In terms of any cohesive pandemic management, it’s been a depressing 30 days. Once again, Donald Trump has sucked up all the oxygen in the room regarding COVID-19 safety, and the war of words between the right and left, even on the local front, has exploded.
On the right, we have the Kirkers/Plague Singers, using the Bible and Psalms as a weapon. And on the left as well, we have masks turned into Captain America’s shield, as well as religious attacks aimed back across the political divide.
For those claiming the moral high ground there, I wonder if most of you have even read the Bible — start with Matthew 7:1. And for you science buffs — we’ve run now literal thousands of experiments of outdoor spread in the sunshine. COVID-19 doesn’t, and wearing a mask outside seems to make no difference whatsoever.
We’ve also followed the case count strategy lately, to no noticeable effect. Literal thousands of documented cases between the two campuses. A smattering of hospitalizations — 2? 4? — and really no full-on COVID-19 deaths that either the Whitman County or Latah County Health Departments will claim. WSU is now calling for all faculty to be tested. Not only are no people dying in the local vicinity, both Idaho and Washington have recorded multiple days of zero deaths in the past month. That is the data, folks.
Confusion, leading to rancor, reigns. Things like lockdowns, and even mask wearing, were never intended to cure COVID-19, though many of the left believe they do. They were interventions to slow spread. When do we acknowledge, with 2,000 tested cases, that the virus, like other coronaviruses, is ubiquitous, and has done its worst? What’s the magic number? Coming into cold and flu season soon, there will be unavoidable respiratory illness deaths. America averages about 160,000 a year historically.
What this means is it is time to get back to work educating our young people in this community. I’ve scanned the opened universities across the U.S. I cannot find any COVID-19 deaths. There is no dashboard for hospitalizations, but I suspect that most communities like ours are seeing similar numbers. We have to learn to live with COVID-19 before we all go bankrupt.
Three brave, internationally famous epidemiologists have stepped up, advocating what has emerged as the successful strategy for moving past COVID-19. Dr. Martin Kuldorff of Harvard, Dr. Sunetra Gupta of Oxford and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford have created the Great Barrington Declaration, which I have also signed. It involves protecting the vulnerable, and accepting that spread in nonvulnerable populations will lead far faster to herd immunity, with far less public health damage than our current path.
If we could move past our focus on the circus in the White House, we too could move past the pandemic. Both at Washington State University and the University of Idaho, we are likely at total COVID saturation anyway. We’ve tested.
The singular idea that if we just create a train wreck of our society, we’re going to stop COVID-19, is beyond ridiculous. Wrecking all small business in the area will have dire public health consequences. And while it may be morally satisfying to focus on fraternity parties, the reality is that the students are alright. And they count on us keeping our institutions open for their livelihoods. At least 25 percent of my students count on employment inside the university for survival, often working 40 hours/week. Closing down looks like the low risk strategy. But for whom?
I accept that at some level, we are flying through clouds now, using Instrument flight rules. But what those instruments are actually telling us is we do have the virus, but it makes no difference to the vast majority. And no strategy we’ve applied matters that much anyway.
I encourage everyone to look up the three Drs. and consider their argument, called Focused Protection. Their presentation is at: https://bit.ly/3lvvr3i.
We have to move past this virus. Because the data is telling us that the virus has already moved past us.
Chuck Pezeshki is a professor in mechanical and materials engineering at Washington State University.