There’s no question that all the oxygen in the newsroom is still being eaten up by COVID. So it’s no surprise that the constant decontextualization of the pandemic continues unabated. The latest is that “COVID is like WWII.” For those of us that had relatives that fought in that war, this is an unbelievable comparison. COVID is not World War II. Words escape me for the lack of depth of our understanding of history. Just stop it. You can take COVID seriously and not give into the hype. And don’t come hollering at me. I absorbed the values of that generation that fought that war — which looks askance at hysteria.
Even in crisis, perspective is a use-it or lose-it commodity. All-cause mortality is somewhere around 7,700 deaths per day on average in the U.S. Yes, it’s tragic that on a bad day, some 2,900 people are dying of some version of COVID or COVID comorbidity. But our prevention measures are weak. And the reality is that hospitals are holding up across the nation. Thank you again, health care workers.
While the paragraph above will definitely ignite the lefty screamers, I’ve got some words for the right-wing crazies who decided to do a no-mask parachute drop on Tri-State to prove “something” — I’m not quite sure what. If you’re a right winger, I thought you were supposed to be about law-and-order, as well as private property rights. How breaking a mask ordinance, while filing into a private business establishment that has to follow the law, and is, well, private property, makes any coherent point is beyond me. For what it’s worth, Pastor Wilson, I preferred the outside sing-a-longs. And hey — ‘tis the season for caroling, a festivity done outside in the cold, with plenty of ventilation. We’ve had lots of outside protest marches, with little effect. The music is so heart-warming. And only a Grinch would complain about singing.
Thanksgiving this year, at least by my read of the data, also turned out to be a super-spreader bust. Looking at the TSA statistics, only some 50 percent of the typical traffic took to the road and air to see their relatives and fight with old uncles over an election functionally over. COVID deaths continue to rise some — it is respiratory illness season after all — but we’ve only got a week to hit the 450,000 deaths that the various epidemiological modelers were predicting back in October.
And that’s not going to happen. The width of our statistical curve is likely to resemble European countries, and that seems to run about three months. That doesn’t mean we’re completely out of the woods. Do the big three activities (mask up, wash hands, socially distance) regardless of your choices of association — but with that seasonal cessation of viral activity, as well as the vaccine, the end is in sight.
As far as COVID-safe activities, what could be better than getting out in our beautiful woods and taking a backcountry ski? You’ll get exercise, and importantly a nice dose of Vitamin D from the sunshine. That will help with your overall immunity, as well as any grumpiness from missing out. There might be enough snow for some low elevation snowmobile riding as well. No need for a mask with one of those fancy helmets on! And there’s no virus that can hold up to an atmosphere of Yamalube.
As I’ve said in past op-eds, communities that are united weather crises like this pandemic far better than ones that aren’t. Hating on your neighbors is bad for your own psyche — as well as public health — in this darkest month of the year. There are outliers, for sure, in our own little Twin Cities — but most of the people are good folks. My recommendation is that we focus on that. I think that’s what peace on Earth and good will towards all folks is really all about.
Chuck Pezeshki is a professor in mechanical andmaterials engineering at Washington State University.