OK, folks, I’m done masking my feelings.
A lot of Americans pooh-pooh the severity of the coronavirus and claim basic safety measures against it intrude on their freedoms. But it is a real thing, with real consequences for real people.
I know this not because of what Trump or Fauci or Facebook tell me. I know this because it has already taken two people who matter to me.
The first was my stepsons’ grandfather, who lived in the Denver area. Carl Sr. was a warm, loving and highly intelligent man. He was a lifelong Scout leader, an excellent father to my ex and an equally wonderful grandfather to Sam and Alexandre. During and after the seven years I was with his son, he embraced me wholeheartedly as a daughter; and I loved him as my other dad.
Carl Sr. was diagnosed with COVID-19 in April and died a few days later on a hospital ventilator. He was in unfathomable discomfort, frightened and utterly alone. No family members were allowed to be there for him because of the heightened safety precautions. It was an awful ordeal for the entire family.
The second was my cousin Tim, a big-hearted father who ran his own house-painting business in Colorado. Tim died suddenly in June after an emergency trip to the hospital with angioedema. We’re still awaiting autopsy results, but the doctors tell my family that the signs point strongly to COVID-19 involvement. He was several years younger than me — only in his 40s.
Let me be clear: I’m not fishing for “thoughts and prayers” here. I’m telling you this because while the coronavirus may not seem real to some of you, it most certainly IS real. It’s not a political hoax; it does not discriminate based on party lines. It is a threat to you, me and everyone we know and/or love.
As a journalist, I’ve made a career of separating fact from BS. I’ve developed a pretty darned good sense of it over the past 35 years. Based on my personal and professional experience:
I do NOT trust information from random YouTube videos or Facebook posts supposedly created by a friend-of-a-friend’s second cousin who’s a nurse and therefore knows exactly what she’s talking about. If I can’t verify such testimonials directly with the source, I give them no credence — even if they reflect my own feelings or beliefs. I’d be a rotten journalist if I did.
I do NOT trust theories or conclusions that are based in any way in politics. This is a matter of public health, not party lines.
I do NOT trust charts and graphs created by websites I’ve never heard of before. I’ve been in this business long enough to know anyone can make up or massage numbers to suit their agendas. Accurate data comes from those engaged in peer-reviewed science.
So, where do I place my trust? First, with the respected scientists at the World Health Organization. They’ve been around since 1948, using data from all over the globe to combat diseases and promote public health. Visit www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public for reliable, fact-based information on how to help stop the spread of this virus. (Spoiler alert: Hand-washing and mask-wearing top the list.)
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has always been my other go-to for health-related information: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html. I rely on them more than most, though I’m starting to see evidence that their operations are being compromised by politics; so I’ve started looking at their data with a more critical eye in the past month or so.
The longer this pandemic lasts, the more researchers are learning about it; that’s why the advice has changed a time or two since January. Given the scientific information currently available, I wear a mask in public, wash my hands more often than usual and keep my distance from others to help stop the spread. If the advice changes, so will my practices. Because SCIENCE.
One last note: As I write this, my one and only son, Garrett, is at his Southern California home awaiting test results after a secondhand exposure to COVID-19. Ironically, it wasn’t through his work at a hospital. His roommate’s best friend was diagnosed with the virus this past week, and they don’t wear masks when they visit each other; so now Garrett and his roomie are both being tested.
I know he’s worried, and it’s all I can do to keep it together while we wait.
As I said before, I’ve already lost two people to this virus, and that’s two too many. As long as a significant number of Americans remain in denial or place their trust in false information, thousands or millions more will contract it. Some percentage of those will suffer horrific deaths or lasting physical damage.
Some of them might even matter to you.
Kat Bryant is lifestyle editor of The Daily World and editor of Washington Coast Magazine. She’s prepared to go full “mama bear” if her son tests positive because of someone else’s ignorance or carelessness. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.