WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM…

I know, I know…this is a music blog. If it will help you to read the entire post I’ll make sure you get something excellent to listen to upon completion. Nothing wrong with a little reward for your time and our (yours and mine) effort.

Based on the header photo you know what’s coming, but also know that I am coming at you without agenda or bias. Just facts and common sense, and if you’ve navigated the seedy bowels of Twitter lately I’m sure you’re aware that an attempt to educate a reader makes a lot more sense than trying to bully one. Since I will not be ordering you to do or not do something, no need to worry about hypocrisy, one of the novel tenets of Twitter these days.

Sometimes I do the right thing and sometimes I do not. I’m fallible, and therefore preach I will not. But educate I will.

I spend the better part of my days in baseball’s social media bubble, and I’m not sure why, but a lot of the community can be somewhat aggressive at times. It’s almost as if most think that being able to understand analytics such as FIP and spin rates qualifies a baseball blogger as an immunologist. You can laugh…I do. Rather than educate, many prefer to attack, usually swinging their sociopolitical agendas like rubbery phalli. If you haven’t been privy, I can tell you it’s grossly off-putting.

Our singular community goal should be to stop the coronavirus. It shouldn’t be to take sides against each other, and it certainly shouldn’t have anything to do with which candidate is running for office. It should be about education and listening, and honestly, I think the listening part is more important, though if social media has taught us anything its that no voice matters but our own.

So what are we dealing with here? Let’s get COVID-19 up on the lifts and take a look at its undercarriage.

First of all, humans can defeat most viruses because viruses are relatively simplistic in nature. They can’t navigate the earth without assistance, and if you leave them in the open air for just a short time they’ll dissolve.

In fact the only thing they can do is multiply and spread, and COVID-19 excels at that task. If a few individuals relax and lower their guards, many people suffer. We’re seeing that in a lot of COVID hotspots right now.

Immunologists and virologists like to say that we are entering a second wave, but that’s an archaic term coined during the 1918 influenza outbreak, and its factually wrong. We will go through peaks and valleys, and right now, about 40 percent of the country is peaking. In Houston, where daily cases have surged from 300 to 1,300 in two weeks, hospitals are threatened with being overrun by symptomatic patients.

But we’ve been through worse and survived. Just watch.

What can we do to soothe the raging beast and avoid a repeat of previous pandemics?

The buzz phrase you will be hearing throughout the holiday weekend will be the “harm reduction model,” which is borrowed terminology that means adhering to practices designed to slow the spread of the infection. This approach acknowledges that risk levels vary by person and setting, and solutions should therefore be tailored as such. That means encouraging mask use and social distancing in crowded spaces, and relaxing those demands when outside or where open spaces are readily available.

But there is more to it than masking up and avoiding other humans. Studies show that the war against COVID-19 must be fortified through education, unified messaging, and proper planning. Caustic threats and social bullying can cause mental hardship, and in the absence of consistent, educating information, people often become desirous to seeking and spreading misinformation.

Relentless negative news acerbated by calamitous fear mongering (doom-tweeting) will elicit pushback, deniability, and avoidance of safety protocols. Pretending to advance educational efforts by amplifying hysteria will beget confusion and rebuttal. So just stop. Caustic messaging and incessant berating of your audience is the bearer of insurgency. If you take anything from this post, let it be this paragraph, please and thank you.

Whether you like it or not, mask hesitancy isn’t going away, and in fact, it will remain problematic until the virus is eradicated. You can choose to protect yourselves and others, but you will never be able to flip the rebels by finger-pointing. It is a political-divide issue and nothing else. Very few will change their agenda in absence of real education. Last I checked, name-calling and guilt manipulation are poor educational tools.

You may think its your civic duty to stop the breeding of disinformation, and if you feel you have a large enough audience, and one that trusts your opinions, maybe you have a point. But, like millions of fans worldwide, I really enjoy listening to U2, though that doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with everything Bono says. I’m smart enough to monitor my engagement with others and fact-check anything that’s said or written, no matter the source. Humans make mistakes and by my count we’re all humans.

I’m also going to see if you lead by example. If you’re in the habit of advocating social distancing and mask-wearing and I see endless pictures where you’re not doing that, I’m going to have a hard time believing anything you say. You can just as easily spread COVID-19 among a small group of friends drinking beers in your backyard as you can by walking into a public place without a mask. You only need infect one person to prime that pump!

