4/23/20: THE RULES OF CONTAGION – HERD IMMUNITY OR HERD MENTALITY W/ RONNIE MCMULLEN

MONOLOGUE WRITTEN BY CLYDE LEWIS

Anyone who is familiar with my background knows that a many years ago I published a b-horror fanzine and sold it at local comic book stores in order to make a little money between radio jobs.

On the front cover of my first issue I wanted to feature “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and so a cool picture of Freddy Kruger graced the front page. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to interview Wes Craven and in the interview I learned so much about the character that even when I interviewed Robert England, the man who played Freddy, he was surprised about how much I knew about his character.

To this day, the character is still widely regarded as one of Hollywood s most memorable creations, a character that epitomizes all that is despicable and detestable in society, a sort of boogeyman incarnate for younger generations.

He is more of a metaphor now for human toxicity and all that is degenerate and diseased.

I guess like any other horror character he represents an externalized threat.

For many that are familiar with the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise you know that Freddy did not harm you unless you fell asleep.

The catch was that eventually everyone had to sleep at some point. The more you tried to stay awake the more you avoided your confrontation with Freddy. The teenagers in the movie would drink coffee, pop no doz, and tell their friends to keep them from sleeping in a futile attempt to stay awake.

Eventually when a teenager fell asleep he or she had to confront Freddy, some would die, while others would somehow survive until eventually Freddy dies or goes away but somehow he always came back and the whole process started again and again and again until eventually we all had to learn that Kruger was eternal.

What is also interesting is that what we learn from a Freddy Kruger movie is that no matter how scary he was – no matter how terrifying he was – he certainly had an eye for incompetence and how when people are frightened, they always seem to trip over the same stone twice, and repeatedly make the problems worse. 

Kruger made the act of going to sleep a source of terror.  Like the shark in Jaws, made the beach terrifying or in Norman Bates in Psycho made showering a scary experience – an everyday act is turned into a source of fear. 

The reason I bring this up is because if you will permit me Freddy Kruger is a lot like COVID-19 – no matter what you do to avoid confronting it, eventually you have to make peace with the idea that you have to start doing normal everyday acts and that you will have to confront the fact that no matter how careful you are – you will eventually will have to confront it, meaning you will have to catch the virus in order to gain immunity.

Eventfully all of the social distancing, mask wearing and glove wearing is not going to stop you from being exposed and eventually contracting COVID-19.

All we are doing now is slowing the spread but slowing the spread is just avoiding the inevitable – everyone has to get their lives back, just like in the Freddy Kruger movies everyone has to sleep eventually.

This is where real courage has to begin and even though the fearful will attack you and tell you that this is irresponsible – you have to learn the rules of contagion and realize that life has risks.

Yesterday. I was hearing rumors about some parts of the country reopening, only to close again. I was watching a video of a woman being arrested for taking her kids to a playground and in my state we had the first day where there were no deaths reported from COVID-19.

As countries across the globe approach and pass the peaks of their first waves of coronavirus infections, officials and experts are racing to figure out how to protect people long-term.

Individuals could gain immunity to the new coronavirus if they develop antibodies; that can happen through vaccination, or after they get infected and recover.

If enough people become immune, that can confer “herd immunity” to an entire population. This protects even people who aren’t immune, because so many others are immune that they prevent the virus from spreading within a community. Herd immunity would effectively end the coronavirus pandemic.

That day would come with the mass distribution of a vaccine, but that process is expected to take at least 18 months. Earlier in the pandemic, some governments also considered allowing herd immunity to develop on its own, without a vaccine, by letting the virus spread through their populations. But in its wake, the coronavirus would have left millions of recovered people with antibodies but a trail of deaths would have followed, too.

As with any virus or disease death is always in the conversation – it is all about the Latin phrase “memento mori” meaning that everyone dies if not from COVID-19 it will be from something else – we can’t keep living our lives in fear.

For a population to achieve herd immunity, a certain proportion has to be immune. That proportion depends on how infectious a virus is, a measure called the R-naught or R0 . The R0 is the number of people the average person with a virus infects.

But R0 isn’t a fixed number. It can decrease if conditions change — specifically, if people stay too far apart for the virus to spread, or if so many individuals become immune that the virus can no longer spread from each person it infects. 

The goal of herd immunity, as with all public-health responses to a new virus, is to bring the R0 below 1, which puts the disease in decline until it dies out. But the higher a virus’ R0, the more people need to be immune to make that happen.

What we are practicing now is simply a way to avoid the inevitable – no matter how much you wash your hands or separate or shelter place it all boils down to whether or not you are taking care of yourself and boosting your immunity.

