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by David Osborn, MH, L.Ac
Thursday, April 16, 2020

This article discusses the various skeptical positions that have been taken regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and tries to elucidate the truth regarding these positions.

In my inbox this morning, I received an email from a friend of mine. She was wanting me to sign a petition that she was circulating demanding an immediate end to the Coronavirus lockdown in the interests of individual freedom and an end to what she saw as government tyranny. She also felt that this COVID-19 pandemic was being used as a pretext to force through laws mandating compulsory vaccination, which she is dead set against – as am I. At first, I was incensed at her seeming denialism and irresponsibility, but then I began to soften my position somewhat; I could see where she was coming from. At the outset, I would like to say that this global pandemic has forced all of us to make some very difficult choices; it has also forced many people, many players, to try to push their agendas through for all kinds of motives, ranging from the most noble and selfless to the most self serving – and everything in between, it seems. It not only tests our patience; it also tests our wisdom to discern between all these agendas and motives. And so, in this third installment of my Coronavirus blog, I would like to take a closer look at the various positions and attitudes of those who have been skeptical of this whole Coronavirus pandemic.

A Very Reasonable Position: I’ll Believe It When I See It

I recently took off on a cross-country road trip during this pandemic (a high risk venture, to be sure) out of conditions of what I then felt were personal necessity. Before I took off, I had my car repaired – repairs that were long overdue.  We were discussing the whole Coronavirus situation and lockdown, which had prompted my cross-country trip, and the mechanic gave me his frank and honest opinion about the whole matter. He said that he had never met or heard of anyone who had really gotten sick or died from this Coronavirus, so he could not, in all honesty, affirm that its portrayal in the mass media was accurate, or as bad as they said. That seemed to me to be a very logical and reasonable position to take – I suppose that the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t really real to you until you see it first hand, or until a family member, friend or loved one gets sick with it or dies from it. As thinking human beings, we all want tangible, first hand evidence of things – it’s only natural.

I believe that the highly contagious nature of the Coronavirus is also a big part of this state of affairs as well. Because it is highly contagious, those who come down with it usually either isolate or quarantine themselves if they can, or they are isolated, quarantined or hospitalized by the public health authorities. That in itself drastically limits people’s personal exposure to it. Deprived of this direct personal evidence, most people then turn to the news to get their information on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in their country, their state, or their community. And that coverage does indeed appear to be overblown or sensationalized at times. Nevertheless, by now a few famous people or their relatives have come down with COVID-19; some have even died from it. New York governor Andrew Cuomo has been infected with the Coronavirus, as has his brother, Chris Cuomo, an anchorman on CNN. I admire Chris Cuomo for broadcasting about his condition, and giving updates on how he is coping with the virus with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN; that can only paint a more personalized and realistic picture of the pandemic and how it is being dealt with in the media.

Chris Cuomo gives an update on his Coronavirus symptoms to Dr. Sanjay Gupta.  Please note the frequency of skeptical comments appearing in response to this video. 


A Semi-Reasonable Argument: Are You Going to Give in to Fear?

While on my cross-country road trip, I was faced with many temptations, to be sure. You see, I am an avid flutist, and along the way, both coming and going, I was tempted to try out some tantalizing Native American flutes at Indian trading posts I stopped at. But trying out those flutes would require that I put my lips to them – and Lord knows whose lips those flutes had touched before mine. That seemed to me to be the most high risk behavior that I could imagine – not exactly the flutist’s equivalent of safe sex – so I turned down those temptations to try out the flutes. And besides, I had enough flutes as it was, and didn’t really need any new flutes, or what they cost in terms of spent funds either. The bottom line was that I couldn’t really afford a trip to the emergency room right now.

“You know, we have special sanitary plastic tubes that you can place in the mouthpiece of the flute to protect yourself from exposure to someone else’s germs,” the salesman reminded me. And then he gave me his strongest argument yet: “Are you going to give in to fear and let it control your life?” A reasonable argument, it seemed to me at the time, and it even got me to lay the tip of my right index finger onto one of the flutes. I can’t remember whether I washed my hands after I touched that flute or before, although I am sure that I did wash my hands while I was there. Anyway, I quickly pulled my hand away from that flute after I laid my index finger on it – kind of like coitus interruptus, or early withdrawal. Even with those sanitized plastic tubes, I realized, I could conceivably suck the virus into my lungs on the inhale. I politely told the flute salesman that I had a sister in San Francisco who was worried about me as my excuse for not trying the flutes, and got back into my car to continue on my journey.

The coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic in the media certainly is laced with a heavy dose of fear, to be sure. But what can we do to keep from becoming total victims of fear, and totally controlled by it? On the one extreme, there are those, especially here in the United States, where rebelliousness and the frontier mentality of rugged individualism predominates, who refuse to give in to fear to the extent that they throw all caution to the wind, and do not follow even the most basic common sense protective measures. At the other extreme, there are paranoid recluses who lock themselves up in their homes and become obsessive germophobes. But the vast majority of us simply go on with our lives, taking basic and reasonable protective measures as we can, realizing that total isolation and withdrawal are not an option if they are to discharge their duties and fulfill their responsibilities to their family and loved ones. It’s all about finding that happy medium between fear, which can prompt us to exercise reasonable prudence and caution, versus indiscretion and foolhardiness on the other end of the spectrum.

The Basic Facts about COVID-19

Amidst all the media hype, which can be seen as bordering on fear mongering, we must keep in mind a few basic known facts about COVID-19:

COVID-19 is much more than just the latest variety of the flu: COVID-19 can actually kill you.

COVID-19 is primarily an airborne virus; that means that it is transmitted via water droplets floating in the air, which are coughed, sneezed, exhaled or emitted into the air by those who have the infection. In addition, it can also come to rest on various surfaces, where it can remain from one touch to the next for a period of hours to days; cough into your hand, and then shake someone else’s hand, and you transmit the virus if you’re infected, especially if the other person touches their mouth, nose or eyes with that hand.

COVID-19 is extremely contagious, and easily transmitted. Even those who are asymptomatic, or those who just get light, flu-like symptoms, can spread the infection, even right after initial exposure.

At the moment, there is no sure-fire cure or vaccine against COVID-19 – no silver bullet pill that will knock it out either – despite what some have said, and the claims they have made.

In the population at large, about 4 out of 5 people who get infected with COVID-19 remain asymptomatic, or develop only mild flu-like symptoms; 1 out of 5 people will require intensive care and hospitalization, and out of those, about 3 percent, or three out of a hundred people who get infected, will wind up dying from it. The symptoms, if they are to develop, usually develop and manifest themselves within anywhere from a couple of days to two weeks after initial exposure.

In general, those who are best prepared to resist COVID-19 and survive infection appear to be those who are basically young and healthy – although relative youth and health alone are no guarantees that one will have an easy time with it. In general, the old or infirm, and those with pre-existing conditions, especially those that compromise the vital functions of respiration, circulation and immunity, are more prone to experience the serious or life threatening complications of COVID-19. However, there are also those who defy the statistical norms, such as elderly individuals who manage to escape with just a light case of COVID-19, as well as the seemingly young and healthy who fall victim to it and join the mortality statistics.

At the present, the most effective measures one can take against COVID-19 involve prevention – common sense measures like social distancing, hand washing, wearing a face mask, and sanitizing all touched surfaces.

That should be sufficient to put things in perspective and allay excessive or undue fear regarding the Coronavirus pandemic. In addition to what we do know about the virus and its spread, we must also be mindful of what we don’t know, or don’t yet know that well about it, on both the positive as well as the negative sides of the ledger. One good reason for making testing much more widely available is that it will illuminate many things about the virus and its spread that were previously mysterious or obscure. Antibody testing for COVID-19 will help us find and locate those who have already had the virus, and have survived; studying their medical data and case histories will shed a lot of light on the positive side – on how we can overcome this dreaded virus, and who has the edge against it. Effective control of the virus and its spread lies in three things: identifying cases, or those who have the virus; isolating those individuals, by quarantine or sequestration; and tracing the personal contacts of infected individuals and following up on those leads. In this effort, everyone needs to cooperate and do their part.

Coronavirus and its Afflictions to the Body Politic

In the United States at least, in the initial stages of the pandemic in this country, Republicans and others on the right wing were downplaying the Coronavirus, saying that it’s really nothing more than a new variety of the flu. Then, they said that it’s a hoax perpetrated by the Democrats; and then the pandemic got so big that it could no longer be denied, dismissed or otherwise played down. This political polarization and bickering definitely cost valuable time in fighting the virus, and could have even cost many lives as well. To my Republican and right wing brethren here in the US who think that the whole Coronavirus thing is just a Democratic hoax, I direct their attention to Italy, a country that was particularly hard hit by the Coronavirus pandemic – no Democrats or Republicans over there. Or what about Iran, which was also hard hit? They view the US as their sworn enemy – Democrat or Republican. Here in the US, we may suffer from political myopia regarding this pandemic, but the remedy for this shortsightedness is simply to look at what the virus has done overseas. Or, look to the heroic medical workers on the front lines, who are running out of vital medical supplies, like ventilators and personal protective equipment, or PPE , in fighting this thing. This is very real, folks!