What about more testing? I am constantly hearing the Biden liberals say we are woefully behind on testing, and at the same time I keep hearing the Trump conservatives say we are ahead of the curve. Have you ever heard the phrase “there’s your story, there’s my story, and then there’s the hard, cold truth?” Well the facts state that faulty CDC COVID-19 test kits caused the United States to fall behind on diagnosing new cases. That’s the equivalent of putting out fires with gasoline. 

** In case you were wondering, the United States and Europe lead the world in percentage of tests administered per 1,000 people. **

It gets better, if not sadly unrealistic.

The Rockefeller Foundation for Health Security says that the U.S. would need to reach 30 million tests per week to control COVID-19 without a vaccine. We are testing at a rate of about 10 percent of that number right now. That number is impractical due to the dearth of labs and technicians needed to properly administer the tests and manage their results.

Optimally, what we want to see instead of simply more tests is an increase in positive tests. Don’t let the media scare you with numbers manipulation designed to incite fear and emotional response.

Because testing is so very crucial to understanding the spread of the pandemic and responding appropriately, scientists and medical professionals focus their efforts on building a reliable dataset.  Countries with a very high positive rate are unlikely to be testing widely enough to find all cases. The WHO has suggested a positive rate of around 3–12 percent as a general benchmark of adequate and accurate testing.

The U.S. has dipped into that range (just below five percent) after hovering above 20 percent for much of March and April.

Another way of looking at the extent of testing relative to the scale of the outbreak is to ask: How many tests are needed to find one COVID-19 case? Jurisdictions that do very few tests per confirmed case are unlikely to be testing widely enough to find all cases.

And that’s where harm reduction resurfaces. Even the best diagnostic tests run at least a small risk of yielding a false positive or negative result, so if too many people are randomly tested, we could end up quarantining the wrong people, while possibly giving a free pass to asymptomatic carriers of the disease.

“Now we are seeing the consequences of community spread which is even more difficult to contain than spread in a well-known physical location … When you have community spread, it’s insidious.” – Dr. Anthony Fauci

So how about a vaccine? Studies show that we need 70 percent of the general population vaccinated to create herd immunity, yet some social media polls indicate as many as 50 percent of the general public will refuse to be immunized.

And let me talk about the misperception of herd immunity. There are two paths to herd immunity, vaccination and infection, and it is a combination of both that will eradicate the spread of the novel coronavirus. To interrupt the chain of transmission, a vaccine is absolutely necessary. It cannot be a global game of Russian Roulette, where we allow ourselves to gradually become infected through community spread of the disease while hoping most of us live through it.

Relying on strictly one or the other could yield deadly results. Vaccinated individuals may see weakened immunity over time, requiring re-immunization, and community spread may result in new, deadlier strains of the infection.

Our best tool is education, and in order to promote a healthier community we need to stop the fear mongering and social bullying. If our leaders at the top of the chain cannot agree on which path to choose, its up to the rest of us to help our families and friends. We already know that evidence-based interventions can flatten the curve, buying us time until a vaccine can be approved and distributed. Inconsistencies in that messaging have hurt our progress, however.

Few people noticed two weeks ago when the CDC released new guidelines on dining out because the public health agency has largely disappeared from public view. The reality is that the COVID-19 virus doesn’t care, and doesn’t choose, so we need to.

If somebody tells you the whole country has probably been infected by now, let them know that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it believed only 5 to 8 percent of the U.S. population—roughly 26 million people—has already been infected with the coronavirus.

If somebody tells you that younger groups tend to be be spared from COVID-19 symptoms and its worst outcomes, let them know that no rigorous studies support the claim that younger people are more likely to be asymptomatic. 

If somebody says they won’t wear a mask or social distance, and can’t be swayed by peaceful means, move on. Throwing the elderly and the immunodeficient in their faces won’t change their opinions. You can’t educate the masses if you vigorously spar with just one opponent.

It is imperative we lead by educating others, and in a way that results in less pushback and more proactivity. Further, leading by example goes a long way toward answering any credibility issues. If you are not masking up, don’t tell others to until you make that a regular practice. And if you won’t, then just shut up, and let the real advocates for change do their jobs. They don’t need you to make everybody else look bad.

Now for your musical enjoyment.

Published by Michael Canter

I love music, particularly indie music. It's a bittersweet affair that has been equally fun and soul-crushing, but I couldn't live without it. Personally, I'm a Deadhead, but my passion for all music styles is unparalleled. If I like you I will let you call me Mickey. If you look hard enough, you'll find me at SXSW every year.

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