First, Do No Harm

This is dedicated to all the nurses, doctors and scientists worldwide who are fighting on the frontlines every day to save lives and eradicate Covid-19.

Last week I posted about the Rittenhouse and Arbery trials. My post elicited a spirited response, an encouraging one thanks mostly to an old friend who disagreed with some of my points and had some to make himself—all in a civil, constructive debate.

Today, something equally, if not more, controversial is on my mind: Covid-19. The new Omicron variant is coming our way, just in time for the holidays. It will spread rapidly, causing yet another wave of infections, and it couldn’t come at a worse time, not only because of the holidays with all the travel and family gatherings but because the U.S. and other countries have recently relaxed restrictions and opened borders. Borders will have to close again; travel restrictions will be beefed up. It’s back to Square One.

This morning, I read a post on Facebook from a friend of a friend, a nurse who treats Covid patients every day. Like so many other nurses and doctors, she’s been depressed because of the toll Covid is taking, and the helpless feeling of watching patients die needlessly. Her message was simple: Be aware of what is actually happening. Use a mask and get vaccinated. It’s worth a little discomfort and inconvenience.

When the post was shared on another person’s Facebook, one of the responses contained the query (paraphrased here), “Why do hospitals deny patients Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine with z-pack if what they’re already administering doesn’t work?” A fair question, assuming what she meant is “If there is no other hope…”. This nurse went on to explain in great detail that these drugs were tried and neither had any effect in the vast majority of patients. The drugs were found to actually cause harm or even kill some patients. She went on to list several medications they do use in her facility, such as vancomycin, Zosyn, ceftriaxone, Levaquin, and cefepime. What this nurse was trying to get across was that every good doctor or nurse abides by Hippocrates’ ancient admonition, “First, do no harm.”

Now, this Facebook Q&A centered on treatment, not prevention. But it points up a huge problem we have in this country with regard to Covid and its prevention and treatment. In the age of online sharing of information by admitted amateurs, we tend to believe what we want to believe. Why? Because we don’t get our information directly from the source any longer. We get it from friends and acquaintances—many of whom we’ve never met in person and know almost nothing about—who heard it from someone who heard it from someone else. Nine times out of ten, each source injected bias and misinformation. The other blame belongs to the media. Folks, I’m not just picking on Fox and Breitbart but CNN, MSNBC, and pretty much all the stations and newspapers and podcasts out there. There’s too much opinion slinging and ratings-grabbing, and not enough bare facts these days. Sure, ratings and subscriptions have always been important, but in the old days, you raised your ratings and subscriptions by bringing your customers scoops, exclusives, and above all, accuracy. Facts mattered because journalists knew that credibility was their stock in trade. 

All of that has been gradually going out the window for decades. Nowadays, with so many media outlets competing for consumers, each news agency carefully selects what they think you want to hear about. They present it in terms that slant a certain way. And you, their bread and butter, gobble it up. Not because it’s necessarily true or even relevant, but because it’s the flavor you like best. Hence, our country is splitting into warring camps recruited by media personalities and politicians (more on the politicians further on).

Part of the problem stems from the fact that no one trusts scientists or the government. We’ve been led astray too many times. They told us marijuana had no value and that it would only lead to harsher drugs—then, when governments and corporations figured out ways to profit from it, we suddenly had legalization, which has led to all sorts of helpful THC-based remedies. Similarly, they told us that UFOs didn’t exist—until the military leaked videos showing that they really do exist. This was followed by hundreds of reports from pilots and police and all manner of reliable witnesses who have seen them.

But I digress. The point is that there are good reasons so many are skeptical of what they are told. Yet the right information is out there on that same wonderful internet we use to exchange opinions. You just have to take the time to look for it, digest it, evaluate it against other sources, and decide what is true based on facts rather than half-baked information. Doing so reveals two things: masks help a lot, and vaccines are very safe and effective. And yet people have been told all sorts of wild things, such as the vaccine is used to inject some kind of nano-sized tracker which can be proved by running a magnet over the site where the vaccine was injected. They’ve also been told that mandating masks is an infringement on a person’s personal rights protected under the U.S. Constitution and that it’s part of a slippery slope leading to other infringements on freedom.

But mask mandates and vaccines are not nearly as radical as you might think. Throughout our history, and especially since the dawn of the industrial/technological era, the U.S. government has stepped in to do similar things. During the Second World War, the government rationed gasoline, materials like nylon, certain foods, and all sorts of other items because they were needed for the war effort. In the ’50s and ’60s, the polio vaccine was required before a child could attend public school. Anyone who has seen the old footage of a kid in an iron lung can understand why. 

Getting a Covid vaccine and wearing a mask is no different. In fact, you could say that doing these things is as patriotic as going to war to fight terrorists. In this case, the terrorists are microscopic, and masks and vaccines are offensive weapons for taking out those terrorists before they can do any more damage. Just as in the fall of 2001, we’re a nation in crisis; we’ve been suffering through that crisis for nearly two years now. Three-quarters of a million Americans are dead.

How many more will have to die before we begin to see that sound science, although not perfect, is still our best path to beating Covid? We need to stop being political about it and start realizing that we are one nation and that our nation needs these small sacrifices—the inconvenience of wearing a mask and taking a tiny poke in the arm—as a way of battling the enemy, just as Americans sacrificed so much during World War II. 

When in doubt, we need to act like adults. We must take the time to educate ourselves instead of blindly listening to the media who are in it for profit, or politicians who’ll say anything to get elected. The only reliable sources—the only ones we have no choice but to trust—are the medical scientists. Sometimes they’re wrong, no doubt. But look at how much they’ve done right over the decades! We trust them to cut us open and fix a bad heart that would have killed that same patient a hundred years ago. We trust them to deliver our babies. We trust them to save our lives when we are severely injured in an accident. Why shouldn’t we give them the credit they deserve, and a chance to help us, so we can kiss Covid goodbye instead of our loved ones?

Doctors—not politicians, media, or Uncle Fred—are the only ones who abide by an oath that says, “First, do no harm.” Give truth and science a chance.