Curing the pandemic wasn’t supposed to be this hard. We had the most advanced health care system in the world. We had lots of lead time in warning. We had world-class medical researchers. We had the genetic code of the virus. We had the home field advantage.
Yet it takes a miraculous “Hail Mary!” pass to save us. It is the modern equivalent of Aesop’s fable of the hare, frittering away all of his advantages, and losing to the lowly turtle (or in this, case a tiny virus).
We are now dying at a rate of more than 50,000 per month because we didn’t take the pandemic seriously enough until recently, e.g. lax mask wearing standards, but also because of the over-prioritization of keeping our society open and our economy robust, yet not fully appreciating the high rate of infectiousness of this coronavirus until it was often too late.
Some researchers also believe hospitals were slow to respond by dropping profitable “elective” surgery and did not really want to do everything to control the pandemic. I don’t want to disparage the heroic efforts of innumerable front line nurses and physicians — it is a systemic problem that starts at the top with hospital mergers and was the subject, among others, of a CBS “60 Minutes” episode of Dec. 6. Front line COVID workers are the good guys in this story.
There was a recent article in the Huffington Post claiming that front line COVID nurses and physicians (without naming individuals, of course) are sick and tired of people traveling, eating out, and just flaunting social distancing rules while they suffer the emotional and physical damage of caring for sick and dying patients. They’re also tired of being labeled “heroes.”
I believe the No. 1 culprit — at least one who could be clearly identified — was the prodigious and pervasive spread of misinformation by the Trump administration, which served as a catalyst and enabler for the other contributing factors.
This was the American version of “Chernobyl,” from the HBO series, where misinformation and false claims made the disaster so much worse. A statue of Dr. Anthony Fauci should be erected in Washington because he almost singlehandedly never wavered from truthful and accurate reporting of factual information, at a cost including character assassination and death threats from both Trump and his cohorts. Words and tweets do count. The death toll could have been much worse. I suspect afterward a lot of emergency nurses may change fields.
Despite pulling this off in less than a year, no corners were cut by the FDA in their approval of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. I am quite familiar from my past work experience with the FDA drug approval process, which generally takes many years to pull off approval for new drugs. We still have no effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, for example, after decades of attempts.
The FDA reviewing scientists — probably requiring the FDA consultants to get up to speed on this rapid pace of technology — as well as the pharmaceutical industry take their roles very seriously in this process. But the Chinese published the over 30,000 character genetic code for the COVID-19 last year (an essential head start), the virologists were on hand from past respiratory diseases, e.g. SARS and MERS, and the pharmaceutical companies jumped in with both feet. The medical community is in awe of this successful program.
We are now in an extremely cruel race with nature to get the various vaccines made and distributed and into the arms of all Americans as quickly as possible and in numbers sufficient to to enhance the existing naturally occurring immunity. Relying on the natural immunity process alone could kill as many as a million or more Americans (could be as high as 2 million), but if we pull off the vaccine immunization properly and continue wearing masks and social distancing — even after getting vaccinated — perhaps it will be “only” half a million. We’re already over 330,000.
Take the damn shot and try not to visit family and friends. Our lives depend on it
Dave Pyatt, writes from Mount Airy. Reach him at DPyatt2@verizon.net.
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