Among the chants of angry protesters following the tragic death of George Floyd by police officers’ deadly force, one phrase caught my attention — the cry “Silence Is Complicity.” In the case of abusive police authority, if I am silent about this matter, I am judged complicit in that abuse. I find this expression particularly applicable for our times — not just for the cause of assuring justice in response to bad actors, police or otherwise — but more broadly for many other concerns besetting our nation.
Out of the array of such concerns pressing upon us, I find I can no longer be complicit by my silence regarding the questionable basis for the government imposing restrictions on the conduct of life and commerce, asserted as a justifiable response to the COVID 19 pandemic. In the name of saving lives, these actions by government leaders are actually destroying personal, relational, and economic well-being. While an early extremely cautious approach of declaring an emergency may be understood and excused, the months-long continuance of these governmental edicts has devastated major sectors of the population. Consequences include spiking of anxiety, fear, depression, domestic conflict, abuse, and suicide as routines and support networks are disrupted, and access to usual resources for coping shut down.
Questioning these purported public health and safety mandates is typically dismissed, if not silenced, by claiming to be “following the science” of the matter, as though there is no room for differing interpretation of the facts and data. Well, let us indeed look at some of the data and experience we have had.
Governor Beshear has imposed new limits on business activity and size of gatherings. I believe these to be a remarkably unconstitutional assertion of authority at this time. Aside from that question is the matter of his “rules” being arbitrary and capricious. On what basis, other than his own personal choice, does he justify his limitations? Looking at the data for Kentucky, even with the recent supposed resurgence of cases, one needs context. Of new cases, what is the seriousness of the illness of those persons — how many required no significant medical intervention, how many required hospital treatment, how many died? Not to diminish the regret that anyone should die, yet what is the mortality rate for the Commonwealth of Kentucky?
At last report, the math yields a COVID 19 mortality rate in Kentucky of .0016% — 16 out of every 100,000 people. The mortality rate for the disease roughly equals the chance you have of dying in a traffic accident in Kentucky. We have not shut down roadways or travel within the state because of this traffic fatality rate. We respond by promoting sound driving practices, giving information and recommendations for citizens to observe and apply in their exercise of personal liberty and responsibility.
In 1968, the nation experienced the “Hong Kong” flu pandemic, in which 100,000 people in this country died — a mortality rate of .05% — or .0005. Yet that virus did not dominate the daily reporting that we are currently experiencing from local and national major news sources. There was no shutting down of schools and declaring businesses “non-essential” and thus having to cease operations. There were no mask mandates, or limits on public gatherings. We currently have a national mortality rate of about .04%. Back in 1957-58, the H2N2 influenza pandemic caused 116,000 deaths, a mortality rate of .06%, or .0006, again with no government imposition of economically and socially devastating restrictions or mandates upon the population during that time.
One pressing matter for the community calendar of life is the reopening of schools. Again, we are experiencing the specter of fear and anxiety that denies the facts that are available. We have the example of Sweden, for instance, which did not impose the kinds of restriction of social and economic activity that we have continued to experience. They kept their schools open, with full attendance, and no masks, and have had no deaths among that population. All across Europe where schools have reopened, there is no evidence of transmission of the disease from children to the adults — either teachers or the parents of school children.
The Centers for Disease Control has reported 20 deaths from COVID 19 among children ages 5 to 14 years. That statistic puts children in a risk of fatality comparable to being struck by lightning.
These facts and statistics stand as a beacon of hope and encouragement, offering positive direction for our course of action with this disease. Such data and information give needed context for a prudent and discerning emergence from the anxiety and fear, and the retreat from community life and relationships, interactions and transactions, that have been the collateral damage of a crisis-promoting media and the arbitrary governmental edicts imposed for our supposed public health and safety.
The hope of overcoming this disease is not marked by there being no cases anymore. The public health goal is more rightly that we are strengthened collectively by the development of resistance to it, even immunity. In the time this new virus has been afflicting us, we have learned effective treatments to reduce its threat to health and life, with early presumptions proved to be counterproductive and weakening. Protecting the vulnerable — the elderly and those with compromising underlying health issues — is paramount. The rest of the reasonably healthy population just needs to practice reasonable sanitation and universal precautions.
The July 24 edition of The Messenger carried a story by the Associated Press with the headline “Beshear: More action may be needed if virus cases don’t slow.” Again, the raw number of cases is not enough, we need to consider what the history of those cases reveals — is resistance and recovery increasing, mortality declining? The Associated Press is certainly a part of the “major media.” Buried at the end of this long story is this concluding paragraph: “For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness and be fatal.”
If we can trust such “major media” reporting, then this statement would suggest that we shake off the grip of the predominant attitude of impending doom, take reasonable health precautions, and get back to responsible personal and community life by getting back to work and school.