Carroll County Times Opinion

Batavick: Get to know the ‘known knowns’ of COVID-19 l COMMENTARY

“There are known knowns” and “there are things we don’t know we don’t know.” That’s how Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense, oracularly responded to a question about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. Regardless of the duplicity of his answer then, I think it holds water today in appraising our battle against COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The “novel” descriptor is important. It means the virus is new and had not been previously identified before 2019. Thus, there are many things we don’t yet know about it. The good news is that we are learning more each day as the pandemic gallops along and treatment protocols progress. The bad news is that people will continue to die because of those who think they intuitively know better than our top infectious disease specialists.


So, here’s a summary of what the top experts currently say.

1. The disease is not a “deep state” hoax or fake news. There are over 14 ½ million infections globally with more than 600,000 deaths, including 143,000-plus in the United States. More practically, would all those millionaire professional sports team owners be so quick to cancel or shuffle seasons if the pandemic wasn’t real?


2. Wearing masks is the simplest way to battle COVID-19. Even home-made cloth masks can help slow the spread of the virus that’s sprayed when we talk, cough, sneeze, or sing. They are essential when we can’t practice social distancing, and they show concern for the welfare of other community members.

3. The coronavirus is much worse than seasonal flu. Revisit the big numbers above and then go online and read some survivors’ experiences. This thing is nasty and can have lifelong, debilitating effects.

4. It’s not about politics. It’s about science. COVID-19 would have hit the U.S. if Clinton had won in 2016, though the federal response surely would have been different.

5. Yes, the nation has more recorded cases now because we are testing more. But this doesn’t explain why the seven-day average for new deaths has risen more than 12 percent day-over-day since the second week of June.

6. The disease doesn’t just threaten old people or those with pre-existing conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, etc. A recent University of California, San Francisco/Benioff Children’s Hospitals national study involved 8,400 men and women, ages 18-25. It concluded that overall “medical vulnerability” was 33% for males and 30% for females. Smoking increased risk.

7. You don’t only contract the virus from people with obvious symptoms like high fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, muscle or body aches, etc. Asymptomatic employees carried the disease into Carroll County nursing homes this spring. That’s why we should all continue to wear masks.

8. “Herd immunity” won’t stop the virus’s advance. It’s not a matter of “the sooner we all get sick, the better.” This has been one of the arguments for opening businesses and schools. The catch is that millions would die, and health care facilities wouldn’t be able to cope. There are simply not enough hospital beds or medical professionals. Besides, Sweden tried this gambit and failed miserably. The only safe way to achieve collective immunity is through vaccination.

9. High temperatures don’t kill the virus. The good people of Arizona, Texas, Georgia, and California are learning this the hard way with devastating results.


10. Wiping down all groceries and any boxes received in the mail is overkill. There’s no evidence people have contracted the virus from food, grocery store packaging, and parcels, even those shipped from China. You do need to keep your house clean by regularly sanitizing surfaces and washing produce before eating.

11. Don’t inject, swallow, bathe in or rub disinfectants like bleach and alcohol on your skin as an antidote to the virus. This is hokum and can kill you or cause serious skin irritation.

12. Staying away from doctors’ and dentists’ offices and hospitals is a personal judgment call. If you’re feeling sick or have a condition that requires the regular attention of a doctor or dentist, do seek medical help. Ask if your practitioners offer online consultation.

13. Based on experience with previous pandemics, a second wave of infection may hit us in the fall; serious enough to trigger another lockdown.

14. Discovery of an effective vaccine isn’t around the corner unless the corner is December. Testing takes time, and manufacturing and administering it to all who are willing will take another year. There are 331 million of us minus the misguided anti-vaxers.

Keep wearing masks and practicing social distancing when you are out-and-about and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer when you return. This is the new normal. Accept it. And, avoid misinformed sources like, well, the plague.


Frank Batavick writes from Westminster. His column appears every other Friday. Email him at