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THOMPSON: A year later COVID-19 still an imminent threat

April 12, 2021 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


We’re all weary of the pandemic that has plagued us for more than a year. We’re tired of social distancing and isolating from family and friends...tired of scrubbing our hands like physicians prepping for surgery...tired of wearing masks everywhere we go. It has been a long year.

I didn’t pull any punches when I first wrote about the pandemic last March 23, 2020. I wrote what some - but certainly not all - might have been thinking: “Everyone is worried…really worried…about jobs and businesses, money, school, mortgages and rents…and let’s not forget…the health and welfare of loved ones. We should not imagine the darkest possibilities but how we can persevere…that’s what defines the human spirit.”

I wrote honestly: “Scientists and doctors from day one spoke a truth beyond debate…if we want to blunt the severity of this pandemic…we must stay away from each other.” Following science, I also wrote of the critical importance of washing hands.

But I also wrote something I hoped for but doubted would happen: “The other truth is governments everywhere - locally, nationally and worldwide - need real plans and the courage of leadership to implement them in emergencies.”

If I lacked confidence in governments, I knew with certainty that it would simply come down to us, writing: “But if you’re looking for a hero in this story…go to the nearest mirror. Yes, we have met those who can do more than anyone short term….and it is us. We - as individuals - are the single most important determining factor in how hard this pandemic hits us.”

A few weeks later - in another column - I suggested that everyone wear masks in public places. Masks, I reasoned, wouldn’t stop virus droplets one way and not another.

Independent scientists - not political appointees - told the truth last year. Masks - along with social distancing and washing hands - are effective in stopping the virus. Evidence of the efficacy of masks was visible in the extremely low rates of infection in Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea, among others...where masks were mandatory.

But governments - perhaps afraid health care workers wouldn’t have enough masks early on - simply didn’t tell the truth to the public...for months. There were few or no mask mandates in North America. The truth is we could have worn a variety of tight-fitting face coverings that would have protected us to some degree...but government leaders seemed to have trusted the public less than they did the virus.

Not-so-fast forward a year. What has changed is the intensity of the imminent threat. Today, we have new variants...the P.1 - originally from Brazil - and the B.1.1.7...originally from the United Kingdom. Both are more transmissible and more deadly than the original COVID-19 virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S.

Last year, many of us - despite living in less densely populated areas - played by the rules. We stayed apart, washed hands and wore masks...even though the threat of infection was considerably less than in big cities. And while some of us are vaccinated...not nearly enough to stop the virus in its tracks.

The variants of the virus are with us...here in the Okanagan. Now, as we await higher vaccination rates, the need to continue social distancing, washing hands and wearing masks is even more critical. Beyond these proven steps that we must all practice...we can hope - even pray - that those we elected to lead us...will do just that.

The truth is we can all accept bad news...however tragic it might be. But the gap between truth and science isn’t nearly as wide as the chasm between truth and politics. So, it’s reasonable that scientists should guide us in fighting deadly pandemics...and we should hope that our leaders learn from them. After all, who among us wants to hear less than the truth in matters of life and death?

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.


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