There is speculation on the results of efforts to “flatten the curve” by mitigation through social distancing, wearing masks, closing “non-essential” businesses, and so on. Will this shorten the pandemic and save lives, or simply extend it for a longer period, with a resultant death toll that will not be substantially different in the long run? While it is accepted that wearing masks does reduce the risk of acquiring an airborne virus, what is less understood is the contribution of this measure in the long run. Masking has become the litmus test of everything from one’s concern for his or her fellow man to one’s political persuasion.
There is speculation about where we are, exactly, in this pandemic. Are we truly on the downslope? Will we see another “surge” in the winter as people move indoors? What do the numbers really mean? “Cases” are reported with no context. Is a case simply someone with no symptoms who tests positive? Is a case someone who has symptoms and is presumed to have Covid without test confirmation? No one seems to know or say.
There is speculation about deaths? How accurate is that 200,000 number? What, exactly, is a Covid death? The criteria for death statistics vary by state. In some, anyone who dies and has tested positive for Covid has this included in their death certificate and is therefore listed as a Covid death, even if the presence of Covid is coincidental. The commonly used PCR test for Covid can be positive weeks after someone has ceased to harbor live virus and cannot transmit Covid to anyone else. We have no clue how many tests are such “false” positives.
There is speculation regarding community acquired herd immunity versus that acquired through vaccination. If the first doesn’t occur, how will the second? Those who advocate for protecting the vulnerable while allowing the virus to make its way through society and infecting younger and healthier individuals, whose risk of serious illness is negligible, are called cruel and uncaring. When will a vaccine be available? How effective will it be? How many people will avail themselves of a vaccine? Will we turn to forced vaccination, something that has never been done before?
There is no question that there have been thousands of deaths from Covid and this is undeniably tragic, but it is the nature of all pandemics. What is equally tragic is that we have dealt with this pandemic with extreme measures that are without precedent. We have never shut down the nation in this fashion. People who calculate such things using widely accepted mathematical formulas estimate these measures have resulted in more deaths than the virus. They have nearly destroyed our economy, suspended constitutional rights as never before, shredded the social fabric of society, and made literally everyone a suspected agent of the virus. In ways unimagined, we have turned a medical situation into a political football that is now plausibly argued as intended to influence a presidential election.
History will not view this as our finest moment.