The Amend Corner

We must overcome the virus — and misinformation

Posted 6/2/20

The death toll of the coronavirus pandemic has passed 100,000 here in the land of the free.

That’s a lot of people. To put it into Wyoming perspective, it would mean wiping out four of the …

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The Amend Corner

We must overcome the virus — and misinformation


The death toll of the coronavirus pandemic has passed 100,000 here in the land of the free.

That’s a lot of people. To put it into Wyoming perspective, it would mean wiping out four of the state’s six largest cities, Laramie, Gillette, Rock Springs and Sheridan. Alternatively, if 100,000 Billings residents suddenly died, Billings would end up being the size of Cody.

I am inclined to think the death toll is higher because I think it’s likely that some deaths haven’t been reported, especially those that occurred early in the epidemic. People who experienced illness before the virus made its major invasion into the U.S. may not have been recognized as victims of the coronavirus at the time, for example, and people with no access to medical care might have died without being diagnosed. But while there are deaths that haven’t been included in the count, the actual number of those deaths is probably not significant.

There is one thing I believe is a serious problem in our efforts to control the spread of the virus: There are too many people who reject the whole idea of a pandemic and don’t believe anybody is dying from the coronavirus. According to this group, the whole thing is a hoax — part of a dark conspiracy to deprive us of our sacred rights and increase government control over us all.

Some of those who believe it’s all a conspiracy have become militant in supporting that belief. I have read of cases when people taking the precaution of wearing a face mask in public were harassed and even attacked. I read about one young man who went even further. He began yelling that “There is no pandemic,” and attempted to stop an emergency crew from loading a patient into the ambulance.

Other people, while admitting there is a very contagious virus making the rounds,  have been protesting “lock-downs” ordered by government officials in an effort to prevent the contagion from finding and infecting new victims.

In Michigan, for example, crowds have showed up at the state Capitol armed with guns and waving signs accusing the governor of tyranny or issuing a stay-at-home order. I’m not sure how these people define tyranny, but I don’t think being banned from filling up a restaurant with 30 or 40 people — any one of whom might be loaded with a virus ready to jump to the other 39 — is tyrannical. At worst, it’s a minor inconvenience, not worth shooting someone over, and definitely not worth being shot at.

I’ll admit that government attempts to slow the spread of the virus create some difficulties; moreover, they interfere with some of our rights. It’s also obvious that requiring many businesses to close is creating havoc with the economy. I would argue, though, that the same problems would appear if the virus’s spread isn’t controlled and it fills up hospitals and disrupts the work force. It really doesn’t make much difference if your business closes because of the government’s shutdown order or because 70% or 80% of your workforce is in the hospital or the morgue, so I’m not sure allowing all businesses to operate as they would if there wasn’t a bad bug going around is a good idea.

What bothers me most about this situation is the willingness of many Americans to believe in such sinister conspiracies. You may remember the story of the man who showed up at a pizza parlor in Washington,  D.C. armed with two firearms, one of which he fired inside the establishment. His aim was to stop a child sexual abuse ring described on the internet as involving top Democrats, including Hillary Clinton. Supposedly, the activities of this conspiratorial ring took place in the basement of the pizza shop — and it wasn’t until the man discovered that the store had no basement that he realized he had been a fool. Whether he learned anything about the nonsense that circulates on the internet from the experience isn’t clear.

He wasn’t the only one who took the story at face value. The owner of the pizza place and his staff had been the target of hate mail and even death threats from others who had believed what they had been fed on their computers. Quite honestly, I can’t imagine why anyone would believe such a story. I would think anyone with functioning brain cells would question such an idea and would at least make a few inquiries before showing up like Wyatt Earp to rescue non-existent victims.

In time we can find a way to control and even defeat the coronavirus. But in the meantime, we may have to take steps that inconvenience us and make our lives temporarily unpleasant. In addition, we need to defeat the conspiracy theorists who lead the gullible into invading pizza restaurants.

If we can’t overcome those who invent such theories, what chance is there that we can overcome this nasty virus?

The Amend Corner