and no viable alternatives. I’m more to the left. Why, for the purpose of this article, barely matters. But the center right party at least tried to take the pandemic seriously.

They failed miserably.

They failed miserably because something that should not have been political got turned into a political circus by the conservative minority that held the majority of government. The slightly less conservative Democratic party did not stand by, but they were either unwilling or unable to fight back effectively. I suspect a combination of both.

So, back to epidemiology. An often lamented truth among professional epidemiologists is that the proper response to an epidemic looks like a vast overreaction. It is not. The disease, whatever disease it is that is breaking out, simply does not care how you vote. In the current pandemic, if SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the Covid-19 disease, had a full cell let alone a brain, it would vote Republican. Because the alleged leadership of the Republicans have aided and abetted the virus at every turn, under the guise of freedoms that they would deny you on ANY other issue.

Republicans are pretty well known for the phrase “Your Freedom ends where my face begins”, yet they, egged on by their rulers, refuse to wear a piece of cloth over their mouth and nose. This means that they can spit upon the “liberals” they so want to “own” with impunity. They are actively and deliberately committing murder. These are the same people who oppose abortion on all grounds, are in favor of just about any war, and largely were in favor of the draft not that long ago. Their definition of freedom seems to be “I can do whatever I want, and damn the consequences!”. We frequently see this in human development, frankly, but most people outgrow it by around age two. Or so I thought before this election. I have to reassess that, and frankly, it don’t look too good.

So, here’s some things that should not be controversial in the midst of a global pandemic.

Limit contact with other people. Yes, we’re social animals. Let’s not commit suicide or homicide over it. The science is neither new, unclear, or controversial. The virus is new. That’s what the scientific term NOVEL coronavirus means. Prior to late last year, we didn’t know it existed. Developing medicines against something that we have few natural defenses against takes time. Keep calm, and keep back.

Wear a damn mask! No, you’re not going to drown in CO2. My brother, a nurse, tested this theory with an N95 mask while hooked up to an O2 monitor. He actually expected his oxygen levels to go down slightly. With the filtration, and a ten minute test, his oxygen levels were actually slightly elevated. No, it is not a major imposition on your freedom, it is actually a protection of it. You wear that mask to protect ME from YOUR spit. I wear mine to protect YOU from MY spit. If we’re both doing it, and maintaining a distance, we reduce the chance for the virus to do what it does best: Reproduce in a new host.

Yes, it’s a bit uncomfortable. So’s a heavy coat in winter. Deal with it like an adult.

Wash your damn hands. Frequently, with soap, for at least 30 seconds. You know, basic hygiene? We figured this out, as a species, during one of the greater pandemics in history. We call it the “black plague”, and it killed about a third of Europe. It’s still with us, but out of that disaster arose the germ theory of medicine, which has since saved countless thousands of lives and is the underpinning of most modern medicine. Amazingly enough, paying attention to dedicated experts tends to give good results.

More controversial, but no less important.

Lockdowns.

Locking down an area to essential travel and essential movement is effective to slow the spread of the virus. This in itself is not controversial, except to those who will not pay attention. (I’m looking at YOU, MAGA!!!!). However, by itself a lockdown is a band aid on a sucking chest wound.

The idea behind it, from the epidemiologist’s perspective, is to buy time. Less infection means slower rates of hospitilization (about the only thing our pissant response in March achieved), and time to prepare for emergency and ongoing mitigation. This virus is new, and it is potent. It will NOT go away with a vaccine. It is likely with us forever, like the flu. But it can be contained and mitigated IF we prepare.

The US should have used that time to build out much more emergency medical infrastructure such as ventilators, high filtration masks, Racal suits and similar, and mobile emergency hospitals. This was within the president’s ability under emergency powers, and it was part of the emergency plan left to him by his predecessor that he junked in 2018. Had this been done, we could have opened back up carefully, and largely safely because we’d have the response ready to go, and ready to move to wherever the flareups occured.

And the right would have bitched that “it cost too much”, or it was an “overreaction”, or <insert bullshit ignorant argument>.

No, it’s not. LEARN, people. We live in an age where we have an unprecedented access to factual information. The internet is not just for porn and conspiracy theories. You can find actual facts in many places, with proper citation. But you have to learn, first, to filter the noise from the signal. It’s not really that hard.

“Many people are saying…” is an anecdote, or in the case of the idiot I’m quoting, an outright lie. “Experts say…” might be, and should be dismissed unless there is a CITATION. Then, you read the source material, because those in favor of polemics very often mischaracterize or outright make a strawman from their citation. It’s ok to be skeptical, it’s in fact a good trait. But stopping there, without research, thought, and understanding, leads to, well…

What we have.

COVID 19 did not break the United States. It merely widened the wounds. If there is one good thing that came out of this mess, it’s that our many systemic problems were writ large and a glaring light shined on them during this pandemic. What that light revealed is truly awful. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a lot of work to do, and it needs to happen fast.

To the right: You look ridiculous to everyone else. Hell, once y’all sober up, you’ll look ridiculous to yourself. So sober up, buckle down, and think about somebody besides yourself.

To the left: BE BOLD. Stop trying to aim to the center. The center follows the wind. Always. At the moment, that wind is a cyclone, so they’re chasing their tails.

To the middle: Grow up. You cannot afford to be neutral on a moving train. (h/t to System of a Down).

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Kevin Putzier

I am a practicalist, which means I take political and social ideas from all sides and try to find what works. Mostly Progressive.