Perpetuation of misinformation may take many forms. This time, it appears, the opinions of Mr David (a much loved figure in Jefferson County and beyond) do seem to be aligned with many who are bucking the greater consensus of the public on what sources are reliable and what sources are not pertaining to this COVID epidemic.
I am not an expert on any of these matters as perhaps Greg may be able to claim. I am a science teacher and kinesiologist by training, and I claim to be (through my work in the field these past 12 years) a renewable energy and policy expert focusing on solar energy and utility regulation in Wisconsin. I have worked in hospitals and clinics as a healthcare professional for decades, and I have started and continue to manage multiple businesses.
What I would like to emphasize here is not simply a reliance on one’s source of information, but being able to apply logic and reason to the information being touted by an individual or a news outlet. We are all mature enough (or can be) to weigh arguments and decide if point A or point B seem to make sense to us, rather than simply rely on the perceived quality of the source and accept both point A and point B as being true based on the perceived reliability of the source.
MAIN STREAM media, or mainstream media, however it is punctuated, is a wastebasket term which I think refers to the consolidated media outlets owned by a small number of firms, and can be similar to what we all know since the 1st gulf war as “24 hour news”. Of course, MSNBC could be pointed out on the one partisan side and Fox News Network on the other. Personally, I find one very offputting and the other, just mildly annoying. No matter. What we should focus on is a preliminary assessment of the quality of the source, but then apply a more dispassionate critical thinking step to the content of the message and the appeals from that message before deciding whether we 1) believe everything being said vs 2) which elements are worthy of repeating to others to help cope with or to overcome cognitive dissonance that might be associated with the subject matter.
A few observations of Mr David’s many points and arguments:
1) right away, I cringe when the term “herd immunity” is used, especially as here, it is summoned many times. My understanding of herd immunity is that it is akin to a Darwinistic survival of the fittest statement. I know this is not completely accurate because the immune system is what is mediating this survival versus death outcome, but here is what I have to say about that. Would Greg intend we use this goal as a means to inform policy for lockdown, face mask and social distancing measures if instead of COVID 19, we were dealing with Measles, Small Pox, or something scarier like Tuberculosis? Of course not. With COVID, we need to act responsibly until there is a vaccine. Which brings me to my next point.
2) Acting responsibly should not be as big a deal as it is made out to be. Greg repeats a second and perhaps a third time in his letter in different ways that “further mitigation measures ... would curtail freedom, commerce or reaching herd immunity”. That last one is addressed above, so now the first two. I am here to challenge that supposition that freedom is being curtailed to a degree that is really beyond what should be required to avoid unnecessary sickness and death. Of course one’s freedom to congregate in large groups in close proximity without masks is quite clearly being trampled on. What I perceive is Mr David’s argument here is that because the number of deaths originally forecasted for this epidemic are turning out to be much more inflated than reality is bearing out, that we should do an about face on prevention and protection efforts and let those who can die from this to die from this and those who will be afflicted with lifelong deleterious respiratory cardiac or other organ syndromes caused by COVID or its treatment efforts to be so affected so that the rest of us can move on with our lives...more quickly. I disagree wholeheartedly. A death prevented and a protracted hospital stay avoided is worth a lot more than the “$13,000 for a Covid diagnosis and $39,000 for a death” cited by Greg as the incentive to ... (? remove social distancing measures and stop the use of masks ? I don’t follow the logic). To imply that hospital administrators are motivated by $13k or $39k to admit and treat and kill or wound people who have a positive tests and dangerously low oxygen saturation levels is pretty ridiculous if not outright Orwellian in its suggestion.
On the curtailment of commerce part of Mr David’s argument, there’s not as much to clearly argue against except the fact that there are a thousand factors that affect the engine that is our economy. There are countless factors that can be pointed toward that are perhaps partisan missteps along the way in response to this epidemic. Without belaboring this point too much, I would just say that a trickle down approach as is the style of the GOP for so many “bailouts” was not in my opinion (and never before this was) an effective way to stabilize or stimulate commerce. Yes, supply chains were disrupted, but part of that was due to panic and hoarding as much as due to poor policy or anything related to lockdown, face mask and social distancing measures.
3) Pertaining to Greg’s paragraphs 4 and 5, where he ends each with “The virus kept spreading.” I would say two things, 1) timing is everything, and 2) please address the tremendous disparity in the numbers of cases and deaths in the US vs the rest of the world.
