Eight months is a long time for your life to be in upheaval to a greater or lesser extent. For people who have lost their job and/or have school-age children and/or have little in the way of financial reserves, this has been a really trying time. And that with only 3% of the people in the US having gotten COVID. Here on Vashon, that number is much smaller, more like 0.3 %. Given that, it seems reasonable to dispense with precautions, because it seems unlikely that we are going to get it. The other factor that convinces us to slack off is that, of those that get it, the great majority have minor or no symptoms and only 3% actually die from it. For us on Vashon, that means that only 0.003% of us (1 in 30,000) at present are likely to die from COVID. That means that about 1/3 of a person is likely to die of COVID on Vashon. Is that enough risk for us to continue to upend our lives, face financial ruin, lose our homes, keep the kids out of school, and not be able to hug our friends and family?
The remaining elephant in the room is our susceptibility to conspiracy theories. After three years of lies from Trump and wild theories circulating from all sides on the social media, our sense of and reliance on what is true is sorely worn down. As a sceptic about the ability for humans to keep a secret, I reject the plausibility of most conspiracy theories. I trust the basic goodness of humankind while being wary of our tendency to resort to our basest instincts when fear and distrust rule. I find it truly astonishing that millions of people support the Q anon theory that there is a progressive elite conspiracy that is trafficking children for sex as well as to eat! It is a testament to how fragile our grip on reality and our trust in goodness is when we are taken by fear and uncertainty.
What bothers me now is the acceptance of alternate theories among progressives. There is a number of people whose opinions I respect that are getting behind the herd immunity strategy (not a conspiracy) as laid out in the Great Barrington Resolution, signed by a number of scientists. Herd immunity has been called into question since it has become apparent that surviving the virus does not confer permanent immunity. The herd immunity experiment in Sweden has proven to be costly in lives and has not slowed down the virus. If we have lost almost 200,000 people with only 3% of us having been infected, how many would we lose before 40% of us have been infected and could begin to exert some herd immunity? Everything about it says that we should be cautious, and especially not trivialize this virus.
More than anything, we all just want it to be over so we can travel and eat, drink, see live entertainment in public venues, and we and our kids can socialize again. Given the politicization of mask wearing and the idea that the pandemic itself is a hoax, it’s not surprising that we can’t seem to agree on what to do about it.
I think most of us are taking it seriously, but it takes very little non-compliance to keep it spreading. What about all the people that are going hungry and getting evicted? We need to take care of all those people by contributing to our local food bank, helping locals make rent, and by authorizing our state and federal governments to do all they can. As with the climate crisis, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
I take a more imaginative holistic view that the pandemic is not a separate occurrence but part and parcel of all the problems plaguing our world: overall toxic load in our environment, poor nutrition and lifestyle, social and political upheaval, inequality, racism—all leading to poor health and anxiety that make us especially prone to a pandemic. I would also note that the places that are least affected are places that have the fewest world travelers. It could be that the Earth is just defending itself from our furious depredations by calling a time out. As much as we all would like it to be over, I don’t think it can or should be resolved by going back to the old normal. What can we learn from this?