This is a rant – delete at will.
Before I even go down the trail of why this new plan of the US White House is immoral, obscene, and not even remotely ethical – let us talk about herds.
Herds are groups of bovine or related species. There is absolutely no question in the herd that all are not equal, not all members have equal chance at survival, that there is limited ability to protect the most vulnerable members of the herd. It is Darwin at the finest. The weakest members can and are left behind. They are brought down by predators while the rest of the herd escapes. A balance of nature – so to speak. If a member of a wild herd gets a serious infection – it dies. A newly born member of the herd, if physically “defective” dies. The elderly members, especially those past reproductive age, who can’t keep up with the herd – die.
As humans – we like to pretend that we are not herd animals. We care for our young, long past the point in most societies where children born with defects are left outside for the elements. We have antibiotics and treat all those infections that we can. We don’t routinely discard members of society who are past childbearing age so that there is enough food for those who are perpetuating the species (not going down this rabbit hole at the present – as there are way too may locations in the world where grandparents are raising their grandchildren). We pride ourselves on care and respect for our elderly, elders, and aged.
Or, I thought we did. That we were not a herd.
So why would we pretend that it is perfectly all right for us to say that “let the disease spread while those who are vulnerable are protected”?
Is this idea finding root now because one person has survived his episode of COVID-19 with a level of medical support that is not available to the vast majority of the US -especially those of us who live in areas where the hospital infrastructure is old, crumbling, inadequate, and lacks even remotely current ventilation standards?
Is it because the vast majority of deaths thus far have been in aged care facilities, nursing homes, residential homes, poor neighborhoods, essential workers of color? Do those in certain places assume that their whiteness, their economic status, their privilege will protect them? Their families.
Is it because it is easy to assume that SARS-COV2 is a one and done? How easy is it to ignore the reality of long-haul COVID and the thousands upon thousands who will be living with the consequences for years.
Does someone, somewhere think that we can identify who is vulnerable? That we have enough trained personnel to staff our hospitals and care facilities to take care of that 60% of the population getting infected that it will take?
Are we willing to accept that – with our current best medical care available to all – that the death rate is about 4%? That, my friends, translates to 12 MILLION people dying in the US. Our current US death count is just past 220,000. Look around you – that means that 1/25 of those you know would be sacrificed to herd immunity. Does your family – including partners, parents, off-spring, siblings – number 25? Who are you willing to let die for the cause? How about your friends, colleagues? How about you? Are you willing to die to promote herd immunity?
This disease is real. It is deadly. All those scientist who signed the Barrington? All I can think of is that they don’t view themselves at risk. That they are sure they can protect themselves. I can play with numbers. But as a physician – those numbers have human faces; dreams, families, futures. Do I, sitting behind a computer and playing with numbers have a right to say – you get to die so that others can have a “normal” life?
The long term consequences of this disease are ugly in human life, in disability, in economic cost. No one who survives an intensive care unit stay ever returns to full normalcy. The idea that political leaders could advocate sacrificing a portion of the US population to death so that they don’t have to wear a mask is ludicrous.
Excuse me – but I think we have been here before in history. When a particular movement decided that cleaning house would be advantageous to themselves, their beliefs, and their economy. The result?
We call it the Holocaust.
And now? Will we go down the same path using a disease rather than ovens?
Think about it.