COVID-19: Follow the lead of medical experts, not of a privileged and careless president

See Disclaimer.

We are being asked by the medical community to do very basic things to minimize a major public health crisis, and prevent further economic and personal tragedies. Please wear a mask, practice social distance, wash your hands, and learn how to differentiate science & data from misinformation.

None of these actions are political statements, just common sense and a demonstration of respect for those we interact with. Every time we do this, we are helping save lives and suffering. With nearly 215 thousand deaths and 7.75 million cases, and counting, this absolutely matters. With an economy that depends on us overcoming the public health crisis, this doubly matters.

The virus is powerful, and clearly remains deadly and able to inflict debilitating long-term damage in survivors. It will be so into 2021, and possibly beyond. Medical experts tell us that we are at least many months away from the availability of a vaccine and of safe, affordable, proven treatments.

Once both approved vaccines and treatments exist, many further months will be needed before the pandemic can be brought under reasonable control. This is because both vaccine and treatments must be made accessible in large enough numbers to the population, which poses logistical challenges. It is also because the vaccine will not offer full immunity, and must be trusted and taken by a large enough percentage of the population to be effective. And it is also because not all among Americans have access to affordable health care.

None of that changes because the president survived the virus. We don’t know what the effect of the virus will be on his long-term health. But we do know that, to survive, he received early and continued intervention by a large team of specialized doctors. He also underwent an aggressive course of treatment, including experimental drugs. That is an extremely exclusive treatment, in no way representative of what is available to the vast majority of Americans who fall ill. And, of course, the virus affects different people differently.

The president has downplayed and mishandled the crisis from its start, and is redoubling on misinformation now that he has survived infection. He has and continues to incentivize careless behavior, and to organize events with ‘super-spreading’ potential—in spite of well publicized evidence of outbreaks having actually resulted from some of them.

The president’s incompetence and irresponsibility are on him (and, yes, they are tragic!). On us is the opportunity to behave responsibly—both in our personal response to the crisis and in how we vote.

— Antonio Baptista

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