On COVID And Conspiracies
I find it troubling, as I continue to witness more and more people in the conservative movement buy into and peddle conspiracy theories regarding the virus to confirm their political priors. You can’t go anywhere on social media without somebody claiming that the death count is inflated or mistranslating studies to fit the narrative that the novel Coronavirus isn’t bad as it is. If there are studies that prove the virus isn’t as bad or the deaths were overcounted, great. Though we must not let ourselves cling to data that minimizes COVID-19, I can understand the motivating factor. Most of us want the restrictions to end. But it gets dangerous when confirmation bias enters the equation. That goes for both the left and the right.
As I said, many on the right are desperate to have life go back to the way it was, so they have an incentive to frame the situation as less dangerous. On the other side, there are a lot on the left who have an incentive to paint the situation as worse; hence more stringent restrictions that can go beyond what is needed. These two competing desires cause distrust and elevate the conspiracy theories on the right, and self-justification for those on the left, who are now seek to bring about vast swaths of new government entitlements.
That isn’t to say we shouldn’t seek the best way to balance the health of the nation and the health of the economy. We just have to be honest about it. Finding a happy medium where we reopen cautiously is what we need to focus on as we learn more about the disease. Of course that isn’t sustainable as a permanent option, but it should be how we start. Different states should make different decisions based on their populations. Georgia and Florida, for instance, have opened up more than New York. And they have no reason not to based on their infection statistics and population density. Most states are more widespread in their populations, warranting the easing of lockdowns in appropriate areas. Even in California, not all areas should be uniformly restricted. Our goal should be to get as many people back to work as we can, but safely.
We still don’t know very much at all about COVID-19, and it hurts our cause to pretend we do, and impugn ill motives to other people. According to a study from Hederodox Academy, political ideology is a strong indicator of the threat people feel. I keep seeing people I like and respect complaining about the mask-wearing and acting like Dr. Fauci is some sort of deep state plant who either doesn’t know what he’s talking about or is a secret lib trying to peel away at our freedoms as proved by a friendly email he sent to Hillary Clinton. “He was in a picture with the Clintons. That means he’s bad.” Anthony Fauci has served as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Pretending that him having friendly relations with leftwingers is proof of his duplicity is absurd. Somebody else took a picture with the Clintons. It was at his wedding to Melania.
That isn’t to say we have to follow every policy prescription Dr. Fauci makes. We just need to figure out what trade-offs need to be made in order to best protect Americans and their livelihood. He is there as an advisor. Fauci, himself, made as much clear in his exchange with Rand Paul last week. It seems like lots of people on the left have elevated him to policy maker in their minds, while conspiracy-minded people on the right have countered by believing it, and making him the bogeyman. Fauci is there to provide information and the government ought to make decisions balancing risks versus rewards.
Some people are suggesting we aim for natural herd immunity among those who are at lesser risk, but we still don’t know how immunity is conferred from this disease. We don’t know if you can get it twice. We also do not know the longterm effects of the virus on the human body. That means we shouldn’t be willynilly proposing that young and healthy people get it over with. Let’s take the lungs for instance.
Like other respiratory illnesses, COVID can potentially cause long lasting lung damage. According to Johns Hopkins, if there is damage, it is likely to coincide with comorbidities and the severity of the case. In the original SARS, longterm damage was only found in a small percentage of people. Though in SARS-CoV-2, the disease is being exposed to a far more diverse population as opposed to the previous strain that was smaller in scale and 90% contained to China. So it could very well not take any time off of a young and healthy life, but we still don’t know enough. For instance, smoke inhalation can cause permanent damage to the lungs. If somebody survives a fire, then dies eighteen years later from lung damage stemming from that fire, the fire still killed that person. Just like how an old person who dies of COVID should still be counted as a COVID death. Seeking to minimize or exclude deaths of the elderly and people with preexisting conditions is eerily similar in my mind to countries that don’t include premature babies in their infant mortality.
That said, if a vaccine is effective in preventing contraction of the disease, that radically changes the rate at which the world can return to normal. We have seen promising results in vaccine trials with rhesus monkeys and effective therapeutics for instance. If they prove to be successful, the novel Coronavirus could be reduced to the level of a seasonal flu, or maybe completely eliminated if there isn’t viral mutation.
It’s important, as we are taking in more and more new information about the virus, that we make sure not to let our politics influence the information. When we don’t know something, we have a tendency to revert to our political prior opinions, but I implore people to catch yourselves before you fall into that line of thinking. We need to make sure people don’t take advantage of this crisis, but we can’t cover our ears and pretend it’s not real.