It is possible to view the performance of various governments around the world in fighting this virus as a kind of sport – in this case, kind of like golf, because the lower the score, or tally of total cases and deaths, or mortalities, the better a country’s performance. Statistics don’t lie – and dead men don’t tell no tales either, as they say out here in the West. It all boils down to how efficiently and effectively a country has done four things: identify, isolate, treat and trace contacts. Some, like my friend, who I mentioned at the beginning of this blog posting, say that the numbers are greatly inflated, and that it’s an effort by the drug companies and big pharma to force mandatory vaccinations on the public. Not only does this kind of thinking fit into the conspiracy theory model, but I can also see stronger motives for a country or government’s desire to play down the statistical numbers even more than I can see a desire to inflate them – primarily because it reflects negatively on the government’s performance in handling this crisis. Timely and effective management and prevention is the key, to nip a potential pandemic in the bud – which was done with at least two potential pandemics on the previous president’s watch.

OK – the previous president was able to nip two potential pandemics in the bud, but maybe it’s unfair to compare them to the current Coronavirus pandemic; it may be like comparing apples to oranges. The Coronavirus lockdown seems to be a global thing nowadays, and regardless of their official case number and mortality statistics, or how high or low they are, no country is having, or will have, an easy time of defeating this virus. And the primary reason for this is that this novel Coronavirus is soooo contagious; just the other day, I saw something on the news that China was now fighting a second wave of the Coronavirus – after they thought they had totally trounced it the first time. It just might turn out to be like a cat with nine lives. Eventually, we might wind up developing herd immunity to this virus as a species, but those days are still a long, long ways off. The same goes for those who are in a hurry to reopen the economy; how sure are you that you really, really have this thing under control? By all means, listen to the experts, listen to the epidemiologists before opening the economy back up again!

It’s so easy to descend to the level of partisan political brawling, but I believe that there is something that transcends mere politics that has also contributed to the poorly managed and coordinated American response to the Coronavirus crisis, and that is our basic social attitude of rugged individualism and the frontier mentality. “Don’t fence me in.” as the saying goes; in fact, it’s hard to ask, force or get Americans to do anything – and that includes abiding by social distancing and sanitation measures, even if they’re designed to protect our life and health. It’s all voluntary. And in general, Americans on the Republican or conservative end of the political spectrum are more inclined towards a relaxed, laissez-faire approach on most things – after all, one of the key Republican voting blocs in the US Congress is called The Freedom Caucus. Democrats, on the other hand, tend to place a lot more faith in the power of good, effective government to solve problems, and are more inclined to act collectively for the common good.

Conclusion: Conspiracy Theories – or Good, Old Fashioned Fear?

Perhaps all the fear and hysteria that pervade the media regarding the Coronavirus pandemic is not so much due to a secret conspiracy behind the scenes as it is to good, old fashioned fear. After all, almost everyone I know of is really afraid to die, and will do anything to avoid it. This is the survival instinct, which is one of the most basic, deeply ingrained instincts we have; fighting to keep us alive and healthy is also the basic function of the immune system. We came into this world literally fighting for our lives as our immune systems were growing and developing, learning how to fight off microbes and other exogenous pathogens. In Medical Astrology, this fighting, survival instinct is embodied in the planet Mars, the god of war, whether it is the fight-or-flight response of our adrenal glands, or the constant fighting of our immune systems to keep us safe and healthy.

And so, calls to end the Coronavirus lockdown and reopen the economy, before it is really safe or wise to do so, are met with the obvious response of, “Okay, who wants to be the first to sacrifice their life on the altar of the economy? Step right up!” And if you’re a good Christian, you probably believe that it’s been some two thousand years since someone has stepped up to the plate like that to offer themselves as a willing human sacrifice for the greater good. But would reopening the economy before we are really ready to do so actually save anything? Wouldn’t we ultimately wind up losing both the economy as well as many innocent lives in the process? We really have to think this through before we make any rash or premature moves. Hopefully, further on down the line, we will gain the experience and wisdom, and/or find the right tools, to help us deal with this grave public health crisis effectively and responsibly – but we can’t force this process before real solutions and coping mechanisms are found.

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DISCLAIMER:  The information in this article is for educational purposes only, for general health maintenance and prevention, and is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical disease or condition. The reader assumes all personal responsibility and liability for the application of the information contained in this article, and is advised to seek the services of a physician or licensed healthcare practitioner should his or her symptoms or condition persist or worsen.