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Futility, Humility and Balance

By October 24, 2020Commentary

A little Saturday morning reflection, on some common themes you hear from me.  One is that as we look at rising levels of cases in Europe and some areas of the United States, despite all the mitigation of spread efforts, including very widespread mask-wearing, social distancing, certain businesses and schools still being closed or limited, testing and contact tracing at stratospheric levels, it should be apparent to everyone that it is essentially futile to attempt to suppress spread.  That requires a level of acceptance and humility that is almost impossible for politicians, and many of our citizens, to attain.  We don’t and can’t control every risk.  What is important is to have personal and society-wide balance. What are all the consequences of various actions or inactions and how do those get weighed?  We have been fundamentally unbalanced.  In particular, we have been willing to completely sacrifice the health of non-CV-19 patients and to destroy the educational and social lives of our children, as well as their mental health.  Not to mention the immense economic damage done.  As individuals, some of us are depriving ourselves of all the normal joys of familial and social interaction, generally based on a mis-understanding of real risk; a mis-understanding fed by media and political hysteria.  People should be free to make their own decisions, but they should be given accurate and even-tempered information to support decisions.  We should all exercise a little balance between risks and benefits as well.

In the coronavirus briefing yesterday, the state had a mental health official present.  I think that occurred because the state has data on suicides and rates of mental health problems that it isn’t sharing with us, but should.  The state is largely responsible for the anxiety and depression and fear that exists in the population, with constant reminders of danger and risk and be safe, encouraging people to isolate and stay home, depriving children of a normal social life.  They ought to give us the true numbers on mental health issues connected with the epidemic response, but more importantly, they should stop the terrorization and tell people, for most of you there is very little risk of serious illness, and you should try to lead a normal life.  Certainly you shouldn’t miss medical care.  Every school should be open full-time for in-person learning and stay open even if there are a few cases in the school.  Businesses should be open without restriction.  That would improve people’s mental health.

And for those musically inclined, Van Morrison has weighed in on the lockdown and the epidemic.  (YouTube)  Despite the swell in cases, the tide may be turning toward a more rational approach.

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