Opinions, Judgments, and Creds

It is a fact that the COVID-19 pandemic is leaving an indelible mark on our society. In addition to the tragic number of deaths, which number, by the way, is no more or less than seasonal flu, it has also impacted the world economy, mental health, domestic/other violence, poverty, and general wellbeing of people.

It has also divided people – bringing out the best and worst in all of us.

Fear has become a strong motivator during this pandemic. Fear is prevalent because of uncertainty, and daily news reports of disease numbers are also fueling that fear. Because of uncertainty, people are divided in their views on the pandemic – either they support the pandemic measures (fear taking root in a lot of cases), or they do not (questioning everything with why and how does this make sense?). While I do not doubt that the disease is real, I wonder whether the measures were the best move, especially given that the COVID-19 numbers in no way reflect the severity of the illness as initially communicated.

What’s interesting, however, is that my opinion has created a rift even within my network of friends and colleagues. While I respect the views of others, many people do not do the same when faced with information that contradicts their beliefs. This blanket rejection of opinions is not a good thing for society.

A person that I do not know wanted to know what gives me the right to state my opinion on the pandemic. Am I a virologist? An epidemiologist? An infectious disease expert? I am none of the above, but I am a concerned citizen who is seeing the data and asking what I believe to be thoughtful questions. I don’t always take information at face value. I tend to look for the meaning behind the message. And in my humble opinion, that’s what every person should be doing when faced with information, especially information that keeps changing daily.

Social media has made it excessively easy to have opinions and pass judgments. We feel anonymous and protected when we’re behind a computer screen floating our words in a virtual world. We don’t see the recipients of our words, but we feel their reactions in the words they write to us even though they may not address us by name.

Unless you’re a credentialed scientist, medical expert, or government official and, therefore, credible, it appears that you no longer have a right to an opinion about the pandemic. Readers and listeners judge your motives and question your background.

“What gives you the right to say that the measures may be wrong?”

“I can’t wait for you to end up in ER with COVID-19, and I hope they check your social media accounts to see which side of the pandemic you’re on before they give you treatment.”

“The numbers are real, and people are dying, how do you not see that?”

People are turning into monsters at their keyboards. They’re lashing out because they can’t believe for a minute that scientists, medical experts, governments, or media could be wrong. Those in positions of power would never lie to us, and they would certainly not manipulate us through fear. Would they?

This pandemic has zapped our critical thinking and replaced it with pure emotion. Logic is absent. In some respects, this is understandable. People have lost their jobs and their businesses. As well, their mental health may be in decline, and their domestic situation may be in turmoil. Yet, their expenses remain the same. It appears that those in power have ignored the human condition by focusing exclusively on strategies to stop a killer virus, regardless of costs.

The business loans and wage subsidies from governments are a small step to rectifying problems, but this isn’t the answer. The losses experienced by the lockdowns will never be recouped. There are no winners here other than the one percent.

The responses to this pandemic have been nothing short of a crapshoot. Leaders know this. Most of us do, too.

While we’re in no position (for now) to do anything but follow the rules, there are a few things we can do to help ourselves get through this.

  1. Understand and believe that the disease is real. It is not a hoax.
  2. Understand that proper hygiene is essential and having clean hands is always good – not just during a pandemic!
  3. If you’re active on social media, respect all opinions. If someone’s opinion doesn’t mesh with your beliefs, don’t be nasty and react emotionally. Consider whether there is some truth in the other view. You might learn something.
  4. Respect all people, especially the ones who don’t agree with you.
  5. Know that the measures are not a forever thing (at least, that’s what I’m hoping!).

When this is over, the data will reveal whether the current measures were correct. Until then, respect your fellow citizens, both in-person and online.

In closing, let me leave you with this quote from an anonymous source:

“You must always be willing to truly consider evidence that contradicts your beliefs, and admit the possibility that you may be wrong. Intelligence isn’t knowing everything. It’s the ability to challenge everything you know.”

 

Productivity in Crisis

There is so much fear-mongering around the COVID-19 (a strain of severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS) pandemic. While the pandemic is real, the approach to quashing the virus is unrealistic and is damaging not only our economy, but our mental health, as well.

Simply stated, the disease statistics do not support the measures.

Of all those infected, 80 percent will experience mild symptoms and make a full recovery while 15 percent “might” need hospitalization. Of the 15 percent, some will die. The world death rate is 20 percent, but this is only for closed cases and does not account for active tested cases. Nor does it include all cases (i.e., those that have the virus but were never tested).

