Posts Tagged ‘coronavirus’

Pandemic of Contention

March 21, 2021

If you haven’t already read my last blog entry, “The Partial Illusion of Free Will”, please go back and read it now. It lays the foundation for what I’m writing about today. I’ve been dealing with a lot of people who are very stressed out. There is a lot of conflict in the world. There always has been, but we have new issues that we’re not used to dealing with and don’t know quite how to handle. I’m seeing a lot of discord and contention between groups of people. There are always lots of issues to disagree with, but there are two categories of issues that are currently at the forefront that I wish to discuss. This isn’t so much about the issues themselves but more about the contention itself. These two categories are health and politics. I am not neutral in these areas. I have some passionate feelings about both of them. However, the purpose of this writing is not to convince you of my way of thinking. I will do my best to set aside my feelings and look at the overall problems objectively.

Politically, in the United States, we have a wide division between liberals and conservatives. People have always leaned one way or the other, but we mostly got along with each other. Today, especially leading up to and right after the last presidential election, I see huge amounts of bad feelings on both sides of the aisle. I read comments from both groups about how horrible and illogical the people in the other group are. It can be difficult to understand why people even think the way that they do. That’s why I suggested reading my previous article before this one. Even if we try to be compassionate and understanding, which not all people do, we cannot see the world through another person’s eyes.

Let’s look at a simple example. I’ve always wondered why foods that I find very tasty some people can’t stand, and vice versa. Why do I have a favorite color and you have a different favorite color? What I’ve wondered about a great deal is whether or not my experiences are the same as yours. Our eyes pick up a certain frequency and we’re taught that it’s orange, for example. Am I seeing exactly the same color that you’re seeing when you look at the color orange? Does catsup taste the same in your mouth as it does in mine? We can’t know what that experience is unless we are somehow able to occupy another person’s body and brain.

What does that have to do with politics and health issues? Every person experiences the world in their own way. This characterizes their viewpoints and causes them to react to situations in their own unique ways. When we see or hear something that is in alignment with our view of the world, we tune into it and are drawn toward it. Sometimes that even makes us oblivious to other information that does not conform to our reality. People like to claim to be objective, to weigh both sides and draw a logical conclusion from the facts at hand. I say that’s rare, if not impossible. Everyone naturally tunes into data that fit their viewpoints and understanding and naturally tunes out information that doesn’t fit. As we progress through life, our stances on politics, morals and other values become more solidified as we selectively gather more and more information that fits our reality.

In our current society, opinions on politics and health have become very intertwined. As I talk with other people about hot topics related to the pandemic, I have quickly realized that it’s not so much about health facts as it is about political persuasion. Liberals tend to look at our healthcare policies and how the pandemic has been handled one way, while conservatives tend to look at it in a very different way. The basic facts are the same, the pandemic is the same, and yet people see it very differently. I realize that it’s not all black and white and that there is some crossover, but I have seen very definite divisions along these lines. Both sides seem to have plenty of information to support their viewpoints, but there doesn’t seem to be any definitive proof for either side, though emotions can make it seem like there is no question of the validity of one’s opinions.

So, what is my purpose in all of this? I am calling for compassion and understanding, and most of all, mutual respect. Differing opinions can be so loudly pronounced that it seems at times that we’re on the verge of another civil war. To get down to the nitty gritty, mask wearers should not come down on people who don’t believe in wearing masks. Those who don’t believe in wearing masks should not ridicule those who choose to wear them or refuse to follow mask policies in businesses that require them. Anti-vaxers should not ridicule those who believe in getting the vaccine. Those who are in favor of the vaccinations should not come down on or mandate vaccinations for those who don’t believe that the vaccinations are necessary or healthy. I realize that there are many people who feel that the only way out of this pandemic is to get everyone vaccinated and to make sure everyone keeps wearing masks and practicing social distancing until the pandemic is completely under control. No matter how strongly people feel about this and how much scientific evidence they believe exists to support this belief, it’s still only an opinion, not a proven fact.

Again, my purpose here is not to show which approach is right and which is wrong. All I’m saying is that neither group is evil or stupid. The contention and division in our society could become more damaging than the pandemic itself. You don’t have to agree with someone else’s viewpoint to treat them with respect and courtesy. We just have to understand that we all see things our own way. If you see things differently than I do, that doesn’t make you wrong. It only makes you human.

Coronavirus Controversy

April 26, 2020

CoronavirusCOVID-19. Have you heard anything about that lately? If you’re like me, you probably hear about that more than anything for the past several weeks. This coronavirus has changed life for the entire world. It’s getting more difficult to maintain patience as we wait for life to return to normal. Personally, my impatience is leading to great frustration, and I’m not even one of those whose life has been totally upended. I’ve been very blessed to keep my business going during this time when so many other businesses have been put on hold. Part of the frustration comes from the growing feeling that the extreme measures that we’ve been subjected to may not have even been appropriate. I’m not suggesting that COVID-19 is not a big deal and should have never been taken seriously. My heart goes out to those who have and are suffering from this horrible illness, and especially to those who have lost loved ones to it. This is not your standard, everyday flu bug. I hear estimates from twice as bad to ten times more deadly than normal influenza. Some see this as something very unique, while others see it as just as a particularly nasty strain in an ever-increasing list of viruses. Whichever the truth is, I believe that it’s time to return to normal life and that perhaps this massive disruption should have never occurred. There are two main reasons for this.

