If 2021 was the year of the Big Lie, given humanity’s tendency to swing like a pendulum, 2022 should be the Year of the Big Truth. That sounds nice. Let’s embrace truth and facts. Let’s not embrace Kellyanne Conway’s philosophy of alternative facts. But things don’t just happen. We have to make it happen. We need to, as Jean Luc Picard (aka Patrick Stewart) used to say, “Make it so.”
Below I’ve made a list about what’s mostly true and mostly indisputable about the novel coronavirus (AKA COVID-19, and its variants).
There really is a virus that was identified and labelled as COVID-19. As is often the case with complicated things, the precise origins of COVID-19 are not known, and are likely unknowable. If you go online and read of someone claiming that COVID-19 was developed in a Chinese laboratory, unless you’re reading a legitimate and documented confession from someone directly involved in creating COVID-19, you’re reading something that somebody just made up. Not knowing all the facts is difficult to live with, and in the space of uncertainty, many people will make up stories. The stories might be an effort to explain something (e.g., because I can see the horizon, the earth is flat) or it may be to intentionally deceive. We have to live with the truth that there are things we do not know, including the exact origin story of COVID-19. To avoid conspiracy theories and behave like mature adults who want to contribute to the well-being of society, we should not, in the elegant words of Dr. Cordelia Fine, make shit up.
COVID-19 and its variants are highly transmissible. Our neighbors just informed us they “have the flu.” That may or may not be the perfect truth. They may have COVID. Either way—flu or COVID—I’m keeping my distance. The COVID-19 virus is virulent, and the flu sucks. You can argue the specifics, but COVID-19 is a remarkably transmissible virus.
Upon contracting COVID-19, you may have very minimal and possibly zero COVID symptoms. Some people—even people over 80 and with significant health issues—have had no noticeable COVID symptoms at all. Maybe their test was a false positive? Or, maybe their individualized response was negligible? My father, age 95, bedridden, with a variety of heart and lung ailments, is healthier now—after having tested positive for COVID-19.
In contrast to my father and other luckier victims of the viral vector, COVID-19 makes other people moderately ill, gets others very ill, and kills the rest. COVID-19 killed my mother and several other people I know. Recently, Rita talked with someone who had seven family members die from COVID. The hard truth is that individuals have highly variable responses to a COVID-19 infection; it’s a hard truth because Americans and other humans don’t do well with variability. We like things to be simple and predictable. On average, the vast majority of people infected by COVID are not terribly ill. On the other hand, with about 824,000 Americans dead over a 24-month period, COVID-19 may be unpredictable, but it’s also consistently lethal.
Despite famous people who famously minimized COVID-19, saying it would magically go away, it hasn’t. COVID-19 has proven itself to be very persistent. Sure, the media loves a hot crisis and COVID-19 feeds the media’s need for constant crisis, but COVID’s persistence is not simply media hype.
Although it’s good to be skeptical, the preponderance of the evidence points to the likelihood that COVID-19 death estimates are just as likely to be underestimates as overestimates. Some COVID-minimizers question the death rate estimates from COVID-19, thinking they’re inflated. But there’s also evidence they’re deflated. Other minimizers argue that many COVID-related deaths have occurred in nursing home patients who, like my mother, would have died anyway, in the next year or two. Given all the other evidence pointing to COVID-19 as a legitimate medical crisis, questioning death rate estimates and quibbling over who’s dying is mostly a method to avoid thinking about 824,000 dead Americans and 5.44 million deaths worldwide.
Whether you “believe” in the transmissibility, lethality, or death rates is up to you. We should all try to remember that personal beliefs are not facts; in “fact,” thinking our personal beliefs are facts is the root of many problems. To be intellectually honest means, at least in part, that we don’t go out looking only for evidence to support our pre-existing beliefs. If we do, that’s called confirmation bias. . . which is just fancy scientific terminology for getting good at lying to ourselves.
Speaking of lying, to describe COVID-19 as a “mild flu” is simply untrue. Not only is the mild flu rhetoric a lie, it’s a big lie that can and does cost people their lives. If you’ve spent any time working, volunteering, or hanging out in medical settings, you can see with your own eyes that COVID-19 is having an immense, dreadful, and potentially catastrophic effect on the healthcare systems and healthcare workers around the world.
Medical journals and medical authorities have the best information available about COVID-19. Although their information isn’t perfect, and it’s consistently changing, legitimate medical professionals still give us the best information we have. People who write medical journal articles and people with medical degrees are way smarter than most of the rest of us. If you’re REALLY SERIOUS about “researching COVID-19,” you should read medical journal articles. It’s just as easy to Google the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, the British Medical Journal, and other top-tier medical journals, as it is to Google fringe conspiracy theorists who make up shit from their own demented imaginations. Seriously. The Big Truth Here: You should trust physicians who have taken the Hippocratic oath over COVID-19 deniers and conspiracy theorists who’s only oath is to do whatever they can to get attention and feel more important than they really are.
COVID-19 minimizers or deniers do not have your best interests at heart. Believe them at your own risk. Or, better yet, choose to not believe them. If you’re the sort of skeptic who looks for cracks in the arguments of legitimate medical research, be sure to use equal rigor to look for cracks in the arguments of people like Candace Owens, Tucker Carlson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Laura Schlessinger. Take a minute to contemplate who you think is more interested in your (and all Americans’) well-being. Take another minute to contemplate who you think has underlying financial motivations to deceive you. In the end, the CDC, Dr. Fauci, and the World Health Organization are better sources of useful, health-promoting information than COVID-minimizers or deniers.
I’ve written all this and just now realizing I haven’t even gotten to the issues of wearing masks and vaccinations. Obviously, there’s more to come.
Please join me in working to make 2022, The Year of the Big Truth.