by Robert Bulas, MD
This post is about “Fear”, unfounded and manufactured fear. It’s about how fear and uncertainty can cripple a person and a nation. It’s about separating fear mongering from reality. To make a long story short, it’s about how there is a lot less to fear in life, once we sort through the garbage and get to the real facts.
What do we fear most? I’d say the “Unknown”. Others would say “Death”. Many would say “Loss of Control”. All of those fears are understandable and universal. Sometimes, fear is unavoidable, but it can made worse by the words or actions of others. That stirring of the “fear pot” may be unintentional, through the rumor mill or simply another’s obsession with the source of fear. It may also be intentional, motivated by politics or a “need” to keep a group “under control”. All of the above have been in play over the past 3 months, and it is no wonder that people are afraid and uncertain about re-starting their lives after being isolated for 2 months.
I want to clear up some of that uncertainty for you. I will show you why you should not be afraid to go back to work, to go back into society, and to go back to living a meaningful life…immediately.
What have we been told to FEAR about COVID-19 in the past 2 months?
“Covid-19 will kill 1-2 million Americans this year.”
“If we do not close all of our businesses except those deemed “essential”, we will have mass casualties.”
“If we do not “stay at home” by order, we will have mass casualties, and our hospitals may have to determine who lives and who doesn’t.”
“We do not have the personal protection equipment to take care of you.”
“We do not have enough COVID-19 tests for you to resume your life safely.”
“Do not wear a mask because it will not protect you and it could cause you to become infected if you wear it incorectly.”
“The only hope for our society to normalize is develop a vaccine within a year, and to perform mass vaccination on the entire population.”
“The concept of “herd immunity” will take a year or two, and it means that we allow our citizens to all be exposed to the virus at once with inevitable mass casualties.”
“The entire country must be treated the same, with the same orders, both urban and rural, because if not, we cannot control the virus, and we will have to start over.”
“Your political leaders are leading us to death by ending “shelter at home” orders and re-opening our economy.”
That is a lot to fear, huh? Actually, most of it wasn’t true. I’m not calling all of those “lies”. Some of those statements were merely “errors”, others were “ignorant”, but some were simply manipulative fear mongering by the media, politicians, and bureaucrats for political gain. Our hospitals were fine, we had enough PPE, and we currently have enough tests to get back to work. Fear mongering has been used since the dawn of time to control the actions of the masses. It works real well, and it did this time, too. We were scared of everything, including the masks, which we are now ironically told to wear!
Now here’s the reality:
We have this new virus, and in the sick and elderly, it can be real bad. Like with a lot of diseases in the sick and elderly, it can be deadly. We were told by the experts that we would have between 1 million and 2 million American deaths caused by the virus this year, and a lot of younger people were going to die, too. Our hospitals would be overwhelmed. That is something to fear, except it wasn’t true. Those who questioned these predictions were ignored, even vilified for not accepting the “scientific evidence”. It turned out the the “experts” didn’t take into account that we actually want to live, and that humans adapt their behavior on their own when we sense “danger”. The “experts” models were lazy, old, and not in touch with humanity. Their predictions were off by a factor of 10. Yes, we had a new virus to deal with, but in reality, 99.97% of our population would survive the pandemic, once their “error” was corrected. It was a fear that could be handled when put into the context of our normal existence with disease every day that we spend on Earth.
We were told by the “experts” that we had no choice but to listen to them and the politicians that they were advising. If we didn’t listen to them, shut down our businesses, and stay at home indefinitely, our hospitals would have to decide who would live. They told us that we were not capable of handling this without governmental orders, but if we listened and isolated every one of our 330 million citizens at home, we might survive. That is something to fear, without a doubt. In fact, we were so scared that we did exactly as we were told, and we voluntarily shut down our economy and invited the highest levels of unemployment into our country since the Great Depression. To be clear, our politicians were responding to what the “expert” epidemiologists and doctors were telling them, so I do not blame our politicians for reacting as they did in March. When our hospitals did not become overwhelmed, and in fact, became so empty that some health care workers had to lose their jobs, we were told that it was the success of “their orders” to close down and stay at home that saved us…except that it wasn’t.
Truth be told, in every one of our 50 States, our adaptable citizens modified their behaviors, improved their hygiene, and protected their vulnerable relatives and friends, BEFORE any government orders were issued. That has been proven by published cell phone GPS data. Scientific data also proves that the virus stopped spreading at a dangerous rate, and slowed down, BEFORE any government orders to “stay at home” occurred, and BEFORE most of the arbitrarily designated “non-essential” businesses were closed. It slowed down in Ohio when we voluntarily adapted our behavior, combined with the closures of mass gathering bars and restaurants. Data shows that this slowdown in virus growth rate was not significantly reduced further by “government orders” and blanket business closures. Yes, there was reason to have fear, but it was a challenge that we handled on our own, before our economy and civil rights were violated by “orders”.