Just like Freddy Kruger, COVID-19 will go after those who are careless, irresponsible and incompetent—more or less those who seem to trip over the same stone twice, and repeatedly make the problems worse. 

Truth be told no one is perfect but what we are being asked to do is to give up our humanity and our normal activities because of something that needs to eventually be dealt with and that is facing the virus and realizing that there are many that are recovering and that COVID-19 is not always a death sentence.

I argue that because of social distancing and self-policing we are nowhere near 50% of the population becoming immune to the coronavirus, but it’s unclear exactly how far we are. In most parts of the world, experts don’t know how many people have had COVID-19 and recovered, largely due to limited testing.

In countries like the US, where testing was scarce for weeks after early cases were detected, the most severe cases were prioritized for official diagnoses. People who have mild symptoms, or none at all, are still less likely to get tested — if they even seek testing in the first place. That means that many mild infections are not included in the counts of total cases or recoveries.

Even a perfect response won’t end the pandemic. As long as the virus persists somewhere, there’s a chance that one infected traveler will reignite fresh sparks in countries that have already extinguished their fires.

So this means that we are going to have to adapt and realize that the virus does what past flu pandemics have done: It burns through the world and leaves behind enough immune survivors that it eventually struggles to find viable hosts. 

It is either that or the world plays a protracted game of whack-a-mole with the virus, stamping out outbreaks here and there until a vaccine can be produced.

By that time a vaccine could be a choice but technocrats like Bill Gates will not be happy until everyone gets a vaccine –and one has to wonder if this is because he truly cares about the world – or cares about lining is already bottomless pocket.

While we pay attention to the growing number of COVID-19 cases, we are overlooking the fact that there are now more than hundreds of thousands of people worldwide who have recovered from it and survived. Many have yet to be tested, but the majority of survivors are young, healthy and eager to reengage in life and work.

We also know that reinfection cases are extremely rare and unlikely but it is not foolproof of course.

Nothing is in life – both of my kidneys were hit with Cancer – I was warned that I could die prolonging my avoidance of treatment. I didn’t like hearing about Chemo options and so the doctor’s said that I could go for surgery. The catch was that so many surgeries could lead to complications and long term pain. There could be risks of sepsis, blood clotting which could lead to strokes and pulmonary embolism. There would be risks of cancer moving into my liver, pancreas, lungs.

To hear it all made me feel like it was futile. I opted for the surgery. Two major surgeries within 6 weeks of each other. One left me with a horrible and very uncomfortable incisional hernia.

But I survived.

Then in 2012 just after I landed syndication I was diagnosed again – my right kidney developed tumors. Another surgery. I got mild sepsis and later five blood clots lodged into my lungs nearly killing me.

But I survived, however, I let fear take over my life and didn’t take risks. I gained weight, became depressed and was afraid of living.

Then one day, I just stopped worrying and got on with my life, however, I still have that small fear in the back of my mind that I could get cancer again, or some other complication that my doctor’s still fear I could get even after 8 years.

COVID-19 complicates everything and I am sure that everyone will have to get over their fear of it but we all die of something and to prolong fear for an agenda is pathological and is simply a form of gaslighting.

I know that COVID-19 is causing fear and besieging hospitals. The hyper-acute nature of this epidemic is tragic and overwhelming but I am urging people to look at the big picture.

We need to replace fear and anxiety with a level-headed approach based on data-driven messages, strategies and policies. 

Not political agendas and neo-Orwellian slogans like “the new normal” and “we are all in this together.”

Fact is, a public health and stable economies go hand in hand. But in the current COVID-19 response, we have pitted these against each other. We are hearing more political attacks, with no solutions and watching news reporters giving overdramatic play by plays from their basement and then pretending to be leaving it for the first time when we already know they have been outside.

The whole reality TV show they are giving us is trite and obvious.

Yes, I am calling out CNN –who has been the worst network for being overly dramatic, overly critical, encouraging gullibility, and pretending to be the guardians of what is “fact” when all they are producing is fear and frustration.

The sad thing is that when you call them out on it they will immediately attack you and call you a conspiracy theorist or a right wing Nazi or Trump supporter.

Can anyone call out this horrible example of journalism? Is this now a crime to demonstrate selective reporting that is damaging to the public’s mental health?

They report that either we are to remain in total lockdown or we go back to business as usual and sacrifice the lives of those most at risk.

Why can’t they be more pragmatic and report about how we can maximize protection for seniors and vulnerable people, while letting the young and healthy with proven immunity to the virus go back to work.

