How fear dies

A year ago this month/Craig Medred photo


A year ago in Alaska, the state was averaging two to 15 cases of COVID-19 per week, according to the Worldometer tracker, and many Alaskans were starting to panic over the pandemic.

We were religiously social distancing, scrubbing our hands like crazy, wiping down everything in sight with antiseptic and arguing over whether failure to wear masks was threatening the lives of our neighbors.

Today, the state is averaging 35 to 65 new cases per week – four to 32 times more, according to the Worldometer tracker – and nobody seems too worried at all.

At Lowe’s and Home Depot on Memorial Day, there were some among those crowding the store sporting masks, but they were few and far between.

Social distancing?

That idea started dying when everyone masked up, and it now appears dead. If you wanted the six feet still recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about the only way to ensure it was to wander the store carrying a 10-foot, 2-by-4 by its midsection.

Apparently, the vaccinated are comfortable in their vaccinations and the unvaccinated, well, maybe they were comfortable all along.  There are those among us to whom SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was never a major threat.

When a team of researchers from the U.S., the United Kingdom and France investigated infection fatalities rates back in November and published their peer-reviewed results in Nature they calculated the odds of death at 0.013 percent for healthy people under age of 30 and 0.04 percent for healthy people under the age of 40.

These were the risks of dying if you were infected, and getting infected itself is a crapshoot. Only about a fifth of the passengers held captive aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan at the very start of the pandemic contracted the disease. 

Despite a lot of mainstream media hype about how anyone could catch COVID-19 and die, the data never supported the claim the disease was an equal-opportunity threat. Yes, anyone could catch COVID-19 and die just as anyone could be involved in a fatal car crash.

But for COVID-19, as for car crashes, there are circumstances that can radically alter the odds for the “could,” say – for instance – driving while texting or impaired by alcohol.

But that’s history now. Media fear-mongering was then and this is now.

Tolerating the Intolerable

The dynamic has shifted. The fact people are still getting infected with SARS-CoV-2 and coming down with COVD-19 is getting reported in a different way.

“Why ‘Breakthrough’ Infections Even After COVID-19 Vaccinations Shouldn’t Be Surprising,” TIME headlined last week. Of course, they shouldn’t be. Few medical treatments achieve perfection.

And fear only sells for so long because time kills it. People adapt. They accept the unacceptable as the new normal. They bury their dead and go on.

It has been this way throughout history. Humankind has encountered untold horrors and somehow always moved on. Black Americans endured a century of slavery in this country, and another century of oppressive prejudice and survived.

The German blitz was supposed to break the will of the English people during World War II. It didn’t. The Brits took refuge in their subways as the bombs rained down, emerged to put out the fires, and bury their dead.

Life went on.

It was the same in Germany when Allied Forces tried to use bombing to break the will of the Germans and in Japan. The Japanese didn’t surrender until the U.S. unleashed the world’s first nuclear bombs, weapons that reigned down ungodly destruction.

Humans are amazingly adaptable animals. They can learn to live with anything, and we have been learning to live with COVID.

Medical miracles

It does help that modern medicine is highly capable and adaptable. The pandemic has triggered a breakthrough in mRNA technology. The “m” stands for “messenger,” and it is being used to slip instructions into the body’s messaging system.

“It’s essentially biological software,” Dr. John Cooke,  the medical director of the RNA Therapeutics Program at the Houston Methodist Research Institute, told Patrick Boyle, a writer for the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

As have many others, AMMC speculated that this new technology officially identified as a vaccine “promises to revolutionize future vaccines and treatments for cancer, infectious diseases.”

“Researchers say mRNA can be used to create a variety of vaccines and treatments in less time and at lower costs than traditional methods,” Boyle added. “The vaccines’ use against COVID-19 will produce more evidence about the effectiveness and safety of this approach.”

So far, the mRNA treatments are proving amazingly effective. Their safety, however, remains unknown. We can’t know what we don’t know, but all indications at this time point to mRNA proving safe over the long term.

But there are no guarantees in predicting the future. Asbestos was for thousands of years a cheap way to fireproof almost anything, according to the Mesothelioma Circle:

“It’s cheap, available in enormous quantities in the ground and it’s fireproof. Items made with it won’t burn. What’s not to like? For thousands of years, that was the official attitude towards asbestos in many countries throughout the world.

Because of its fiber strength and heat resistance, asbestos was used in a variety of construction materials for insulation and as a fire retardant in buildings throughout the U.S. including schools, hospitals, apartment buildings and factories” for decades from the 1940s to the 1970s, according to the Circle, an advocacy group for victims of mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a cancer that was in the 1970s linked to exposure to asbestos. Not everyone who is exposed to asbestos gets the disease, but enough do that the use of asbestos in many products has been banned.

This is not meant to compare mRNA vaccines to asbestos, but only to point out that what we believe today can differ from what we discover tomorrow. Personally, I’ve been vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA.

It was an informed decision that weighed the risks and unknown consequences. I’m old. The threat of severe COVID-19 is far greater for older people than for younger people, and given how long some long-term effects can take to materialize the future risks are less.

The science here offers no data as to future outcomes, only speculation. I can understand why someone might make a decision different from mine, and I can accept that decision because it’s possible their guess as to future outcomes is better than mine.

At a time when much of society seems to be all about tolerance – at least in preaching it if not embracing it – we sometimes appear to forget that one of the great strengths of American democracy is the freedom given individuals to decide what risks they want to take.

And from the behaviors being seen now in the state’s largest city, plenty of people appear willing to embrace considerably more risk today than they were a year ago.


