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THOMPSON: When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus isn't the enemy

 


OPINION


The numbers of cases and deaths from COVID-19 are waning…and normalcy could be just around the corner. If that sounds familiar - either in wishful thinking or actual words - it’s because the easing of the Delta variant marks the fourth time we’ve thought or said this during this pandemic.

Make no mistake, seriously ill COVID-19 patients still plague hospitals, and funeral homes have all they can handle in parts of the U.S. and Canada. But the numbers are trending the right way, and the latest spikes in cases and deaths are again subsiding.

Vaccinations, natural immunity, wearing masks, staying away from each other in large groups and social distancing when we do get together have all made a difference.

Certainly, people getting vaccinated starting earlier this year saved tens if not hundreds of thousands of lives. Consider how the Delta variant swept across North America…it was 1,000 times more contagious than the original virus. Consider, too, how nearly 99 percent of those who ended up in hospitals and dying during the Delta wave were unvaccinated…it could have been much worse without vaccines.

Of course, things have changed…19 months ago when I first wrote about the pandemic it was the elderly and those with health-compromised conditions who were at greatest risk. Tens of thousands in nursing homes across the U.S. and Canada died in the first few months.

Remember, too, that early on no one was concerned about the strong, healthy and young. Of course, unfortunately millions depend on Facebook and Twitter as sources of news and science…and were convinced that if they had the right blood type, took the right vitamins or exercised a lot…and were twenty-something…no sweat…COVID-19 was no worse than the flu. If you get it…just shove some chlorine in an orifice, the former president of the U.S. told everyone.

The Delta variant changed all that. Young folks…even kids…were in hospital intensive care units…and inexplicably even young folks died.

Early on in this pandemic, I was somewhat optimistic…thinking that surely society could pull on the same end of the rope in matters of life and death. The enemy, I reasoned, was the disease.

I could not have been more wrong. The enemy was, and continues to be, us. We - or more accurately those who refuse vaccinations - have put us exactly where we are. More people have died than needed to simply because of selfish agendas and just plain ignorance.

Even when social media and cable news outlets like Fox News got the facts right…which was not often…people passed along misinformation or disinformation…anecdotal stories that were contrary to science, medicine, facts and truth.

Yes, it’s true that your chances of dying from COVID remain somewhere between 1.5 and 2 percent. But that means more than 750,000 Americans and nearly, 30,000 Canadians have died. More than five million have died worldwide. By the way, for those who still say it’s no worse than the flu each year…annual deaths from COVID exceed deaths from flu for the last decade.

It’s important to remember that this is a worldwide pandemic…and until it’s solved worldwide…it has the ability to produce more variants…that are likely to be more transmissible…and deadly.

At the very least, we are looking at COVID-19 becoming endemic rather than pandemic. In other words, it’s something some of us will always live with…and some will die from every year…forever.

We - and I’m talking about people worldwide - could have and should have managed this pandemic much better. Largely, we failed. We let partisan politics and misinformation drive decisions from day one that had little to do with public health.

I’m tired of the lame argument that those who did all the right things beginning in March 2020 - social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands…and then getting vaccinated at the earliest opportunities - should somehow be empathetic of those who don’t get vaccinated.

The unvaccinated - and remember very few of those have immune systems that would be compromised by getting vaccinated - caused unnecessary deaths. Period. No debate. No empathy. You were - and are - selfish and/or ignorant.

How ignorant? Some have said they are awaiting the new Pfizer pill that when taken within 72 hours of symptoms is 89 percent effective in reducing hospitalization or death. The clinical trial had just 774 people…and those who won’t take the vaccine which had tens of thousands of clinical trial participants…say they’ll take the pill. Really?

This cult-like following of anti-masker, anti-vaxxer, anti-government folks is the gift that keeps on giving. They have hurt us - the caring public - since day one…but every day they delay getting vaccinated…well, that gives the virus more chances to mutate…to launch another variant.

What I’ve said since my very first column still holds…stay away from others, wear a mask, wash your hands, take the vaccine at the earliest opportunity. All that is really required is that you care about others. And as far as normalcy…well, this is the new normal…and God help us if we don’t do better with the next virus.

— 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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