First, when all of these restrictions and social distancing came into play in early March, I don’t believe that we were at the forefront of the pandemic, but rather at the tail end of it. Here in Utah, I’ve been watching the statistics for COVID-19. Every day, they report more and more cases of the disease and usually a few more deaths. Sometimes it seems like the pandemic is getting worse, in spite of all of the social distancing. However, there’s one statistic that shows otherwise. That is the percentage of positive test results. That number is not increasing, but is starting to decrease. In fact, those numbers have been flat ever since they started tracking it. It’s been consistently around 5% of all tests for COVID-19 have come back positive. Now it’s down around 4%. This tells me that it’s not the disease that’s increasing, but rather the number of people getting tested. However, the most interesting part of these statistics is that the percentage has been basically flat all along. In a pandemic where the disease was actively and rapidly spreading, I would think that you would see the percentages going up significantly, at least at first. Then you would hopefully see the numbers start coming down as a benefit of all the social distancing that has been put in place. The fact that the numbers have always stayed flat suggests that perhaps the pandemic has been going on longer than we thought, and now, it’s pretty much endemic across the population. To me, that would explain the flat numbers. Therefore, the pandemic already occurred before any of the social distancing guidelines began. Perhaps we closed the barn door after the horse has already escaped, as the saying goes. So, if the damage has already been done, why are we going through this huge economic and social disruption? Many thousands of people die from the flu every year. However, that’s considered “normal”. We don’t shut down our entire society for it. Viruses will always be there. I suspect that newer, more deadly strains will come along from time to time. Where does it end? We can’t just all stay home all the time. For this current pandemic, I don’t believe it’s growing and spreading. It’s the awareness of COVID-19 that’s spreading. Before (when I believe that the pandemic started a few months ago), we didn’t know to test for it. People were getting sick and dying, but it would have been attributed to regular flu and pneumonia. Now, as more and more people are getting tested, the numbers keep rising. But if the disease has already infiltrated our society, you would expect to see more and more cases as time goes along, even though the percentage of positive tests aren’t increasing.

My other point is that, especially in light of my previous point, is that this may be one of those cases where the cure is worse than the disease (looking at the overall situation of our society, not the disease itself). The social and economic costs are too great. We need to work, to earn money, to interact socially, to do group activities, etc. Schools, churches, and many varieties of businesses are important parts of our culture. Our economy relies on people getting out and working – not only to provide for themselves and their families, but to produce goods and services to enable us to thrive. One thing that’s especially confusing is that during this health crisis, many forms of healthcare are virtually shut down. Most forms of elective healthcare, including surgeries, have been put on hold. I spoke to my podiatrist a few weeks ago and was told that he had cancelled or postponed 35 surgeries. People don’t have surgery for the fun of it. People need care. But it goes beyond that. What about the nurses, medical assistants, and all of the other healthcare workers that would be involved in those surgeries? And it’s not just their pocketbooks, but all of the other products and services that they would spend money on, thus continuing the flow of money in our economy. My daughter is a medical assistant. She’s on furlough because their clinic has cut back to only the most essential services, thus making it unnecessary to have as many workers there as usual. Again, people don’t go to the doctor for entertainment. All of the restrictions and press regarding this pandemic is creating more physical and emotional stress for people. One of the biggest deterrents to having a healthy immune system is stress. So where is the logic in reducing healthcare and creating more stress during a health crisis?

I’m very concerned about the long-term effects to our economy. People are going into debt, using their savings, and going without many goods and services. The government has stepped in to help – sending money to almost everyone and providing loans to businesses. What I don’t hear people asking about is where this money is coming from. Didn’t the United States already have a huge amount of debt? Did they just have trillions of dollars lying around that they didn’t know what to do with? I don’t think so. That money has to come from somewhere. It will need to be made up. They can print more money, but that lowers the value of the dollar. Doesn’t that lead to recession? There will be backlash. And all of this came about, not as a direct result of the virus, but because of our reaction to it.

Not all of the consequences of this social distancing have been negative. I’m sure many people have avoided getting sick (from all the viruses, not just COVID-19). People have become more aware of how not to pick up or spread pathogens. They have learned how to cope at home and prepare for emergencies. Some have learned more creative ways of caring for other people. And even if this whole exercise in social distancing was an unnecessary mistake, we don’t need to expend a lot of energy pointing fingers and finding blame. However, I believe the time has come to return to normal life. What about spreading infection and causing the pandemic to flare up again? If the coronavirus has already spread through the population, as I suspect it mostly has, it won’t change the pandemic very much to return to normal life and interactions. Let’s get back to normal now!