Is social distancing necessary?

Before you decide, consider the source…

Now that more states have issued stay-at-home orders and Americans have realized there isn’t all that much to watch on TV and hanging around the house all day can get really boring, some people are questioning the need for social distancing.

Right here in the state of Missouri, Cindy O’Laughlin – a Republican state senator – was recently quoted as saying people have been driven into a state of panic by the “consistently negative reporting on COVID-19.”

Great question: why doesn’t anyone report the good side of hundreds of thousands of people dying?

To be fair – which I try to do at least once a month – there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about stay-at-home orders and social distancing: some businesses may never recover, some people may lose their jobs and in the meantime everybody has bills to pay.

So out of a combination of curiosity and boredom I spent a major chunk of my weekend looking up stuff on the internet to see who was saying what about social distancing.

Is social distancing really necessary?

Like most of my research, it was eclectic and random, so feel free to reject it if you want to. What you think is up to you, but here’s what I came up with.

Social distancing advocates

Let’s start with the media.

I worked in the mainstream media for about four decades so I’m well-acquainted with its faults and there were probably times I was one of them. Being well-aware of how the media can screw up, when the coronavirus first made headlines here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Baconator, like many others I questioned whether the media was overreacting.

Not anymore.

Seems to me people are trying to blame the media for the message it’s delivering because the messenger is a much easier target than the people sending the message.

Take a look at who’s advocating social distancing and it’s doctors, professors, the U.S. Surgeon General and organizations like the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, the American Hospital Association, the American Nurses Association, the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases.

Looks to me like the people who have some education and knowledge of the subject think social distancing is necessary.

Social distancing critics

Now take a look at who’s questioning the need for social distancing and it’s Republican politicians, TV evangelists, Trump true believers, conspiracy theorists, a collection of religious lunatics and right-wing TV and radio talk show hosts.

For instance: according to his own website Rush Limbaugh has identified the “Four Corners of Deceit” and one of them is science.

One more time: a radio talk show host with a very sketchy track record is saying you can’t trust science.

Science keeps advancing, learning and changing, but that gives critics an excuse to reject the latest information whenever that information is inconvenient because advancing, learning and changing isn’t on their personal to-do list.  

The people who now question the need for social distancing are part of the same crowd that originally said the coronavirus was a hoax, don’t believe in evolution and think it’s OK to still go to church because – as one woman recently said – they’re “covered in the blood of Jesus.” (Apparently the blood of Jesus makes you immune to the COVID-19 virus and is clearly something those pointy-headed scientists have completely overlooked.)

Looks to me like the people who question the need for social distancing don’t know jack shit about the subject.

But don’t people die all the time?

So you got doctors, professors and healthcare organizations on one side and a bunch of knuckleheads on the other; that doesn’t change the fact that people die from all kinds of stuff all the time and some people are now using that as a reason to reject social distancing.

Roam around the internet and here’s some of what you might find:

  • According to the National Safety Council, in 2019 the number of Americans dying in automobile crashes was about 106 per day.  

  • According to the Lung Cancer Foundation, that disease kills people in the U.S. about 433 times a day.

  • According to the CDC, during the 2017-2018 flu season an estimated 508 people in the U.S. died every day.

So, yeah, people die all the time and we don’t sit home because of it; what makes the COVID-19 virus any different?

Take a look at the numbers.

Recently, the U.S. topped 1,000 coronavirus deaths in a single day and some researchers say that number could go up to 2,200 a day by mid-April. Even Donald Trump – not known for his sophisticated views on science – admitted some 240,000 Americans might die.

And that’s if we do everything right.

Apparently President Trump changed his Easter Economic Resurrection plan after seeing a model that projected 2.2 million Americans could die without strict social distancing. Do the math and that’s over 6,027 deaths per day when spread over 365 days.

But those deaths wouldn’t be spread over 365 days.

Those automobile and lung cancer deaths didn’t all happen at the same time. One of the reasons experts are freaked out about COVID-19 is the possibility that a bunch of us are going to get sick at once and we’re going to overwhelm the medical system.  Then we’re going to have to hold some kind of scissors-paper-rock competition to figure out who gets access to the limited number of ventilators available in the U.S.

We do not appear to be prepared for the consequences of COVID-19 with social distancing which means we really aren’t prepared for the consequences of COVID-19 without social distancing.

I recently watched a lecture about viruses and the guy made an interesting point; if a virus knocked you on your ass the instant you contracted it, the virus would have a hard time spreading. You’d be sick in bed.

A successful virus needs to make us a just a little sick at first so we can walk around coughing, sneezing and sharing our good fortune with others. As Dr. Anthony Fauci has pointed out numerous times, if we keep our distance from others, the virus has no place to go.

Go back to normal and it does.

We can do this now or something worse later

People are rightly worried about the economy, but as someone already pointed out there is no scenario in which the economy gets better if everybody is sick and hospitals are overwhelmed.

And if that happens, then we’ll have to do this social distancing all over again and maybe have to do it even longer than we’ll do it this time.

Makes sense to me, but there are a lot of short-term thinkers out there and if they can get enough people to agree with them, we can all be in long-term trouble.

One last thought: if the medical experts are wrong about social distancing you might lose your job or business, but you’ll still be alive. If the anti-social distancing crowd is wrong, you might be dead.

Now place your bets.