It’s A Free Country Isn’t It?

I follow the COVID numbers religiously. Some, including my wife, might argue too religiously. Many Americans are talking in terms of post-pandemic. I say it’s way too soon and we may be nearing a crossroads.

Before I put all my readers in a panic let me say that I’m not predicting or even fearing that we will go back to the bad old days when we didn’t have a leader in the White House, vaccines or treatments. I’m far from guaranteeing what will happen in the 2024 election but for now we have sensible and competent leadership in the White House. We know much more about the virus than we knew in 2020. We have highly effective vaccines along with reasonably effective treatments if we catch the infection early enough. (In many ways that is what we have to combat many other diseases. This one, unlike say cancer, is contagious and spreads easily.)

My regular readers know I follow the 14 day rolling average on a daily basis. In this respect infection is like the economy in that it is best to “listen to” leading indicators. I feel that number is the best readily available leading indicator.

Like many more cautious Americans I have put off a few medical procedures – the ones that are largely precautionary and confirm that you are or are getting old – and a walking routine until the numbers got a bit better. (I think it will be a long time before they are at zero and in fact, we may not reach that point in my remaining lifetime.) We were approaching that number and then we plateaued. As of this writing we have basically stayed at the same plateau (from the mid 40,000s to the high 30,000s) for the entire fourth quarter. Of late we are creeping up a bit. Nothing huge; the increase is in the single digits. Of concern to me is that it is no longer going down.

As I write this piece, we are just closing out the Thanksgiving weekend. I saw tons of travel and we know many families went back to per-pandemic gatherings. The little I have shopped lately I am often the only one in the store who is wearing a mask, I’m certainly in the minority. Have we gone back in the building before the fire is completely out? Are we often doing it while carrying gasoline cans?

When the pandemic was in its infancy one of my concerns was how we could effectively get Americans to take the prudent precautionary measures that were needed. Americans love their freedom. Do you remember hearing and saying, “It’s a free country isn’t it?” when you were a kid? I certainly do. As Americans it’s in our DNA and we are proud of it. How do you get a people like us to completely comply with common sense precautions that are, or we perceive to be, dictated?

One of the health care experts that I have followed for years is Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel. Zeke, as he prefers to be called, was one of the authors of Obamacare and is the real deal, not some snake oil salesman/physician. He often gives simple, easy to understand answers. He recently expressed concern about the triple treat of viral infections out there which very much includes COVID. His suggestion of one of the most effective ways of significantly lowering your chance of infection was to wear a mask in close proximity indoor settings outside the home. That sounds like common sense to me.

With freedom comes responsibility. With superior mental ability comes the responsibility to protect yourself against to actions of the lowest common denominator. By the nature of this column, I am assuming the vast majority of my regular readers are people with well above average mental capabilities. That may put you in the minority but it is a good minority. Stay safe and protect yourself against both viral infection and those lacking the common sense to respect you enough to protect you. After all, it’s a free country, isn’t it?

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