This is one time where I will invoke Trump’s infamous “fake news” claim. The percentages of overall deaths relating to COVID-19 are false. If the entire population is not tested for COVID-19, then the percentages are exaggerated, and the number of people reported to be infected is inaccurate.

Is the virus deadly? It can be, but so is the flu. So is heart disease. So is tuberculosis. Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the flu kills 290,000 to 650,000 people per year. As of April 18, COVID-19 killed about 159,000 people worldwide. When was the last time we shut down the world economy during flu season? Right. Never.

You may say that vaccines exist for a lot of diseases, so COVID-19 is new in that regard. Maybe, but the entire world population does not get an annual flu vaccine or any other vaccine, either. This is a fact. However, not to worry – Big Pharma is working on that vaccine, just like they did on the others.

Disease or no disease, good hygiene is important and social distancing makes sense when dealing with someone with a contagious illness. However, where is the logic in shutting doctors’ offices, shutting stores, shutting private and government offices, and shutting other so-called non-essential services to protect, possibly, 15 percent of the population that is immunocompromised? And where is the logic in socially-distanced lines outside grocery stores and pharmacies? It is utter nonsense!

I may sound like I do not care, but that is not true. I care deeply about my family, friends, and community in which I live. I’m sure you also care for those you know and love. However, the extreme measures imposed on us by governments are not in our best interests. The measures may be in the best interests of the top one percent, but after this is over, most of the population will be decimated not because of the virus, but because of the inane shutdowns that led to economic devastation.

If the entire USA gets COVID-19—population of about 330 million people—based on current statistics of 15 percent hospitalizations, about 49.5 million people may need to be hospitalized. If Canada’s entire population of about 38 million contracts COVID-19, about 5.7 million may need hospitalization. These are big numbers. However, remember that these numbers assume that every person gets the virus. But this isn’t true, is it?

Not everyone will get sick. Not everyone EVER gets sick at the same time nor does everyone EVER get the same diseases that anyone else might get. Some people will NEVER get COVID-19, even if they are in direct contact with someone who has the virus. The same applies to other diseases.

Good hygiene and social distancing may help prevent the spread of infectious diseases. The Centre for Disease Control recommends putting distance (at least six feet) between yourself and others, practicing frequent hand washing, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces—especially when someone is ill. That seems like common sense when dealing with anyone with an infectious disease. However, all of this can still be done while keeping businesses open to maintain our economic productivity.

As I ponder our current situation, I ask myself if I’m missing some important information about the virus that might help justify the extreme actions imposed on our livelihoods. However, I do not see the logic. I cannot reconcile how shutting down the economy does any good for anyone – whether you are sick with COVID-19, heart disease, the flu, measles, or any other illness.

One thing is certain: We have become drones (perhaps terrified drones) of the government while those selling the “practice” of good hygiene and social distancing are raking in profits. This is occurring at the same time as millions of workers are laid off and businesses are closed (some likely forever). Yes, governments are providing support through wage subsidies and loans to those who have lost their jobs and businesses, but when this is all over, someone will need to pay back those subsidies and loans. Be prepared to expect higher taxes in your near future.

There is inequity even in the government stimulus. Not every family of four gets the same government benefit. Some families get the full benefit, while others receive nothing. Some people want to go back to work because they do not qualify for unemployment insurance and are running out of money; others want to seriously injure those who break the quarantine. For some, quarantine is optimal – a moment of reflection, of re-connection, easy in flipflops, with a cocktail or coffee. But for most, this is a desperate financial and family crisis.

Look at Sweden. Sweden stands apart. Sweden is not in complete lockdown, yet Sweden’s COVID-19 numbers are on par with similar populations. It is not any better or worse. But Sweden’s people are working and living normal lives – they gather in groups (less than 50), their restaurants are open, they are not forced to wait in lines outside grocery stores. They can shake hands if they wish.

Sweden has a mortality rate that’s about twice as high as that of Denmark (where full lockdown measures are employed)—0.01 percent of the population dead in Sweden versus about 0.005 percent of the population dead in Denmark—and only half that of France.

The bottom line is that this pandemic has created ill-conceived measures and these measures will ruin more lives than save.

We are all paying an extremely high price for COVID-19, indeed.