Social Distancing, in Regard to Which I Commit Rank Heresy

By May 18, 2020 Commentary

The public health experts are like a bunch of fanatical zealots, writhing around on the floor, arms raised to heaven and chanting “social distancing, social distancing, masks, masks, six feet, six feet”.   I won’t be singing from the same hymnal in this post.

Here is my starting point.  This virus is stopped in only one of two ways.  It is eradicated or it stops finding enough hosts to maintain transmissibility.  I would like to hear the serious argument for eradication of such a widespread, highly infectious agent.  Dr. Fauci, the high priest of social distancing, and every other knowledgeable expert has repeatedly warned that the virus can’t be eradicated.   That leaves us with having enough people becoming infected and developing immunity to re-infection, or being aided in developing immunity by a vaccine, so that transmissibility drops to a very low level.  I would also like to hear the serious argument that we can economically, or socially, sustain this level of lockdown until there is a safe and effective vaccine widely available.

The most likely and best way that we are going to stop the virus is by building up natural immunity.  It also offers the best protection for those few groups that are especially susceptible to the virus.  The sooner we get a large percent of the population with natural immunity, the less likely it is that the vulnerable become infected.  So let’s rethink the approach that tries so hard to suppress spread of the virus and let’s consider the benefits, from a health perspective, a social perspective and an economic perspective, of instead allowing a controlled spread through the low-risk population.  And maybe we could do a better job of protecting clear at-risk populations, although Governor Andrew “saving even one life is worth whatever it costs” Cuomo was likely accurate when he more recently said that the old and vulnerable are going to die no matter how hard you try to prevent that.

I would also like to note the unsubstantiated rigidity of certain social distancing recommendations.  Six feet?  Based on what?  While there is research suggesting that the virus can survive on surfaces for some extended time, and it appears that it can also survive in the nuclei of aerosols; most scientists seem to believe that the bulk of actual transmission is occurring in relatively close personal contact via droplets.  Six feet is a fairly arbitrary number from this perspective.  Wear a mask?  Yes, there is evidence to suggest it prevents transmission, but there is also evidence suggesting they aren’t that effective, particularly if people don’t know how to wear them and they are cloth.  Sweden’s chief epidemiologist and other scientists have cast doubt on the value of widespread mask-wearing by the population.  And some experts have noted that there can be health risks stemming from the use of masks, risks which may be exacerbated as the weather warms in the US.  A few mask-associated lung infections and experts will be reconsidering those recommendations.

Humans are home to an enormous number of microscopic agents.  They are essential to our health and we generally have a beneficial symbiotic relationship with them.  Excessive hygiene risks upsetting that balance, which won’t be good for health.  And too aggressive a suppression campaign can encourage a relatively mild pathogen to mutate to something far more lethal.

And I have a human dimension to my recommendation as well.  A few weeks ago I wrote a post called The Way We Life Now; a little sappy but basically a lament about losing the essential humanness of our existence.  Do we really all want to walk around wearing masks, afraid to be close to one another, afraid to hug, to touch, to laugh too hard?  We are very social creatures, and the price of so-called social distancing is even more loneliness and purposelessness than already exists.  That is not a world I want to live in and there is no reason why we should allow that to be dictated to us by the shamans of the public health religion.

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