This isn’t working

In California, an unmasked, unvaccinated elementary school teacher infected 12 of her 24 students with the Delta Variant of coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The students were themselves all masked and each desk in the classroom was separated by six feet. All classrooms at the school had portable high-efficiency particulate air filters and doors and windows were left open.

The infection rate was inversely proportional to the distance the students’ desks were from the teacher, that is, the further away the desk, the less likely the infection. The teacher stood in front of the class and read to the children.

It is not clear from the report whether or not the teacher was anti-mask or anti-vaccination or merely negligent, but coronavirus doesn’t care. The end result was the same. Many of the infected students went on to infect their parents and their siblings. The infected teacher went on to infect many of her colleagues.

This case highlights the weakness in the system and why it isn’t working. For one, teachers aren’t required to get vaccinated or wear masks. Also, California has a policy to test teachers for Covid every week and that’s not good enough. The teacher was symptomatic on May 21st. She continued to teach because she thought she was having an allergy attack. She tested positive on May 23rd. By that time the damage had been done.

Half measures against coronavirus in general and the Delta Variant in particular simply aren’t working. The disease is on the rise because people mistakenly think vaccinations are going to keep us all safe or usher in a quick new era of herd immunity. The truth is coming out slowly. It’s particularly chilling that this CDC report on the California teacher is about a case more than 3 months old.

Much the way AIDS eventually ceased being exclusively about gay men, coronavirus is no longer a disease of the elderly and the obese and people of color. Society took coronavirus less seriously early on because much of society regarded the elderly and the obese and people of color as throwaway citizens. They were no such thing, of course, but bigotry, even subconscious, casual bigotry, isn’t interested in the truth.

Today coronavirus is a mainstream disease and anybody can get it. It makes no difference how thin or white or young or in shape you may be, coronavirus is no respecter of persons. Your best bet to keep safe is to wash your hands when you come into contact with objects that can transmit the virus, avoid touching your face until you do, wear a mask while in public indoors, socially distance and get vaccinated. If you do that and the people in your household and the people you associate with also do that, chances are good you won’t get infected. It is a small inconvenience to take these precautions. Coronavirus is a large inconvenience. Death is the ultimate inconvenience. So the choice is clear.

In March of 2020, when it became obvious that coronavirus was going to be a worldwide problem, I was, together with many other people, an advocate of locking down the world for six to eight weeks and running the disease to ground before it had a chance to get a foothold. It was a radical idea at the time, and was largely sneered at by the majority of people. After all, what need was there for such a draconian and expensive measure to combat a disease that would be gone by June? It seems like a fairly cheap and easy idea now in retrospect, does it not?

Like global warming, the threat of coronavirus still seems distant and theoretical to many of us. The unfortunate thing is that it only becomes a clear and present danger to a lot of people only after they come down with it, and then it’s too late to profit from the lesson. Our current measures against the virus are simply too weak. Our program for getting rid of the virus isn’t working.

   

But with Fox News and the Republican Party inflaming people against the small inconveniences necessary to stop the disease, I fear that more draconian measures, such as requiring masks, mandating vaccines and issuing vaccine passports, will be met with physical violence, even terrorism. Fear of the so-called “nanny state” has turned many people into petulant children very much in need of a good spanking. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

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