Why can’t they send the message that we need more data about immunity not rushes to find a vaccine and putting the world on hold to do so?

What I am saying is not irresponsible – it is sensible and should be something we should consider.

As we learned in the aftermath of the 2008 market crash, economic shocks have a direct impact on public health. The United States experienced a historical decline in life expectancy due to an epidemic of deaths of despair. In a matter of months, people lost their jobs, lifetime savings, and their homes.

It looks like we are going to trip over the same stones again.

This is where we fail and this is going to be the real killer – life after COVID-19 has to deal with reality – not projections or agendas being pushed by mercenary scientists with stock in big pharma and renegade manufacturers of bathtub vaccines.

We need to live with the idea that this virus is likely to be one that comes back year on year and becomes like a seasonal virus and communities will become immune to it and that’s going to be an important part of controlling this in the longer term.

It’s likely, then, that the new coronavirus will be a lingering part of American life for at least a year, if not much longer. If the current round of social-distancing measures works, the pandemic may ebb enough for things to return to a semblance of normalcy. Offices could fill and bars could open and out of tune karaoke can resume.

Schools could reopen and friends could reunite. But as the status quo returns, so too will the virus. This doesn’t mean that society must be on continuous lockdown until 2022. We just need to always be vigilant and do things to boost the immune system. things like exercise, eating right, taking proven and effective supplements, stopping smoking, abusing drugs all things that are commons sense.

Why can’t better health care become the “new normal?” Why can’t better leadership that actually cares about the general welfare be the “new normal” or the respect for human dignity and human rights become a national goal?

Isolation cannot be the “new normal” violating or negating constitutional rights cannot be the “new normal” in fact the “new normal” is hardly normal – it is dehumanizing.

Isolating the population would only temporarily suppress the virus, but it would quickly re-emerge and the crisis would be repeated.

But there is more.

After infections begin ebbing, a secondary pandemic of mental-health problems will follow. At a moment of profound dread and uncertainty, people are being cut off from soothing human contact. Hugs, handshakes, and other social rituals are now tinged with danger. People with anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder are struggling. Elderly people, who are already excluded from much of public life, are being asked to distance themselves even further, deepening their loneliness.

Incidents of domestic violence and child abuse are likely to spike as people are forced to stay in unsafe homes. Children, whose bodies are mostly spared by the virus, may endure mental trauma that stays with them into adulthood.

After the pandemic, people who recover from COVID-19 might be shunned and stigmatized; in fact, if you have been reading the latest obituaries of people who have died recently, families are now specifically adding that their loved ones have not died of COVID-19 to eliminate any and all speculation.

In fact, many people would rather not specify to avoid unwanted attention by the media while celebrities and politicians are now flaunting loved ones that either have it or have died from it.

People who went through long bouts of quarantine will carry the scars of their experience.  When people return to work they will find themselves dealing with burnout and post-traumatic stress.

Many people are already showing signs of mild agoraphobia and are avoiding stores and even standing outdoors over fears they will get sick.

Many who have lost their jobs will become angry because of the fact that their employers reacted to knee jerk fears or that they certainly weren’t managing their businesses well to begin with.

Pandemics can also catalyze social change. People, businesses, and institutions have been remarkably quick to adopt or call for practices that they might once have dragged their heels on, including working from home, conference-calling to accommodate people with disabilities, proper sick leave, and flexible child-care arrangements.

These are things that businesses should have practiced when the internet arrived but many bosses and supervisors needed that added control – now the whole manager position will have to be restructured.

Perhaps the nation will learn that preparedness isn’t just about masks, vaccines, and tests.

Maybe now people will have supplies of food and toiletries in their home so they can avoid panic buying.

Aspects of America’s identity may need rethinking after COVID-19. Many of the country’s values have seemed to work against it during the pandemic. Its individualism, exceptionalism, and tendency to equate doing whatever you want with an act of resistance means nothing – when you are forced to stay home, people are and should be more skeptical of resistance backed or hash tagged agendas that are being put into play that take away the rights of the individual.

After 9/11, the world focused on counterterrorism. After COVID-19, attention may shift to public health. Expect to see a spike in funding for virology and vaccinology, a surge in students applying to public-health programs, and more domestic production of medical supplies. 

The lessons that America draws from this experience are hard to predict, especially at a time when online algorithms and partisan broadcasters only serve news that aligns with their audience’s preconceptions.

The truth of course will be the real casualty in the aftermath of COVID-19 and there will still be those who will continue to exploit and take advantage of it until one day we realize that we all have to get on with our lives and learn to live life to its fullest – even in the face of death.

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