Again, to be clear, I do not blame our Federal or State Governments for reacting to the failed epidemiological models as they did in March. That said,I do blame the Governors for not reacting and adapting and rescinding their orders when reality on the ground was crystal clear by mid April. That is when Ohio should have returned to work, not a month later.
We’ve been told by the press that our federal government is to blame for the virus, that death is on the hands of our political leaders, that every move has been wrong, from border closures to too much oversight to too little oversight. We’ve been told by politicians that one Party or the other is to blame for death, unemployment, “inadequate” testing, and “harmful” treatments for the virus. The media and the politicians have sensationalized and fear mongered and blamed at an unprecedented level…at exactly the time that leaders and media should only speak about the problem, the potential solutions, and hope. The media and the politicians from both Parties have been using the virus, and now their “stimulus proposals”, to further their political agendas. They are fear mongering and creating more uncertainty when people need to be lifted and empowered. They have stirred the pot selfishly, and have amplfied the fear factor. All of the above were lies from politicians and the media. Period.
We are now being told by “expert” doctors, bureaucrats, politicians, the media, and big corporate CEOs that until we all are vaccinated for COVID-19, we must hide in fear from the virus. We have our “experts” telling us that we cannot open schools until a vaccine is available. That’s enough to scare anyone, especially when it likely will be another year before a vaccine may be ready.
We are also being told that bringing up the concept of obtaining “herd immunity” through exposure and antibody development means that we “don’t care about human lives”. Those that do so are demonized by the media. We are being told that “herd immunity” and obtaining relative control of the virus is impossible in the short term, that 80-90% of the population must be infected by the virus before we are “safe” from outbreaks and widespread death, before we can re-enter society and end the ordered lockdowns. That will induce fear in anyone, and rightfully so.
Could it be that the media and even the “experts” don’t understand the concept of “herd immunity threshold (HIT)”? Could it be that they don’t understand that it MAY only require 20-30% of the population to gain immunity before the virus is unable to spread at a rate that threatens the health care system, rather than the 80-90% that they repeatedly parrot? Could it be that we are far closer to functional “control” of the virus than any of the “experts” believe, far closer to being able to coexist with the virus than we are being told? Do not be fooled by the “experts”, my friends, we CAN coexist and thrive with the virus as of today, and we will.
If the “experts” and the media and the politicians really wanted to help our country, they would now tell us nothing but the truth, and they would end the fear mongering. The “pandemic experts” would admit that they had it all wrong on the models. They would admit to us that it was our voluntary human adaptability and desire to live that changed the “curves”. They would admit that there is no scientific support for government lockdown orders. They would tell us that vaccines are not are only hope, and that we may be already approaching the “herd immunity threshold”, which will allow us to live with the virus in a more controlled fashion. They would tell us that we can go back to work and play, as long as we continue with our adaptive behaviors and maintain our focus on protecting our vulnerable family members and friends. They would seek to MINIMIZE fear. They would depoliticize the subject, admit what they don’t know, refrain from claiming “scientific evidence” when there is none, and empower our people with truth and hope…but they won’t.
What should we really fear about COVID-19?
1. It can be deadly in the chronically ill and in the elderly, though in the US, 86% of those over 80 years of age will survive COVID-19 infection.
2. Asymptomatic carriers of the virus can infect others without knowing they are sick, so we have to respect others and their fear.
3. The economic and social “lockdown cure” is now a bigger danger to our people than the virus, and it is resulting in destruction of the economy, mass unemployment, loss of civil rights, and the unintended consequences of secondary illness, alcoholism, opioid abuse, suicide, and domestic violence.
Since our “experts”, the media, and many of the politicians refuse to say these things, I will:
Today, most of you are as safe to to go back to work, back to school, and back into society as you are during “flu season”. For children, their risk of severe illness is less than that seen with influenza. You and your modified hygiene and distancing behavior are the reason for our success in controlling the virus, not the closure of your businesses or “stay at home orders”. There is no scientific evidence that the orders and the “non-essential business closures were ever needed, and they must be rescinded immediately.
As we re-enter society, do it smartly and respectfully, not out of fear. Respect our neighbors by giving them the space they deserve to remove their fears. While mask protection effectiveness with this virus is unclear, they likely do decrease viral volume, so wear a mask in closed public spaces out of respect for others…help them eliminate their fears.
It’s time to remove all of the fear mongering. Assess your own risk. If you are under 50 and healthy, your risk of severe COVID disease is minimal, and you should get back to living today without fear. If you are 50-65 and healthy, get back to living, but take extra precautions and avoid crowds for now. If you are over 70 or chronically ill, then be aware of your elevated risk of severe COVID-19 infection, pick your spots socially according to your personal comfort level, and be careful to avoid the general public, for the time being.
Ohio, open all of your schools and businesses now. Stop listening to the media. Be skeptical of the “experts”, and do your own homework before relinquishing your basic right to work. We will go back to living immediately, and we will do so smartly, safely, and without unfounded fear.
Robert Bulas MD