COVID-19: A Virus Isn’t Political

Had anyone told me a a couple of months ago that I would be researching and writing this story, I would have told them that they were unusually misguided. Even the thought that there is blatant bullshit being passed around about this tragic crisis is enough to make me so sad and so angry that I needed to write, and implore our readers to give my humble story honest consideration.

However, I can’t ask for or expect your honest consideration without stating the obvious first. This is not, or should not, be an issue that is political. A virus doesn’t give a shit what you think. To the point and extent that science runs headfirst into politics, I will do my best to be as non-political as possible. When or if that becomes impossible, I’ll link to information from those in their respective field … who know more than I will ever claim to.

In addition, I believe everyone is eager for businesses and schools to open, to get out and enjoy the spring … to just feel normal again. However, I also expect “The Golden Rule” to apply. I can only be guided by what experts tell us, even as they are learning themselves.

When I don’t understand something, I try to learn about it from as many perspectives as possible. In this case, because the subject was scientific, I asked a trusted friend who happens to be a virologist, and he sent me to YouTube and told me to call him back after I watched. I am home anyway, so I looked it up to find out what the scientific community was learning about this virus.

I fell in love with “The Ninja Nerds.” If you take the time to watch, you’ll see why. If you want to understand what COVID-19 is, and what it does watch the video. The conversation I had with my friend after I watched the videos is the other reason I am writing this story. This series has been praised by many in the medical field, as well as laymen who simply want scientific information. The first video was done in March, an update was released in April, and the most recent that I haven’t seen yet.

The other point I wanted to convey is something I doubt I’ll ever fully understand. During the first few weeks of this outbreak, I saw this country, and Virginians more united than at any time since 9/11. There was genuine cause for concern, and a genuine sense of community (minus the toilet paper hoarding).

The public seemed to embrace it as neighbors looked after each other and we all gained an appreciation for folks who work in grocery stores. But everyone was afraid … afraid of the virus, afraid of losing their job, afraid for their kids’ education, afraid for the obvious hard times that lay ahead. Uncertainty is frightening, and for a time, it was unifying.

Then … the unity was over.

For reasons I will not assume, different protests started popping up against the stay-at-home orders put in place by governors who stated concerns focused on keeping the public safe, including Virginia.

There are several issues I don’t agree with Governor Northam on, but the pleasant (albeit brief) hiatus from what I call “hate centered” politics seemingly vaporized. I read posts on social media that made my stomach turn. Pure hatred … so many with false or misleading information … and a few with threats of violence.

As night follows day, that hatred turned into motivation and the protest planning began. I want to see our Commonwealth open as much as anyone and I can certainly understand why our small business community was, to a degree, eager to jump on the train to end the shutdown. The Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) version #1 was gone just as many businesses were still in the application phase. Many furloughed workers refused to return to work because they were making more money on the retrofitted unemployment.

The Trump White House had issued guidance on specific benchmarks that need to be met before the state can begin re-opening. Governor Northam’s team based Virginia’s blueprint for re-opening off of that guidance. So I wondered … what is there to protest? Even as desperate as many businesses had become, did they really believe that Northam was going to alter his blueprint because a group of people drove around the capitol honking their horns for two hours, past the sick kids in the Children’s Hospital?

Apparently so, because they are planning to do it again. Other than the horns disturbing the kids in the hospital, I suppose it gives them a way to make their opinions known, to air their grievances. For those who are part of it organically, I can’t blame them at all. I do think that getting the people back into a business might prove to be difficult, but communities can rally.

However, there are some folks in these groups who have their own agendas, and this makes no sense to me. And any politician (such as a state senator) seeking higher office using the pandemic and these groups to further their own political goals has just redefined what a classless self-serving politician really is. When that same person also starts opining on the constitutionality of something that should not be a question, it becomes … there really are no words.

The legal ability of the government to act in a time of a global pandemic isn’t something I expected to be as misunderstood as it has turned out to be, and the spread of false information in some instances seems to be faster than the virus.

Would I have handled this situation differently had it been up to me? Yes, but it wasn’t.

Even China has given us yet another example of changing information for a novel virus.

“Those are going to stay in the air floating around for at least two hours,” said Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineer at Virginia Tech who was not involved with the Nature paper. “It strongly suggests that there is potential for airborne transmission.”

There is also a large group of people from the medical and other communities that sent a letter to request Governor Northam to take even more specific steps to protect everyone from the consequences … the consequences that were the topic of discussion when I called my friend, the virologist, back after I watched the videos.

This virus has but one thing to do and we could be looking at 1918-1919 all over again. It needs only to exchange one protein with a different flu virus, like the seasonal flu and the mortality rate could resemble that of the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918-1919. The Spanish Flu was an H1-N1 virus.

“The second wave of the 1918 pandemic was much more deadly than the first. The first wave had resembled typical flu epidemics; those most at risk were the sick and elderly, while younger, healthier people recovered easily. By August, when the second wave began in France, Sierra Leone, and the United States, the virus had mutated to a much more deadly form.”

I mention this only as a point to remember. This virus is going to be with us from now on. I believe we’ll have a vaccine within 18 months, and I understand we can’t close the USA until then. But there are things we can choose to do.

We can choose not to hate; we can choose to disagree without resorting to nasty; we can choose to trust the scientists; we can choose to listen to them, and as we re-open … we can also re-open our hearts and minds along with our businesses. We can make our “new” normal better than our old one.

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