Distancing ourselves from truth
The only thing spreading faster than COVID-19 these days are rumors, especially from ever- mutating pathogens like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and the other insidious diseases we’ve taken to calling anti-social media.
No, there’s no miracle cure being kept from us by transnational drug companies, Nancy Pelosi, Jared Kushner, the Trilateral Commission, or the Easter Bunny.
No, gargling with bleach isn’t a good idea — though we’re tempted to say that, if you think it is, maybe you should do the gene pool a favor and try. (Sorry. Dark humor for dark times.)
A brighter idea: We’d like to help. It is, after all, what we do — not just in legitimately troubled times but also in times when the only threats are those to our sanity, emerging from certain elected officials.
So here’s the deal: If you’re heard a panic-inducing rumor, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll check it out to the best of our ability and let you know what’s verifiably true and what are just the terror-inducing musings of some addled conspiracy theorist with nothing better to do during stay-at-home time than to cook up and spread damaging rumors.
Take, for example, a widespread meme circulating on Facebook last week about how the National Guard was being federalized to enforce what would amount to curfews under martial law. It’s absolutely false but so widespread that the Guard had to come to traditional media like ours to request that we report there’s no truth to the rumor.
To be sure, there’s considerable angst created by officials’ refusal to identify confirmed cases of COVID-19 by anything other than broad age categories, gender, and county of residence — not even getting to the community level, much less to where they may have visited.
We understand patients’ desire for privacy and the level of panic that could ensue from inaccurate identification. But we also understand the public’s need to know what might represent a danger to them, their families, and friends. Trusting that government will tell everyone everything he or she needs to know is not something that comes easily to most Americans.
While federal law may prohibit health-care professionals from identifying victims, nothing prohibits victims or their families from disclosing a diagnosis. It may take courage to come forward and risk ostracism, but we call on everyone to allow their patriotic duty that they keep neighbors informed to outweigh their personal need for privacy.
We particularly salute famous people worldwide who have come forward to admit being stricken with COVID-19: married actors Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, British heir apparent Prince Charles and prime minister Boris Johnson (now, unlike the others, seriously ill), NBA star Kevin Durant, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton. The list, unfortunately, goes on.
All are heroes, not for being infected but for being willing to let others know.
Locally, about the only thing we can fault about how another hero, county health nurse Diedre Serene, has handled the situation is that we don’t know for sure where local victims might have visited.
We understand that her hands are tied by federal regulations, so we can’t really fault her for that. But we wish there were at least some vague way to better inform anxious citizens.
A few other elements of our local emergency preparedness system don’t seem to have operated nearly as serenely as Diedre’s, but in this time of coming together to remain apart, we don’t want to point out faults, especially with everyone trying their best under very trying circumstances.
Personally, we’ve been getting complimented far too frequently — not for what we write or for helping out our very hard-working staff, who are doing anything but staying at home and killing time, but rather for doing something that apparently isn’t that common: continuing to teach as we normally would, albeit by computer instead of a classroom in Illinois.
We hope horror stories we hear from students in other counties or enrolled in other colleges don’t apply locally and that education continues to go on by whatever means necessary.
Life needs to continue. Our economy needs to continue. Our faith in the fact that this, too, shall pass needs to continue. And the thousand little acts of kindness and concern that this crisis has brought out need to be celebrated as proof that a microscopic bug is no match for the indomitable human spirit.
Don’t let the situation or accompanying rumors get you down. We can’t cure COVID-19. But we may be able to cure some of the cyber-enhanced gossip if you let us know so we can track it down. And we’d love to share your stories of how you’re coping and who have become heroes for helping out.
Stay tuned. We’re not going anywhere.
— ERIC MEYER