This is the second in a five(?)-part series laying out some facts and opinions about Kentuckians and the COVID-19 epidemic. You can read the first article here.
Calling out the Stupid
I regularly read a web site called “Zandar Versus the Stupid.” It is written by a fellow Kentuckian, and is a pretty direct look at “the stupid” in the world. The site’s tagline reads, “Needless to say there’s a lot of Stupid out there when we need solutions. Dangerous levels of Stupid. Into the fray, dear Reader. Tray tables, crash helmets, arms inside blog at all times.” (Yes, I enjoy the tone of the site as well as the content.)
Normally, I tend not to call policies and actions “stupid,” and certainly not people. Irresponsible, illogical, uninformed – these are the words I often fall back on.
But after reading the statements of some people, and following the actions of some elected officials, I am definitely there with Zandar: it is definitely time to call out the Stupid.
Here are some statements about COVID-19 and our effort to deal with it that get the Stupid label.
“It’s just like the flu.” No, it’s not. While some of the symptoms are similar (fever, sore throat, aches), the mortality rate for COVID-19 is orders of magnitude higher than that of the flu. One early article put the death rate at 3.5% of confirmed cases, as opposed to 0.1% for the flu. (Of course, we won’t know the ultimate mortality rate until we have a better idea of how many people are actually infected.)
COVID-19 also seems to be more contagious than the flu. If you have to go to the hospital with the flu (a rare thing for most of us), the doctors and nurses just treat you. If you show up with COVID-19, they wear as much PPE as they can lay their hands on.
And, once you get over the flu, you are over it. With COVID-19, we are beginning to see evidence that it may cause permanent damage to the lungs and other organs, and even perhaps to the brain.
“People are going to die anyway, so what’s the point.” Guess what – we’re ALL going to die anyway. But that doesn’t keep us from doing all we can to keep people from dying unnecessarily. That’s why we have traffic laws, and vaccines, and hospitals. And, that’s why we do what we can to keep from making this pandemic worse.
And, not to put too fine a point on it – you are welcome to have all the fatalism you want. But when you use your fatalism to justify harming me and my family and my community, your stupidity has now become a threat, and must be stopped.
“I feel fine, we all feel fine, so we must not have the virus.” As noted in the first article in this series, its a known fact that you can have the virus without symptoms. Even worse, you can give the virus to others even while you feel fine.
You want a good picture of this kind of stupid? Imagine forty people crowded around a bar, and one of the patrons calls out “See? We’re all here, and no one is sick. It’s all fake news!” And all the while, one or two people are happily and unknowingly giving the virus to everyone else around the bar, including the bartender and the wait staff – some of whom will get sick, some of whom will get very sick, and some of whom may die.
“It’s all fake news! Just open everything back up already!” This type of reaction shows that the person making it just doesn’t understand how viruses spread, or the dangers of slowing our efforts too soon.
We’ve all gotten used to the Philadelphia-vs-StLouis graphic that Governor Beshear uses all the time. Well, here is a similar graphic addressing this bad (stupid) idea:
Or, let’s imagine that you are driving down a steep mountain, and suddenly discover that you don’t have any brakes. The car is rapidly gaining speed, and if you don’t do something you’re going to crash. You reach for the parking brake, and by pulling on it hard enough to slow down the car but not so hard as to burn it out, you get the car down to 30 miles an hour, even as you continue down the hill.
At that point your passenger says, “Great! You got it slowed down to 30. Why don’t you let go of the parking brake and let’s see what happens!” I suspect you would look dumbfounded at that person, and perhaps say “That’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard.”
“It’s all a Democrat plot to make President Trump look bad.” Yeah boy, those Democrats – traveling to Italy and infecting all those people and causing them to die, just to make Trump look bad. Causing so many deaths that they had to line up refrigerated trucks in the streets to deal with the bodies. Yeah boy, it’s all a plot by those liberal socialists.
Look, let’s call it like it is – President Trump doesn’t need help looking bad. He is perfectly capable of looking incompetent, and arrogant, and clueless, all on his own. And he has done an amazing job of showing all those attributes during this crisis. Add on the self-dealing, the rabble rousing, the incitements to violence, and the feckless approach to the greatest public health crisis of the last 100 years, and it is safe to say that the Trump response to the coronavirus pandemic will go down in history as one of the greatest failures of public leadership in the history of the world.
Stupid elected officials
Again, I tend not to call the actions of elected officials “stupid.” Most of them are working hard, doing the best they can, and at least some of them do have the best interests of their constituents in mind. (Some, of course, are only interested in the perks or the power or both, but I try to give even those the benefit of the doubt.)
But, like Zandar said, sometimes you just have to call out the stupid. Given what we know about the spreading of the virus, and given that we have neither a vaccine nor a proven cure, and given that you can be a carrier and infect others even if you yourself feel fine – given all that, the actions listed below definitely belong in the Stupid Hall of Fame.
Governor of Florida – Reopened Florida’s beaches because “Floridians need sunlight,” after having left the beaches open during spring break.
Governor of Oklahoma – After the coronavirus had started spreading, tweeted a picture of his family eating at a crowded restaurant, and since has refused to issue any sort of statewide stay-at-home order.
Governor of Georgia – Announced a “phased reopening of the state,” starting with gyms and fitness centers, barber shops, bowling alleys, and tattoo parlors.
Governor of South Carolina – Reopened beaches and retails store.
Multiple governors – Not only have these governors refused to issue their own stay-at-home orders, but they have instead issued executive orders forbidding local governments from doing it themselves.
Let’s not be stupid, Kentucky
There you have it – some statements, and some actions, that deserve the word “stupid.” Please, fellow Kentuckians, do not make these statements, do not support others when they do, and do not call for stupid actions by our own governor and state officials.
Instead, let’s be smart. Let’s show the other states how to flatten the curve AND work together to do so.
And, while we’re at it, let’s not get played. That’s the discussion in the next article.