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THOMPSON: COVID-19 numbers don't lie but President Donald Trump does

November 16, 2020 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


Combat veterans know truths...universal, brutal truths. One is what gets you through days or weeks or months of service under fire...replacements are on the way. If only that were the truth for the healthcare workers who have been fighting COVID-19. Their reality is very different.

It matters little where the battles are waged...the U.S or Canada...Florida or British Columbia.

At some point, front-line healthcare professionals discover...there are no replacements. It is then that the job you thought was difficult...becomes impossible. In military terms, that is when your position is overrun...that is when all is lost.

The war against COVID-19 - underway for almost 11 months in North America - is now in its third wave...three spikes of new cases...new hospitalizations...new deaths. An aviation term describes where most of America is right now vis-à-vis COVID-19...it’s called a “death spiral.”

If a pilot mistakenly believes he’s flying with the wings level, but with a descent indicated on the altimeter and vertical speed indicator, it’s easy to make a fatal mistake...pulling back on the control yoke to climb. But in a banking turn, an airplane is at an angle and will make a large circle in the sky. Pulling back on the control yoke tightens that circle and causes the airplane to lose altitude even faster, like water swirling toward a drain.

The “pilots” in the case of COVID-19 are our elected and appointed government officials responsible for protecting us...its citizens. In the U.S., tests indicate more than 11 million COVID-19 cases, with a quarter-million deaths...and the ultimate “pilot”...President Donald Trump. It is easy to see the folly of incompetent leadership after the fact. The numbers don’t lie...but politicians do...especially Donald Trump.

Still, to this very day, lame-duck President Trump ridicules the wearing of masks. His supporters...and there are more than 70 million Americans who voted for him...listen to him...take his word as Gospel. Pity. Had they listened to doctors and researchers not under the thumb of an autocratic president...they would have worn masks...and more than a hundred thousand fellow dead Americans would be alive.

Canada’s population is a couple million less than California’s...about 38 million people. There were 287,300 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Canada as of last Friday, according to Canada’s Public Health Agency...10,828 people have died.

The population density isn’t the same in Canada as it is in the U.S. And for some...I hear from too many Canadians...this is reason enough not to worry about COVID-19. Somehow, these folks believe social distancing, washing your hands and wearing a mask simply aren’t as necessary as in the States.

But just as Americans eventually found in Iowa and South Dakota and Wyoming...where population densities are not unlike areas of Manitoba and British Columbia...COVID-19 simply doesn’t care. Six months ago, wearing a mask in South Dakota drew snickers. Now, no one’s laughing. It’s a pandemic...play fast and loose with it...and cases increase...deaths increase.

And when the COVID-19 hospitalizations exploded, say in New York, doctors and nurses from areas not under the gun could serve as replacements...giving a respite to those on the front-lines working 80-hour weeks. But now, COVID-19 is everywhere in the states...cases are increasing in all 50 states. In the U.S., more people are in hospital with COVID-19 now than at any point this year...up 40 percent even from just two weeks ago.

There are no replacements.

And doctors and nurses know it.

And yes, the economy is important...business and jobs are important. But the all-or-nothing attitudes of Americans and Canadians - with their “the cure is worse than the disease” slogan - kills people. Period.

Most businesses can open...adjust to the new realities...employees can still earn pay checks. But that assumes we do what researchers not under the thumbs of politicians have said all along...avoid groups...large and small...social distance, wash your hands and wear a mask.

I don’t understand not mandating the wearing of masks. There’s no doubt...masks are beneficial to all. Other than isolation...nothing is more effective! Why Canadian government officials aren’t making the wearing of masks mandatory...I dunno...ask them?

Because things are going to get worse in the Okanagan - just like everywhere else - unless nearly everyone wears a mask. It’s a pandemic! So, you can be like a cry-baby Trump supporter in America...what the hell...maybe some people are ready to die? Or, maybe we should give a rat’s ass about others.

Meanwhile, where I started with all of this. Those who work in hospitals in Vernon and Kamloops and Kelowna and Penticton...doctors and nurses...they have replacements now.

But the health needs we have normally don’t go away...they’re just added to the building cases of COVID-19. Will hospitals be much busier in February?

Intensive-care units in hospitals didn’t get that name by accident. A patient with COVID-19 often has a ventilator tube...and a respiratory nurse monitoring it. There might be 24-hour dialysis if kidneys shut down. The patient is flipped everyday...stomach...back...then stomach.

Tubes - eight to 12 - lead to hearts and arteries with various drugs and blood thinners...all under the watchful eyes of ICU nurses. None of this is a cure or treatment...it’s just to keep the virus from killing the patient.

It appears that a vaccine might be generally available by April of next year. Even at 90 percent effectiveness, a vaccine isn’t going to make this virus go away overnight...it will be several  months...and more people will die. Doctors and researchers with whom I have spoken unanimously say they would rather everyone wear masks today...than have an effective vaccine tomorrow. That should tell us something...if we would simply accept facts...truths.

Meanwhile, it has to be on the minds of every doctor and nurse...every front-line warrior...all those who take care of us because we’re not always taking care of each other. When will there be no replacements? When will they be overrun?

Stay away from others, social distance, wash your hands and wear a mask. Doing anything less is selfish, and that’s being kind.

— 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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