15 replies »

  1. Ah yes, and of course we have lying Fauchi and his Wuhan “Gain of Function” money. Not to mention his emails..A lot has happened in a year since we first heard of Saint Fauchi..

  2. How fear dies ? . Many things kill fear . Transparency, knowledge, truth . A higher purpose, personal choice . Yet most importantly the recognition that fear does not help solve much of anything it adds to the negative . Understanding a situation so its not an unknown helps tamp down fear . Knowledge and trust is what helps disarm fear . Perspective and positive action defeats fear . Being stiff locked down or reactive is just a human weakness. Fluidity like water = strength. Water cuts steel. A calm mind cuts fear .

    • DPR – lack of trust right here:
      “This week, Rand Paul called for Fauci to be fired after Buzzfeed obtained thousands of his emails through a Freedom of Information Act request. The senator has argued that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases funded “gain of function” research at the Wuhan lab, making viruses more dangerous.

      Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., took another jab at frequent foe Dr. Anthony Fauci on Thursday following reports that the infectious disease expert’s upcoming book was pulled from online stores.

      Listings for the book, titled “Expect the Unexpected: Ten Lessons on Truth, Service, and the Way Forward,” were removed from Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s websites on Thursday. Fauci’s publisher, National Geographic Books, said the upcoming release was developed in connection to an upcoming documentary and noted it was “prematurely posted for pre-sale.”

      “Oh, I don’t know. I think they should publish it. I love science fiction,” Paul wrote on Twitter.”

      • Imo fauci should be on death row for multiple reasons. Gambling with viruses , holding a position of responsibility and then lying to Congress and the public on life and death issues and trying to profit on misfortunes of other people’s health. Being complicit in the destruction of culture and civility.

      • Btw im against the death penalty but for people like fauci who basically convicted themselves and damaged millions of lives there should be an exception.

      • Agree, Fauci should be tried for the death of millions world wide.

  3. Craig, lots of data on the vaccines and statistics but little information on treatment options. There are drug’s out there being used to slow and stop those with the infection. Some are in hospital and some are outpatient. How about an article on treatments?

  4. The fear has never been of coronavirus (which has been on the planet over a thousand years) but more of a government that allows deep state members like Fauci to use taxpayer dollars to fund a secret “gain of function” project in Wuhan, China.
    How does Congress (aside from a few individuals like Tomas Massie & Raul Paul) allow the NIH to work covertly with a communist power to develop bioweapons?
    This whole thing stinks….the rampant national debt created with the “stimmy” program…the lockdowns in a democratic nation…the coercion of an experimental vaccination program & the new normal that attempts to segregate the population in two to sides.
    I wish our senators could speak up and help move Congress to a full investigation on the origins of covid & the role that the CDC / NIH played in this whole operation.
    The virus was never like the old plagues….over 80 percent hospitalized were obese and over 90% who died had more than 3 co-morbid factors.
    Flue like viruses always kill the old & medically impaired…nothing new occurred with this latest strain other than the authoritarian government response in America.

  5. “The science here offers no data as to future outcomes, only speculation. I can understand why someone might make a decision different from mine, and I can accept that decision because it’s possible their guess as to future outcomes is better than mine.” Well stated.

    I had my concerns about the mRNA vaccines, so I went with the J&J. My risks of catching covid were probably less than most and my chances of becoming seriously were also probably less than most. The problem I had is that I work with and around others, others who despite their “best efforts” were unable to even look out for their own health and safety. They couldn’t understand the idea of social distancing or keeping their social interactions to a lower foot print. Most of these people I work with and around caught covid, in a completely not shocking turn of events. Some of these people are still suffering the long term side effects of covid. I was able to avoid catching it. Getting the J&J vaccine keeps others from infecting me.

    The problem with some of those who still to this day claim covid isn’t real or they want to down play it, or those who want to still treat this as a novel disease, is that the numbers do not support their fear mongering. And there has been plenty of fear mongering from all sides. We are more than a year on, covid is no longer novel, we have more data than we did a year ago and we should be able to make sound decisions upon that data, it’s unfortunate that so many are incapable of doing such and continue to push their political views on what should have never been a political issue.

  6. I’m sure it has nothing to do with any personal attitudes of yours but your statement, ” Black Americans endured a century of slavery in this country” has the number of years that ” Black Americans endured a century of slavery in this country” is off by about 350 years.

    • As a historical fact, I probably overstated things James. This country wasn’t founded until July 4, 1776. The Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery was issued on Jan. 1, 1863. This would put the period of slavery in “this country” at roughly 87 and a half years.

      Was there slavery before the founding of the United States of America? Of course. It was common around the world, and in fact here in Alaska where the Tlingit Indians were big on taking slaves.

      Were Black Americans discriminated against and treated as second-class citizens in North America for 350 years? Largely less except for where they were not. William Elison did quite nicely for himself in South Carolina prior the Civil War:

      The history of slavery in around the world and in this country is complicated, and it has strong ties to the broader tribalism that has plagued the human species, a tribalism now sadly on the rise in this country. One can only wonder what Martin Luther King might think were he still alive:

      “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’

      “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

      “I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

      “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

      I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of ‘interposition’ and ‘nullification’ one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today.”

      That “table of brotherhood” to which King referred in 1963 today seems farther away than ever.

  7. This is well written and a solid perspective.
    Only note is-when cases were lower and folks were taking more precautions-not at of fear-but out of societal concern-
    cases were rising.
    Now case numbers are dropping, So concern is lowered
    and vaccination is arguably done for societal concern
    by those young and/or healthy.

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