Coronavirus Covid 19: Jamie Seidel – Ignorance is the reason the United States faces 100,000 new infections every day
Medical staff adjust their personal protective equipment while working in the emergency department at NYC Health + Hospitals Metropolitan in New York City. Photo / AP
“We shouldn’t assume that a group of experts somehow know what’s best,” US Senator Rand Paul lamented yesterday. Covid-19 is out of control in the United States. And such disrespect for knowledge may be the reason.
Paul is by no means the only one to reject the advice of epidemiologists. The former ophthalmologist’s lack of confidence in experience, education, and specialist knowledge is rampant in the United States.
It is an attitude that is growing rapidly in the rest of the world.
It is an attitude that persists even in the face of undeniable evidence.
Senior Washington-based politicians like him argue that the United States must rush to reopen its economy.
This despite state after state reporting that their hospitals are on the verge of overloading. Let the cases of Covid-19 explode. This contact search fails. Let people ignore the advice to wear masks and wash their hands.
And people – especially the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions – are dying.
How did it come to this? We live in a world of information overload. And this is actively exploited by commercial and political actors, says Tom Nichols, professor of national security affairs at the US Naval War College.
“Unable to understand all the complexity that surrounds them, (people and politicians) instead choose to understand next to nothing and then accuse the elites of having taken control of their lives,” Nichols writes.
Experts suggest. Elected leaders dispose. But it is very rare that elected politicians are experts, especially within the framework of the modern mechanics of corporatized political parties. Paul was the first US senator to contract the virus. Now, he says medical experts must “be cautious in their prognosis” even as the south and west of the country collapse in a second wave.
He said Americans “just need more optimism” during a pandemic committee hearing including the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr Anthony Fauci. Fauci had just warned that the United States was on the verge of suffering as many as 100,000 new cases a day.
Paul wants the schools to reopen. He wants the clubs and restaurants to reopen. He wants sporting events to be allowed.
“All I hear, Dr Fauci, is, ‘We can’t do this, we can’t do that. We can’t play baseball, “” he said.
The Kentucky senator felt that American citizens would become a “flock with a few people in Washington telling us what to do, and we like sheep to follow blindly.”
He did not address the alternative and non-expert scenario of the shepherd.
And that, says Nichols, is a sign of how “dangerously frayed” is democratic confidence in expert input and representative decision-making.
An ophthalmologist is not a virologist. A real estate agent is not a diplomat. A marketing manager is not an economist.
But, with some effort, these people can understand and balance the counter-arguments.
âThe laity cannot do without experts, and they must accept this reality without resentment,â writes Nichols. “Experts, too, must accept that they are getting a hearing, not a veto, and that their advice will not always be heeded.”
IGNORANCE IS HAPPINESS
For many, ignorance is a virtue. Especially in politics. It is better to blindly and loudly proclaim support for the established – albeit obsolete – dogma of the tribe than to tackle change. It just never happens.
âPrincipled and enlightened arguments are a sign of intellectual health and vitality in a democracy,â says Nichols. “I’m worried because we don’t have those kinds of arguments anymore, just angry matches.”
It is an attitude virus that has spread through social and traditional media, political party halls and bars across the world.
“To reject expert advice is to assert their autonomy, a way for Americans to demonstrate their independence from nefarious elites – and to isolate their increasingly fragile egos from never being made. say they are wrong. “
The problem is not to have opinions. This is critical thinking. And critical thinking does not exist if one cannot accept the possibility of being wrong.
“I fear we are moving beyond a natural skepticism regarding the claims of experts at the death of the ideal of expertise itself: a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-saturated collapse. any division between professionals and laymen, teachers and students, connoisseurs wonders – in other words, between those who are successful in one field and those who are not, âsays Nichols.
Expertise has become an âoff the shelfâ product. A service. Nichols maintains that, for example, people are happy to see a doctor for treatment for diabetes. But not for a talk about their diet and lifestyle – the real cause of the problem in the first place.
â(People want) their opinions to be treated with deep respect and their preferences honored not on the strength of their arguments or the evidence they present, but on the basis of their feelings, their emotions and all the hassle they may have gathered here and there along the way. “
Paul seems to ignore his own advice. At a Senate hearing in June, he challenged Fauci, saying: “We can listen to your advice, but there are people on the other side who say there will be no push, and so we can safely open the economy. And the facts will support this exit. “
These facts are known. A Michigan seabass has been identified as the epicenter of 110 new infections. A gymnasium in West Virginia exposed 200 of them. More than 230 contracted the virus during a church service in Oregon. And that’s just a sampler.
But the power of pandemic denial is reflected in a survey released this weekend. It reveals that about 40 percent of American citizens now think the situation is under control. That the worst is over. That the disease has run its course.
They are wrong. Covid-19 is rampant around the world. The United States is at its epicenter – recording more than 2.7 million cases since the start of the pandemic. This includes 130,000 deaths. Now a spectacular wave is exploding across the country. Some 44,000 new cases were recorded yesterday alone.
Arizona’s healthcare system is overwhelmed. Its hospitals have triage measures – choosing who to treat and who to reject. Texas is also warning that its emergency hospital units are nearly full, as new cases surpass 8,000 in one day. California now registers 5,000 new cases per day, its governor having decided yesterday to close again restaurants, cinemas and bars.
In the midst of it all, Paul remains hostile to expert advice, even if it is accurate. âIt is important to realize that if society obediently submits to an expert and that expert is wrong, a lot of harm can happen,â he said yesterday. “We shouldn’t assume that a group of experts somehow know what’s best for everyone,” he said.
THE SHIELD OF TRUTH
Health experts admit they don’t yet know exactly how this virus works, or what all of its strengths and weaknesses are. there is no treatment. This is why the world has only four weapons against this pandemic until an effective vaccine is developed. By connoisseurs. Evidence shows that these measures work.
The first is the test. This identifies the risk. This identifies how deep the virus has penetrated a community. It makes it possible to identify individual asymptomatic carriers and to speed up the isolation and treatment of patients.
Second, contact tracing. It is difficult and time consuming work. But it made it possible to mobilize limited resources as well as possible. Known carriers are questioned and investigated. Their movements during the period when they were contagious are mapped. This indicates people, groups and places that may have been exposed. Tests can then be redirected to prevent the spread of the virus.
The third is isolation. It’s gross. It’s expensive. But it is the only effective tool available to health agencies against a Covid-19 epidemic. The virus cannot be spread without being able to pass it on to other people. And if a community remains isolated long enough, the virus will die out. There is simply a lack of new hosts.
Fourth, personal hygiene. A cough in a club, pub, restaurant, cafe, or store can infect an area for hours. The disease can be caught by unknowingly touching an infected surface and then touching your own face. This is why hand washing and masks are a last line of defense.
If these four measures are not applied correctly, the defense against the pandemic collapses.
And this is the experience of the United States after politicians and business leaders undermined the advice of health experts. And that does not bode well for the future.
âUnless some form of trust and mutual respect can be restored, public discourse will be polluted with undeserved respect for unsubstantiated opinions,â Nichols writes. âAnd in such an environment, anything and everything becomes possible, including the end of democracy.
â¢ Jamie Seidel is a freelance writer.