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Guest Essay: COVID-19 and US Perspectives | Chroniclers


These are the last things we want to see: increasing the number of COVID-19 cases to the highest pandemic levels in our region. This is an increase associated with the highly contagious delta variant, and now the new omicron variant is threatening, which can be even more contagious. The rise is also associated with the tendency for COVID-19 to express itself much more often and more dangerously among the unvaccinated and among those forgoing masking and social distancing. These are provable facts. But some of us don’t trust them.


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In this context, these anxiety-provoking questions arise. Will I get sick? Will it still have to be closed? Can the economy tolerate more downturns? Can I? Will federal or state governments develop and enforce mask and / or vaccine mandates? If so, what about my freedoms as an individual? Where is the line between a responsibility towards myself and as a citizen of my community? Who should I trust to help me with these questions, and why?

This essay will not detail developments in the pandemic, but rather examine the social polarization it has accentuated in our American culture, focusing on issues of individual rights versus public health.

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Among the cultures of the world, that of America is very young. Freshly and lovingly dominating our collective memories, there are memories or fantasies of hardy individuals carving a nation out of a wilderness. Colonization. The revolution. Expansion to the west. Courage. Skill. Ingenuity. Strength. Autonomy. All of us Americans cherish to some extent the idea that we are self-taught with the power of these attributes. To some extent, each of us hopes that as individuals we can find these powers within and carve out a slice of the American pie. In itself, this individualism nourishes a desire for liberation from authority; after all, control by something beyond us can stifle our potentials. Resentment of the controlling forces can ensue.

Some people have succeeded to a mind-boggling degree. Notably, they tend to control many aspects of society – from popular culture to the markets to politics. But in truth, many of those who have succeeded in this way have disadvantaged many others along the way, sometimes unfairly. And those who aren’t as successful, most of us, have noticed – maybe wishing for the same power, maybe resentful that we couldn’t get it, maybe angry. because we feel used. It is true that these are not common feelings only among us Americans, but among all humans. Yet we see such powerful expressions of it every day that we feel our young and fragile experience is going to fall apart.

What this view of Americans (and again, it’s not exclusive to Americans) can lead to is a concern that we are selfish. Our founding fathers, especially James Madison, recognized it in us. This prompted the incorporation into our basic constitution of checks and balances between the three branches of the federal government, for example, to prevent a powerfully selfish man or force from excessive and possibly destructive domination.

There is another side to each of us and to our personality as Americans, which the Founding Fathers also recognized, for example, in the Federalist Papers. Appreciation and concern for others. Love of the family, love of our compatriots. Loyalty. Pride in what we have done and can do as a nation. The Thing All men are equal. The guarantee of the vote to all, men and women. The victory of World War II. Sending men to the moon. The conquest of polio. Not valuing and portraying these attributes is anti-American on some level.

This brings us to COVID-19, anti-COVID measures, and polarization of views.

There are those who don’t believe COVID-19 is as bad as they say it is – in reality, it’s “just the flu”. Some even doubt that it exists. There are those who can see what COVID-19 has done to family, friends, neighbors, but still will not be vaccinated or wear masks. They may resent and resent the controlling forces of government or medicine or even their peers who put pressure on them. So they choose instead to proclaim their fierce individualism and independence. Others doubt the science behind the advisability of masking, social distancing and vaccines, swayed by loud voices that distort the science and doubt the wisdom of those in the trenches who really know what’s going on. All of these people are making a choice centered on themselves. They choose to act in a way that can put their own health at risk, but they value their freedom of choice before the risks of COVID-19.

Those who think science is a good and worthy thing, and those who feel responsible for others, come to a different conclusion. They understand that the science behind masking, social distancing and vaccines is conclusive and is getting stronger even as the number of cases around us increases. They understand that these simple steps are clearly shown to protect not only us as individuals, but also those around us. They understand that protecting self and others will reduce the terrible number and lead to the release of COVID-19 sooner. This concern for others, including the health of the public, actually understands that if the community thrives, so do we. And that’s a truly American value.

Perfectly reasonable voices can raise questions about the appropriateness of a selfish approach, or the validity of science, or the value of government pressure. It won’t be easy, but really why should there not be civilized discourse? It should at the same time recognize that everyone has their own base to stand on and also affirm that there are real facts and real wisdom beyond the facts. If we can see, discuss and make rational judgments about things together, the big, loud but truly loving family that we are will fare much better with the COVID-19 crisis … and with the other existential crises that we owe as well. to face.

It is now. An anxious time. But don’t look away. There is a future we can help shape… or not. This is our future. There are lives at stake.

Richard P. Leach, MD, is an internist, infectious disease consultant, and travel and tropical medicine specialist. He practiced in Glens Falls for 35 years, also serving as an infection control officer and epidemiologist at Glens Falls Hospital. Retiring from private practice in 2011, he continued to provide travel medicine advice at the Warren County clinic until COVID-19 forced it to be canceled. Warren County keeps him as medical director and consultant for the TB program. Dr Leach is known for his role as co-founder and chairman of the Adirondack AIDS Task Force in the 1980s and 1990s, as the founder and chairman of the Glens Falls medical mission and its Guatemala project in the 1990s. , as husband of Dr Loren Baim, as father of Christina Johnston, Timothy Leach, Molly Leach and Marta Leach, and as grandfather of Rhone and Thatcher James, 3 weeks.

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