It is hard to envision that this is an election year. With a paucity of campaign ads and the presidential nominees locked up for quite a while, I didn’t even know that the Democratic convention was going on until I saw a report about it after the fact.
With election day now on the horizon, I reflect on the common mantra used almost every time an incumbent president campaigns the second time, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” This almost seems like a laughable concept under the present circumstances, but I also feel like we stopped holding our leaders accountable some time in the past when we decided that our personal social media declarations were more important than real news.
Of course, while our current leaders should be accountable for where we are today, the COVID-19 pandemic has exhibited a few unforeseeable traits. I think where we started going wrong was calling it the “novel coronavirus” in the first place. Those who know viruses don’t flinch much at the term coronavirus because it reflects a virus family and not an actual virus. It would be like calling a new strain of the flu, “the novel orthomyxovirus.” Try saying that over and over. Many doctors were guilty of dismissing this new virus until we saw it spread first hand because coronaviruses normally do not cause severe disease. Calling the disease COVID-19 is similarly silly. It would have made more sense to just call the disease what it is, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which is caused by a novel SARS virus. After all, the official name for the virus is SARS-CoV-2. I think that this would have perked our ears up a little more.
While Anthony Fauci has become somewhat of a celebrity, he was not appointed by the current administration and goes back in my memory to the early stages of the AIDS epidemic. Dr. Fauci has seemingly ignored the fact that the best way to combat the disease is to control preventable conditions that predispose to severe complications of the virus, and it is perhaps the over-arching concept of disease vs. health that we just can’t tackle in a capitalist disease-treating system. Voters do bear somewhat of the brunt of this problem because we refuse to accept the need to build a solvent system that places the needs of many ahead of the individual.
In March, we tried to “flatten the curve.” Then we just stopped being scared after we told ourselves that the curve was “flat,” dismissing the virus when we concluded that it probably wouldn’t affect us personally. It was necessary to let our economy breathe, but the tone of many of our leaders regarding the need to respect physical distancing guidelines just wasn’t on point.
What we lacked was strong top-down leadership on this issue. Our national policy has been essentially nonexistent, leaving states, counties, and cities to act in a disjointed and sometimes clumsy fashion. While I can tune in to Korean baseball early in the morning and see their stadiums filled with a low capacity of actual fans and not just cardboard cutouts, there is seemingly no path to such a circumstance in the U.S. unless an effective vaccine becomes available. Based on the response I have seen to the pandemic in the U.S., it seems like we would buy the cheapest tickets and then subsequently steal the seats closest to the field anyway, regardless of whether we were 6 feet away from somebody else. As to a vaccine, can you see now how important vaccines are to us? Measles makes this virus look like the common cold.
It doesn’t really matter if this coronavirus was created in a lab, by nature, or by a God. The more I think about it, the way it has hurt our economy makes it look like a bioterrorist agent specifically engineered to attack the U.S. psyche. Regardless, it is here, and we need to deal with it. This November, I hope we see people start to vote in their actual interest and not just for a false idol or skewed agenda. We had people protesting in the streets earlier this year, but if they don’t vote, they are doing more to exacerbate the issues they are protesting than solving them. I hope that everyone can find enough in common with the views of one of these candidates and try to put our country in the best place moving forward.
Cory Michael is a radiologist.
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