Timing was bad on this epidemic, no doubt about that. Greg, you mention your concern in January and tried to alert Law Enforcement and Emergency Management committee members. That was a good thing. The delays we witnessed chiefly from the top of our government in the form of the president of the United States and his cabinet generally, not to mention his downplaying and belittling of the seriousness of this epidemic, was a terrible confluence of bad timing right off the bat and of poor expectation management through blunting of action oriented attitudes to do something that would resemble how other countries would employ in response to this danger. Indeed, 45’s laid back and dismissive attitude toward the epidemic, I think, affected some countries overseas and elsewhere too, where some leaders and some (white supremisists?) still look up to our president and take notice. The timing of the much delayed preventive measures aimed to flatten the curve, were part of the reason these measures that Mr David seems to be abhorrently against now, are not or were not as effective as they should have been.
The other reason “The virus kept spreading” was the massive noncompliance with recommendations, the almost infantile response of great swaths of our population to the freedom impinging (perceived freedom impinging) social distancing and mask wearing recommendations that eventually became mandates. On the matter of the “Lockdowns”, these were admittedly last ditch efforts to curb behavior when an unruly public would not listen to reason. Yes, part of the lockdown was to limit the spread in large groups like church congregations, but more importantly, it was the prevention of tavern patrons and musical concerts that needed to be stopped since the physical proximity and the excitement (increased depth of inhalation and exhalation) were obvious high risk factors at play with these social gatherings, especially when indoors.
Lastly on my 3rd point (the second half), I really wanted to hear Greg David’s arguments about doing away with mitigation measures given his confined and I would offer, (politely) strained, reasons, what is his explanation for the enormous disproportionate numbers of cases and deaths in the US vs all other countries. And doesn’t the answer to this question beg the reader to reappraise (in a diminishing direction) the strength of Greg’s arguments to the point of relying (almost?) solely on the cited sources of his information and not on the veracity of that information or the sum reasons why we have mitigation efforts at all versus the fact that mitigation efforts were too little too late to have the degree of the intended effect on this epidemic’s spread?
To sum up,
1) herd immunity is a goal not a means to the goal. You don’t subject the population to the full effects of this virus without concerted and enforced mitigation. To do so would easily double, triple, or perhaps as much as increase by tenfold both the deaths and the medical costs of this epidemic. Simple principles of immunology and epidemiology are employed here, not citing some obscure source or those subjected to censorship, rightfully or not.
2) the argument that the cure is worse than the disease is not true and is not valid. The freedoms being impinged upon are not anything like we witness in authoritative regimes or even within our own country or just outside it at Guantanamo, for instance. Hospital boards are not elated with the profitability of receiving $13k or $39k and anyway, that argument would be for doing away with mitigation not embracing it. Unless you want to take the cynical argument further by saying the mitigation efforts will actually deliver more revenue if we were to flatten the curve rather than let it play out in all its natural horror. Yes, suicide rates are up, but this, along with other social indicators, could be caused by reasons other than the increased effort it takes to socialize during lockdown or quarantining just as much. Yes, being “stuck” in a home with a physically and/or emotionally abusive spouse, father, mother, or other person or persons, is a shitty predicament to be in. Other loved ones, neighbors, or others in the community may be of some assistance, as should be agencies that deal with people in crisis. Still, it’s not pleasant in a lot of corners out there.
3) thanks to those who agree with Donald Trump in February, when we could have nipped this in the bud, and those who continue to agree with Donald Trump since, South Korea as well as many better disciplined countries in the world — hell, all of them— we have the highest per capita (I believe) rates of infection and the highest overall number of cases and deaths of any other country. Surely, our “too late and too little” mitigation efforts are more closely resembling what an all out ‘herd immunity” approach might look like compared to other countries. To say that freedom and security can both be maximized by a concerted approach is only as true as is the consensus a people can reach on an approach. Since we are greatly divided, both freedom and security are currently being jeopardized, with freedom less so, since civil freedoms are not as important as the freedom to exist (live) without threat to life or limb.
Again, I’m no expert on these things. But, balancing information with a healthy dose of logic and reason, would be a refreshing change in our public discourse.
Peace be with you — and the capacity to think critically!