I used to think that since the end of the military draft in the 1970s there were only three patriotic duties all citizens should be willing to perform if asked: voting in every election, jury duty, and acting as a poll worker.
I’ve come to discover there is at least one more. If the top health officials in the nation and in your own state ask you to do something to prevent the spread of a virus that has ravaged the world, then do it.
The directors of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as well as the U.S. Surgeon General and Alabama’s State Health Officer, all physicians and scientists who are trying to save us from ourselves, are pleading with everyone to do a few simple things to prevent the spread of COVID-19 – practice good hygiene by washing your hands frequently, do not gather in crowds, practice social distancing, and wear a mask or face covering.
It’s that last one that seems to be the biggest issue. For the life of me, I don’t understand it. Of course, I couldn’t understand the panic buying and hoarding of toilet paper either, but that’s just me. Oh, I’ve heard a lot of excuses: it’s uncomfortable; they make it hard to breathe; it’s a violation of personal liberty; they don’t do anything to prevent the spread of a virus; and the whole pandemic is just something made up to (insert conspiracy theory here).
I don’t like wearing a mask, especially in the heat and humidity, because it is uncomfortable, but ask those who have suffered tremendously through COVID-19 how comfortable they were. You want to know what really makes it hard to breathe? Contracting a virus that attacks your respiratory system.
As far as your personal liberty, that ends when it affects the health and welfare of others. Granted, wearing a face covering isn’t foolproof, but I’ll bet your momma or someone taught you to cover your mouth when you sneeze and cough.
St. Vincent’s Blount hospital administrator Greg Brown probably said it best when he talked about wearing a face covering, “It can’t hurt. If you’re wearing a mask and I’m wearing a mask, the chance of us transferring anything to each other is slim to none. It’s common sense.”
My dad used to say, “Common sense ain’t as common as you’d like to think it is.” Which brings me to the conspiracy theorists. I can point you to the science and I can churn out 10,000 words in this space trying to convince you, but I never will. There’s an old idiom about leading a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it. If you get thirsty, let me know.
Before I hose y’all down with a bunch of numbers, there is something else. The increase in the number of cases is not due to more testing. The increase is because the disease is spreading, and we know that because of the rising positivity rate. The logic behind the idea that not testing means we wouldn’t have as many cases baffles me. That kind of thinking would have us curing cancer simply by not diagnosing it. Johns Hopkins University of Medicine recently published a good explanation about positivity rates at www.coronavirus.jhu.edu/testing/individual-states.
The Alabama Department of Public Health reports that as of Tuesday, the number of cases in Blount County has risen to 607, which is 242 more cases than two weeks ago. Statewide, 22,505 have been confirmed in that same period. The positivity rate of those tested in the state in the last 14 days is 13 percent.
The recommendation to states before reopening is 5 percent or lower. In Blount County it’s 15 percent. By the time you read this, the number of hospitalizations since March 13 will be about 10,000 and COVID-19 related deaths will be near 1,500 in Alabama. While still tragic, only one person has died from the disease locally.
Gov. Kay Ivey and State Health Officer Scott Harris will soon decide what to do about the current Safer-At-Home order that will expire Friday unless extended or amended. They will be studying the numbers ADPH puts out. We should all hope they are not only thirsty for the knowledge, but wise enough to heed the warnings within those statistics, because behind the numbers are the health and safety of the people of Alabama.