In the real world, pandemic precautions can’t be optional
One reason Covid-19 cases are spiking despite the care most of us are taking to slow the spread is that an alternate universe somehow co-exists with us that doesn’t believe in taking the same precautions – or any at all.
We all knew these people exist because we’ve seen them on national news. But until last week I had never spoken with a Covid denier. Now I have, and I know how hard it’s going to be to change their minds to get them to voluntarily take basic precautions to protect the rest of us.
We had a home appliance repaired. As the repairman arrived, wearing a proper mask, we put on our own masks as we would with anyone entering our home in order to protect our visitors.
Don’t bother, he told us, because he doesn’t believe in all that virus stuff. He wouldn’t be wearing a mask himself, he said, except than his company requires it.
We told him that just the day before, a funeral had been held for one of our good friends who had died of the virus. How can he say it isn’t real?
“How do you know?” he asked us sharply. “Can you prove personally that it was the virus that killed him?”
We replied that the widow had told us that was the cause of death, and the doctors had told her. But we had no first-hand proof it was the virus that killed him.
He then proceeded to tell us that 90% of the deaths attributed to the virus are not real. He’d learned that on social media.
Then why, we asked, were medical professionals saying the thousands of deaths we all know about are from Covid-19?
It’s because doctors and hospitals get paid extra if their patients die of Covid-19, he said. So they just say it’s the virus, but it’s not. They’re only in it for the money.
He didn’t want to talk much more about his beliefs, he said, because the week before he’d been thrown out of a customer’s home for saying the same kind of thing.
If that earlier customer had also mentioned a personal Covid-19 loss, only to be told it wasn’t the virus at all but some lie by the medical establishment in order to make more money, could you blame him for ordering the denier out of the house?
I’m not big on castigating others for their beliefs. In the news business we meet people who believe almost anything. Some of them must be right about something.
But unlike some of our elected officials, I don’t believe basic medical protections that can and do affect the health of others should be optional. And their use certainly can’t be based on the beliefs of an alternate universe where today there is no pandemic and it’s all a conspiracy.
The day the repairman visited us, Florida had had 744,988 cases of Covid-19 and a daily increase of 3,356, with 15,736 total deaths and 141 more that day. The repairman believes nine out of ten of these never happened – and he lives his life accordingly.
Each Friday night, he told us, he has a group over to his home. He doesn’t believe in wearing masks, and it’s a good bet that none is worn as they sit close together watching movies. That’s a recipe for spreading a disease that is killing more of us every day – including some of us who try to take precautions.
How hard can it be to wear a mask, stay out of big groups, social distance and wash hands? That’s all we’re asked to do to slow the spread of a pandemic.
But if this young man thinks everyone is lying and that a pandemic doesn’t really exist, he’s not going to comply unless his employer tells him he must – and then only during working hours.
People have a perfect right to be wrong, but not when it harms the rest of us. If he wants to believe that space ships have landed on Brickell Avenue, let him. But allowing each of us to decide whether to follow the precautions that protect the public health of everyone else is just as crazy – and infinitely more dangerous.
We are seeing clearly a new spike in Covid-19 cases across this nation, not just in Florida. When are our officials going to stop pretending that each of us has a right to decide individually what measures we are going to take to protect our neighbors? What universe do they live in?