EDITORIAL: What I can do

IF YOU GET your information on the Covid pandemic from a source that explains it in clear, easily understood terms, you can be certain you are getting bad information.

Since last fall the news about the pandemic has emphasized the omicron variant, which physicians, epidemiologists and other scientists tell us spreads much faster than two earlier mutations of the virus. What a windfall for the multinational media industry. There’s always a new twist to report, whether it’s medical breakthroughs, links to the economy, personal tragedies or body counts. It’s numbers and more numbers illustrated by endless images of hypodermic needles jabbing arms.

We’re part of this data matrix. We publish the county’s Covid data weekly. We would be remiss if we failed to inform our readers of the presence of the virus here, the toll it is taking on our neighbors, some of whom are frontline workers facing the risk of infection every day. For those with family members who provide care for Covid patients, the outcome of their effort to contain this virus… feels personal.

But this is old news. We know that viruses can elude human efforts to control them whether we’re relying on science or modified human behavior. Look at the recent Covid-19 outbreak at The Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing/Barnwell facility in Valatie.

Based on information provided by the Grand, as of January 11 of this year, “95 residents and 37 staff had tested positive for the virus going back to January 1, suggesting the virus may have been introduced into the home by a worker…. but [the outbreak] just exploded among residents in the last few days,” county Public Health Director Jack Mabb said in a January 12 release.

“Of the 95 positive residents, 14 are unvaccinated, having refused the vaccine,” said Mr. Mabb. As of January 12, three residents are hospitalized, with two out of the three unvaccinated.”

People who work every day to protect the public from Covid-19 virus would likely nod their heads at this analysis, understanding it as one of millions of confirmations that vaccination doesn’t guarantee immunity against the virus but is likely to reduce the chances of serious illness.

But others may be confused by the numbers or, all too often, misled by deliberately false or distorted interpretations of the science. And, without seeking out authoritative sources, they will embrace the bogus science and risk infecting themselves and others. This virus is a skilled traveler.

This week the federal Department of Health and Human services rolled out its Vaccine Public Education Campaign. Let’s hope it will help, but this pandemic has become the greatest threat to public health in our lifetime. Strategies to protect us will change. That’s not a conspiracy; it’s a sign of progress.

Getting vaccinated is the best defense, but there’s another step that helps: wearing a mask. They’re easy to find, reasonably priced. But some people who don’t want to be told what to do. But people give all sorts of other reasons. Of all the reasons given for this odd aversion to mask-wearing indoors, there is one that gets little attention. They’re embarrassed.

Those folks have it backward.

I keep multiple masks handy because I lose them. I live in fear that I’ll neglect to mask-up when it’s called for. And sure enough, at the post office last week, I saw a look of disdain on the face of the woman parked in the next space. I was in a hurry. I grabbed the post office door and saw my naked face in the reflection. I reached in my pocket. A spare! I fumbled with the straps and pressed the mask it into place before anyone entered the lobby. She left.

Most people I see around here wear masks indoors. The ones who don’t must not realize how clueless they look without a mask and how threatening.

I’d like to apologize to the person in the parking lot. I want to assure her I’m vaccinated and I wear a mask. It’s the least I can do to avoid accidentally exposing her to illness or death regardless of what the numbers say.

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