It seems everything these days is political.

Far too many Americans have divided up into their tribes, viewing everything through that lens. They berate and attack those of any other tribe who dares to disagree.

At best this is an abominable state of affairs. When straightforward facts of science are politicized, it turns from abominable to tragic.

On my mind right now is COVID-19, a pandemic the likes of which we have not seen in more than a century.

For starters, I find it irritating in the extreme when journalists, broadcasters and others call COVID-19 unprecedented. It is decidedly not unprecedented. In its effects it is very similar to the 1918 Spanish Influenza, which claimed the lives of at least 50 million people worldwide, including 675,000 Americans. That pandemic killed more American soldiers in World War II than did battle wounds.

Although they are different types of viruses — COVID-19 is a coronavirus and the Spanish Influenza is of the H1N1 variety – they are similar in that both attack the lower respiratory system. In a way COVID-19 is worse because it has a much longer incubation time, allowing it to be spread for a longer time by people not showing symptoms.

Scientists specializing in such diseases are in near total agreement on many things regarding COVID-19. There is no real debate on many facts, including: Masks do cut down on the spread of the disease, social distancing works, washing your hands and avoiding touching your face offers some protection, and the virus can be fatal.

But many people are quick to grab onto such fallacies as the government, the media or scientists are looking to implement mind control, masks don’t work, social distancing is unnecessary, and the list goes on. Our U.S. intelligence agencies are unequivocal in stating that other countries – Russia chief among them – are more than eager to seize upon this division and are foisting social media memes and graphics on the American public, and many people are taking the bait and passing them on.

Perhaps nothing dismays me more than people labeling as afraid those who take the precautions advised by our experts, especially wearing masks. As I have told many people, being smart is much different than being afraid.

Not that we have the luxury of camping out in our homes under quarantine forever. We need a functioning economy, we need income from jobs, we need food and medical care and our other necessities. We need to take risks for sure, but I believe we need to make them calculated risks.

Perhaps the best analogy I’ve seen involves a bowl containing 100 candies. If only three of these candies contained a lethal poison, would you be willing to eat a handful? Probably not – and being smart enough to refrain from doing so hardly makes you a coward.

If you are older or have underlying health issues, or both, there are far more poisoned candies in that bowl for you. Say you are 85 or older, have bad lungs, diabetes, high blood pressure and a compromised immune system. In that case your bowl may have 98 out of 100 candies poisoned. In effect, contracting COVID-19 is a virtual death sentence.

We need to reopen our economy, yes, but we need to do it intelligently based on calculated risks. If we reopen too quickly and ignore precautions, leading to a pronounced spike in COVID-19 cases, we should be willing to back off to keep the death rate under control.

Beyond a doubt we need to put the politics aside, and be smart enough to listen to the scientists.

Don Allison is an author, historian and retired editor of The Bryan Times. He can be reached at www.fadedbanner.com.

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