“Men . . . go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.” So wrote Scottish journalist Charles Mackay in his 1841 book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, which for good reason to this day remains in print.
The Covid-19 hysteria, scientifically called mass psychogenic illness, that began in March has yet to peak. And if some have it their way it will continue indefinitely, merely going, in medical terminology, from epidemic to endemic. That is, it will never fully go away no matter what. We apparently finally have some medicines that work with countless more being tested, doctors have gotten better at applying treatments, vaccines are being administered in what is by far record time, and yet the media and public health community onslaught shows absolutely no sign of abating.
We have heard White House Covid-19 task force member Dr. Deborah Birx claim “This is not just the worst public health event. This is the worst event that this country will face, not just from a public health side.” Oy! This even as we’re now hearing the mainstream media, led by cult figure Dr. Anthony Fauci, say that the vaccinations now being rolled out don’t mean the masks can come off. Start with the second first.
There are any number of cute memes asking in some manner, “If masks work, why do we need social distancing? If social distancing works, why do we need masks?” Well, it’s called a layered defense (with no pun intended regarding the use of masks or those people you see wearing two at once.) Cars are filled with a vast number of safety devices and roads have also been made safer in myriad ways, but it doesn’t mean they all don’t work in their own manner. So whatever arguments there are against masks (such as that they don’t stop aerosolized virus) aren’t necessarily negated because social distancing is still encouraged or mandated.
But we are left wondering, “Then when do masks come off? When do the other measures end if it’s independent of vaccinations?”
Remember that originally lockdowns and masking were supposed to be extremely temporary, as little as 15 days, to “flatten the curve.” And it was supposed to be a one-time flattening. But it didn’t work out that way. Once the original goal was achieved, the posts were moved. And nobody told us to where. It’s like literal goalposts; if not the zero-yard line then any other goal is arbitrary.
Except. For. One. That’s total elimination of the disease. That may be close to impossible and incredibly expensive to even try, but like eliminating all carbon emissions in a decade it is a goal.
The problem, of course, is that we’ve never eliminated an airborne virus by quarantining healthy people and there’s no scientific breakthrough that has made that any more possible now than it’s ever been. For example, the masks virtually everyone is using, even first-liners, are no better than what some people used during the Spanish flu a century ago. Social distancing dividers at various businesses and schools are just like the sneeze guards at the local buffet. Contact tracing with use of mobile devices has been hailed as a savior of sorts, and perhaps can be of help, albeit at the expense of invading privacy. At least it’s targeted, right? Well, no. It seems to be of limited efficacy without distancing.
So again, when do masks get to come off? Can we ever return to pre-Covid life? Or is the answer contained in the term “New Normal?” That is at least until Covid-19 is eliminated, which took 25 years with a smallpox vaccine. (By the way, the polio eradication program has a target date of 2005.) That’s not a typo. And now it’s being threatened by a shift of resources to, you guessed it, Covid-19.
When is it okay to sit next to another human being or be touched again without being guilt-tripped – or fined and jailed? It doesn’t seem an unreasonable query, but nobody at the press conferences dazzled by the glow of Fauci’s halo ever thinks to ask.
As for Birx’s claim, repeated by CDC director Robert Redfield, she’s either off her rocker or simply lying. There’s no third option. In 1918-19, the so-called Spanish Flu swept through the world killing, adjusted to today’s population, 325 to 430 million. These people died of the flu, not with. And, notes the CDC, in direct contrast with coronavirus, “The high mortality in healthy people, including those in the 20-40 year age group, was a unique feature of this pandemic.”
At the same time the world was suffering the torment of WWI (perhaps 20 million deaths), not to mention the horrific smallpox, and vastly higher rates than today of malaria, yellow fever, Dengue, measles, mumps, rubella and a host of other lethal diseases against which there weren’t even treatments. Remember that President Calvin Coolidge’s son died of infection from a blister in 1924. No antibiotics.
As for Time’s “Worst Year Ever” cover, perhaps it’s a matter of perspective, as exemplified in the satirical term “First World Problem.” Which to a great extent is what Covid-19 is. Consider that all those comorbidities tied to higher mortality are related to the cultures of advanced societies – essentially bad diet, sedentary lifestyles, and simply living longer. Covid-19 this year could represent “a loss of less than 1/1,000th of the population’s remaining years to live,” according to one published analysis. Imagine throwing a brick into an Olympic-sized pool and trying to measure a rise in the waterline.
Meanwhile about 2.2 million children alone die each and every year in poorer countries from diarrhea, according to the CDC. That’s last year, this year, and next year as well. (Assuming coronavirus doesn’t drain anti-diarrheal efforts – which apparently it is. No Covid-19 shibboleth is more disingenuous than “All lives matter.” Perhaps, but obviously some lives matter more than most.
What we clearly have is a pandemic of self-absorption, part and parcel to mass psychogenic illness. At some point hopefully we will feel the shame of the Salem witch hunters and all those who aided and abetted them, those in the courts who squirmed and screamed every time a suspect witch was questioned. Maybe we’ll shun the current panic-mongers, as those people were later shunned. But for now it’s full-bore hysteria. And there’s no end in sight. It’s more for that reason that, indeed, 2020 has been a very bad year.