The Planted Row: It's not like the flu

Stan Wise
Farm Forum Editor

Our brains are designed to make sense of the things happening around us. When we can’t, it tends to make us uncomfortable. Sometimes, to save us that discomfort, our minds will invent explanations for things, even if we’re not certain the explanation is correct.

So when we were initially confronted with the new and scary coronavirus, I can understand why so many people grouped it into a category with the flu, another illness that kills people. And they said, “Well, this virus has killed a lot less people than the flu does in a year, so it’s nothing to be too concerned about.”

Since that initial introduction to the coronavirus, the people who are studying it have been telling us that it is not like the flu and that we need to be concerned about it.

It is more contagious than the flu. You can transmit this virus without ever knowing you have it.

We’ve learned its death rate is many times higher than the flu. This new virus will kill a lot more people than the flu.

So again, we try to make sense of it by comparing it to dangerous animal diseases sweeping through herds of animals. We say, “Well, we need to let it run its course through our society, and all the survivors will have herd immunity.”

But the people who study this thing say that’s a bad idea. For one, we don’t know how long immunity lasts after infection. For another, we don’t know how often this thing will mutate, making previously acquired immunity irrelevant.

Also, we’re learning that recovery from the virus doesn’t necessarily mean full recovery. It attacks the whole body and can cause permanent organ and nervous system damage.

So herd immunity might not even be possible, and many of those who catch the virus and recover could be left with debilitating, lifelong health problems.

It is true that we have slowed the spread of the virus through social distancing, but we are not out of the woods yet.

This week Dr. Anthony Fauci warned the Senate that trying to take our economy and our lives back to normal too soon could result in many needless deaths and much needless suffering. Yet we have seen businesses, restaurants and events defying restrictions imposed by public health officials.

As states move to reopen their economies and people lapse in their social distancing, models have more than doubled earlier predictions for COVID-19 deaths. One popular model now predicts 147,000 U.S. deaths due to coronavirus by August.

Now is the time to take social distancing more seriously than ever. That means acting as if you might have the virus without knowing it and that the people around you might have it, as well. That means wearing a mask every time you are in a store or business, staying a safe distance from anyone who doesn’t live with you, and avoiding events with lots of people.

Because we haven’t fully made sense of this thing yet, and we need to take responsible actions to protect our community — not simply pretend it isn’t a problem because it makes us uncomfortable.