Can we as a nation fight off this devil virus while remaining both polite to each other and free?
There is a geezer living across the street from me here in Geezerville (this is an age-restricted subdivision) with whom I am friendly, but in my opinion he has an excessive attachment to guns and to Jesus. Sometimes I think he pictures Jesus with a bandolier across his chest. I’m going to call this geezer Ralph to insulate him from ridicule.
Ralph’s second favorite deity after Jesus is Donald John Trump who Ralph is convinced hung the moon. If Mr. Trump said the moon is made of cheese, I would expect to see Ralph in his front yard every full moon waving a cracker. Also, if Mr. Trump says there’s no pandemic and the virus is a scare ginned up by fake news, then that must be so. Somewhere, there’s a forgery operation that did Barack Obama’s birth certificate and now it’s churned out 124,976 death certificates and counting.
I’m gobsmacked about this last bit of credulity because Ralph is a retired dentist and I thought dentists received a serious science education. But there he is claiming this is no different than the annual flu and there’s no way it spreads that fast and anyway there will be a vaccine before school starts in September. Ralph would rather perform a root canal on an unsedated alligator than disbelieve the first POTUS-for-life.
Anyway, I took an involuntary ambulance ride on Easter because I had most of the symptoms of a COVID-19 infection. Two negative tests ruled that out, but I did have a rip snorter of an infection that kept me in the hospital for a solid two weeks.
Right after I got out of the hospital, I was still pretty weak, weaker than I understood at first. I have a ceramic coffee cup into which I customarily put 12 ounces of coffee. It will hold 18. One morning, I was checking email and watching the news and I kept spilling coffee on myself because that sucker had gotten too heavy. I could not hold it upright for more than very few minutes without concentrating as if it contained concrete rather than coffee.
About a week after being unable to hold my coffee cup upright, I was training to get my life back by unloading my electric scooter from the carrier on the back of my car.
The scooter came via my disabled veteran status from the VA and it enables me to get around now that the walker won’t do it. Loading and unloading that scooter is a task I must be able to do for myself or I am grounded. It was going pretty slowly, but I thought I was doing OK. My wife was watching through the window but she was not offering to help because she knew I was in training for when we can go places again. She told me later I looked unsteady and “pretty pitiful” but she knew what the deal was and would not intervene unless I fell.
I paused to wipe off the sweat and I looked in the direction of the sound of footsteps and here came Ralph, for whom wearing a mask would be sacrilegious:
Let me help you with that. We were worried that day the ambulance took you away but you look fine now.
I spent the first week in the hospital on an isolation ward and that short exposure to where COVID-19 could put me meant I considered the mask a fashion accessory for all occasions. However, I didn’t have my mask on because I wasn’t going anywhere and didn’t expect company. I saw Ralph was without protection and was reminded that Ralph thinks the masks are a trick to sell masks made by Democrats. My nearest mask was the one I keep tucked under the visor on the driver’s side.
Instead of leaning on my car to stay upright and heading for my mask I started waving both my arms in a manner I hoped said “Stay back!” And I was talking fast:
No thanks, Ralph, I got it. I don’t need help. It’s working just fine and I’m only practicing anyway.
Ralph kept coming and, finally, when he was only about ten feet away, I started shouting:
I DON’T NEED ANY HELP! GO AWAY!
He did, looking a bit crestfallen. I think I hurt his feelings.
How do you gracefully keep somebody from violating your personal space when the only reason it’s a violation of your personal space is the damn virus?
After this experience on the personal level, a complaint came through my Facebook feed about a rule that kept the individual complaining from being alone on the Galveston beach without a mask. He was in the law-is-an-ass mode and I stifled my urge to ask who was enforcing the rule if he was alone because I wanted to address his question. I am a retired judge, but I wanted to address the problems the virus is causing for lawmakers and law enforcers:
If I am on a legislative body addressing this issue, I want nobody appearing in any public place without a mask, full stop. Most legislation is overinclusive except that which is underinclusive and in this case the price of missing the legislative sweet spot is death for an unknown number of unidentifiable victims.
It’s a given that no failure to mask is going to harm anybody in an immediate sense and, therefore, if the consequences of spreading this particular virus were not so dire, the law would be unconstitutional for lack of a rational basis.
But the requirement of a rational basis does not mean rational for all persons at all times. This is one meaning of “overinclusive.”
Sometimes a law can be overinclusive and underinclusive at the same time. The age for lawful driving on a public street is 16. That law is overinclusive because many teens under 16 are perfectly fine drivers and underinclusive because many older teens and many adults are menaces to the public when driving.
Another reason for upholding the law is pity for the poor prosecuting attorney. It cannot be part of her burden to show beyond a reasonable doubt that each instance of galivanting without a mask endangered a person.
In addition to the proof problem, the purpose of the law is not protection of any individual but rather protection of the herd — -as the immunologists say about the increase in antibodies over time tied to the increase in vaccinations resulting at some point in “herd immunity.”
Sons of Liberty, Arm Yourselves, the Government is Coming!
Some folks will seize upon that farm metaphor and wave it like a bloody red shirt, calling those of us who wear masks “sheepies” for failing to resist the oppression of the power drunks in Washington…or the Galveston City Council.
The government is coming to micromanage your life and take your guns and tell you what you can eat and when you can go out. Patriots to the barricades; the government is coming! What has the government ever done for you but take away your freedom?
When you legislate, public safety is in your hands, and no reasonable person would question that there is tension between the liberty we cherish and the safety we demand. I am old enough to have watched the debates over that tension in legislative requirements for lap belts, shoulder harnesses, and airbags.
A lap belt saved my life; the other party in my head-on collision at high speed died sitting on his. When my mother-in-law was in her eighties, she was riding with another woman of similar age who ran a red light. They got hit hard twice, once from each side. Because of the hits on opposite sides, all the airbags deployed. Being struck in the face by an airbag is like a punch in the nose, but both elderly ladies were treated and released from the hospital.
I understand that we make laws with statistics rather than anecdotes, and my anecdotes get no more respect than anybody else’s. It’s necessary to weigh the danger against the infringement on liberty. How much trouble is it to buckle a belt that is required by law to be in every car? The airbags don’t count because they are zero trouble except for adding a few hundred bucks to the price of a car, but those hundreds become thousands if the airbags deploy and must be changed out. Airbag deployment substantially lowers the amount of other damage it takes for an insurance company to call the car totaled.
What does this back and forth over safety have to say about COVID-19?
Infection is a random event that is not very likely. This is the time when contact tracing becomes critical. The U.S. has plenty of unemployed people, but they are not being trained up to be contact tracers. President Trump expects the virus to retreat by the fall without testing to find cases and contact tracing to find potential hosts before the virus does.
While this has fought off the virus in many other countries, ours is hindered by the current sorry state of our politics. Contact tracing becomes impossible when the people don’t trust the government; infected people won’t name who they could have infected.
If infection happens, though, all friends and family need to self-quarantine. There is at this time no cure for a COVID-19 infection. Side effects are still being studied. I have not had COVID-19, but those who have had it and recovered report something like waterboarding. You think you are drowning and, when you try to breathe, your chest moves but you get no oxygen. You are intubated and the machinery is pushing pure oxygen until you can’t take more. Then, what was frantic treatment becomes a death watch.
Or, you could just put on the damn mask and wash the parts of your body not covered. The best defense against a COVID-19 infection remains:
Don’t get infected. Masks required in public. Full stop.