In today’s COVID-19 environment, which makes sense --masks or no masks? Equally confusing, has the social and economic wellbeing of the country actually been more harmed by the coronavirus or government-imposed lockdowns?
First, have face coverings saved lives and prevented the spread of the disease? Probably. Second, have lockdowns caused, in some way, personal, social and economic hardships for nearly everyone? Undoubtedly.
Is it a fair trade-off? I don’t think so.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the nation’s agency for disease and health problems, over 200,000 deaths, out of a population of 330 million, have been contributed to COVID; about 0.06 percent. However, the vast majority of these fatalities are the result of an individual’s preexisting medical ailments, not the actual virus itself.
In Graham County, 26 COVID related deaths (as of Oct. 15), have been reported by the county health department, and every one of them had preexisting health issues, which dramatically decreases a person’s chances of survival. In a county of about 40,000 citizens, 26 virus fatalities represent 0.065 percent of the population. This closely mirrors the national average.
The economy, on the other hand, has been dealt a severe blow, affecting many more people than COVID ever has. Business closures and layoffs vastly outnumber the contagion’s statistics. At one point, approximately 20 million people were out of work. Related commercial industries suffered hundreds of thousands of terminations and reduced work schedules.
An individual normally recovers from a COVID infection within a few weeks. A person laid off from work may never return to that particular job. In fact, could remain unemployed for many months.
Adding fuel to the fire, millions of medical procedures and other health concerns have been delayed because of the pandemic. Initially, some hospitals were overwhelmed with COVID patients, causing a backlog in scheduled operations, and a shortage of certain types of medical equipment.
The resulting domino effect on our healthcare system has resulted in more difficulties and personal physical and mental ailments. Suicides have risen, drug overdoses, alcoholism and family tensions have spiked.
Closures of schools, churches, social and sporting events have inflicted additional stress. Large box stores are permitted to remain open while less fortunate enterprises are deemed “non-essential.” Businesses began implementing “work-from-home” policies, placing further burdens on families’ personal affairs.
Face masks and social distancing decrees became the new strategy to combat a virus still not fully understood. These rules have often strained relationships between citizens and authorities. Arrests for non-masked people have been reported in some areas, in addition for failing to properly maintain a six-foot “social distance.”
Since there is no existing law requiring either, the forced imposition of mask and social distancing rules, through threats of arrest for non-compliance, only further amplifies COVID’s negative impact upon an already virus weary society. Unwarranted fear of something involving a substantially lesser percentage of the population is not a rational approach to resolving the public’s concerns.
COVID-19 is an unfortunate occurrence, but intentionally driving a society and economy off the rails in hopes of restraining an air borne illness seems too drastic a solution.
To irrationally repeat the hysteria could cause long term damage.
Mike Bibb lives in Safford.