COVID Thoughts

COVID Thoughts

We’re now six-plus months into our collective COVID life. It’s time to sound off with some thoughts on where we’ve been and where we’re going. This is going to be more of a personal narrative rather than a journalistic/research piece.

My COVID View, Back Then

If you were to roll the clock back to late February or early March on Twitter, you’d find my timeline filled with skepticism. I really didn’t think that COVID-19 was a big deal. Why? The data didn’t back up any great concern, to say nothing of a panic or pandemic. Some of that skepticism still holds. COVID-19 simply isn’t a big killer. It isn’t a modern day “Black Death”. If you run the numbers, it’s a moderately difficult disease to catch, and a rare one to die from. It certainly isn’t The Last of Us.

I was dubious that there would be any significant consequences here and had very little concern for the health of my coworkers, family, and friends. As reactions progressed from rising alarm to quarantine and lockdown, I stayed skeptical.

It wasn’t going to be a big deal.

I was wrong to be unconcerned.

My COVID View, Today

What has changed from March to September? Today, I know people who have been infected with COVID-19, both mild and severe. I know people who have had relatives die from COVID-19 and those who have great levels of anxiety produced by the pandemic. I simply can not look at the COVID experiences of people I know personally and say, “It’s no big deal.”

However, I still keep some skepticism. I struggle with balancing the COVID reactive measures that have been taken with the economic and social consequences they produced. I know people who have been economically devastated by the lockdowns. I’ve seen the depression and anxiety that can come from isolation. I’ve felt some of that myself.

We are still lacking accurate data which either fully supports the actions taken, refutes them, or provides a solid basis for structuring a way forward through the disease.

The pandemic still isn’t a major killer in terms of raw statistics, even though tens of thousands have perished. That said, I do not minimize at all the toll COVID-19 My condolences to all those who have suffered.

Government Failed, Naturally

The most common thread to everything COVID-related is the failure of government at just about every level. We’ve seen inconsistent messaging, unreliable information, contradictory positions sometimes even exhibited within a single agency, and responses which seem more like spinning a wheel of options rather than reasoned policy.

We shouldn’t have expected any different. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have botched things from the get-go, starting with their complete failure to manage accurate testing for the virus. Outfits like the World Health Organization completely failed in that they trusted the numbers that came out of China (as did I; mea culpa, see “back then”, above).

Through all that, the one organization which has excelled during the crisis is my local school district: Pine-Richland. Our schools performed admirably back in the spring when they had to make up remote learning solutions as they went. My son was able to complete 8th Grade successfully, and my daughter graduated from high school. The district developed a comprehensive reopening plan which has shown its resiliency through the first month of classes. My son’s freshman year of high school is going great, and the every-other-day in-school schedule has been working. Yes, he’d rather be in school every day. I am confident that when the district determines that is safe with every concern they have to comply with, that is what they will do.

Blessed to be in Pittsburgh

Why? Four letters: UPMC.

I’ve done a lot of reading, plus I’ve heard from friends across the country who either work in health care or have experience with their local health care providers, and I can say this:

UPMC seems to be darn near unique across the country in both preparedness for a pandemic and responding to one on their hands. Yes, Pittsburgh hasn’t suffered the same level of cases as some areas. Regardless I have no doubt that they are ready if the Pittsburgh region is beset like some places have been. They have been a voice of calm and reason. UPMC quickly developed testing protocols, artificial intelligence-driven clinical trials and guided therapies, and with their partners in medical research at the University of Pittsburgh, are leaders in vaccine development, vaccine delivery methods, and promising COVID therapies.

They are absolute rock stars. That came as absolutely no surprise, as I have a recent critical care incident with my son which absolutely awed me.

I have no doubt whatsoever that if myself or any member of my family falls ill with COVID-19, UPMC will do everything in their power to get us well, and I have no fear that they will fail.

(Full disclosure: my wife is an employee of UPMC. That said, this is not a “corporate line” defense. Nothing in my opinion of how UPMC has reacted to COVID-19 bears upon her employment or is influenced by any spousal communication.)

On Lockdowns

U.S. District Judge William S. Stickman IV (Western District of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh) ruled on September 14th that the lockdown measures taken here in Pennsylvania by Governor Tom Wolfe’s administration are unconstitutional, running afoul of the First Amendment’s protection of peaceable assembly rights and the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections of due process and equal protection rights.

He’s right.

I believe restricting gatherings made – and continue to make – common sense. That doesn’t mean they can be mandated in many cases. Certain things are unquestionably within the purview of government to close: schools, public buildings, and the like.

For businesses, entertainment venues, religious institutions, etc. the decision to close or remain open should have been left to them. They should have had the common sense to take reasonable mitigation steps to protect their patrons on their own or close as they would see fit. If they didn’t have that common sense, well, then that’s up to the patrons. Unfortunately, our experience shows that many people don’t have it either.

It isn’t the job of government to protect people from themselves. Protect yourself, or suffer the consequences of not.

On Reopening

Should schools and businesses re-open? Should they remain closed? Simply put: yes.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The decision to re-open should be as far down the chain as possible. What works for one school district won’t work for another. A restaurant in Pittsburgh is going to have to deal with much different circumstances than one in San Francisco.

The bottom line though is people are going to have to be a lot smarter, which leads to…

Masks Work

Why did health care workers wear masks during patient care prior to COVID-19? UPMC has required its employees who can’t get vaccinated annually during flu season due to allergies to wear masks full time in their facilities for years pre-COVID. Most health care facilities have queried about illnesses and have asked the sick to mask up. The answer is obvious.

They work.

No, a mask is not going to stop a single virus. That is also obvious. Virues, including COVID-19, don’t generally float around free. They are contained in droplets, and even a cloth mask will reduce the amount of droplets a person can transmit. One single virus in your body isn’t enough to make you sick. It’s all about viral load. Minimize the virus, minimize the likelihood you will be infected.

As has been said, and needs to be said more: “Your mask protects me; my mask protects you.” I am quite dubious of mask orders but I’m all in favor of volunteerism and self-preservation.

I’m a libertarian. By definition I don’t like anyone being told by government what to do. As it happens, I started wearing a mask out of simple common sense prior to it being mandated. I don’t mind it. It isn’t a hassle. If it keeps me from getting sick, or if I am a virus carrier prevents someone else from getting sick, that’s a good thing.

Want to get back to more of a “previous normal”? Put your mask on in public, and wear it correctly.

I’m out…

(Featured image credit: KELLEPICS on Pixabay)

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