Cohen: Coronavirus story is not over

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I understand Michael Cooperman's frustration ("Political correctness run amok," Journal, June 12) with what the coronavirus has brought to our lives. We are fortunate when compared to many places in the Unites States and around the world our numbers even at peak were much lower, and we are blessed that our numbers are so low at present. That was done by all of us working together to get to this point. But this coronavirus story is not over, and we should not be lulled into a false sense of security with the present good numbers.

As Dr. Michael Polifka points out, "COVID-19 infection result isn't just complete recover or death. There are lots of folks who have recovered with significant persistent sequelae (lung/heart/kidney/brain) that will last for weeks/months and probably permanent for some. And the severe cases of COVID are not just the elderly, infirm and immunocompromised. There are young adults who have had severe infections and an increasing syndrome among young previously completely healthy children of catastrophic illness. Because the absolute number of these cases in Vermont are small, it's easy not to relate. A parent/relative or neighbor of such a child has, no doubt, a very different point of view."

The main function, by way of its spontaneous mutation, of the coronavirus is to find as many hosts as possible and spread. It is biologically almost perfectly constructed to do just that, and its collateral damage is the death of humans. It has no morality when it chooses whom to infect. We humans are not solely a biological entity. We have a consciousness and the ability to weigh decisions from the standpoint of ethics, morality, as well as philosophy and other values. That is the framework we are operating under now to try to decide what is the best option vis-a-vis the coronavirus. That is not an easy decision to reach with so many competing human factors and values.

What we do know is this. Our virus numbers are very low now. We also know the coronavirus has not disappeared. As we have been painfully reminded of late about racism; if one doesn't notice something it does not mean it is not there. We also know there is a correlation between social distancing, which is not social isolation, and lowering or helping to keep the coronavirus in check. We also know a second wave is very possible, and perhaps even more deadly than the first wave. We also know a community only needs one "patient zero" for the coronavirus to come in and quickly spread throughout a community. Until an effective vaccine is available and given to a large portion of the population, we will need to continue to live with and adjust our lives accordingly.

Which leads to Cooperman's car analogy. Yes, driving kills people, but we don't stop driving. But we also do many things to mitigate its danger. We know that reduced speed limits, mandatory wearing of seat belts, and installing baby seats have saved thousands of lives. The latter two one can argue are inconvenient and like with face masks now, there was a lot of opposition to seat belts when those laws were introduced. Now most of us don't get in car accidents, but we all wear seat belts as a social response, and we are all the better because of that.

That is not political correctness run amok (a loaded term in and of itself), but rather a prudent response to making driving safer; not eliminating driving. So as we all drive down the coronavirus highway, for the foreseeable future, wearing masks, keeping our distance from each other, and other smart practices are ways we can still socialize, educate and work.

Rabbi Michael M. Cohen lives in Manchester Center.

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