Letter to the editor: Columns take a curious stance on COVID-19

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To the editor:

I am usually bemused by the assertions of our frequent guest columnists, Mark Franke and Leo Morris. And I was not disappointed when I saw they had both written columns in the Saturday-Monday, Dec. 26-28, edition of the Daily Reporter. And that bemusement became incredulity as I realized the lengths both went to convince us of their point of view.

Their assertions about the COVID-19 crisis and its effects on society are typical of conservative voices. In the first few paragraphs of the column written by Mr. Franke, he makes typical conservative assertions about COVID-19. These include that facts about the coronavirus are often confusing and contradictory and that these facts change frequently. He notes that in a politicized climate he can no longer trust scientists any more than he does politicians. And of course, he is not going to leave the topic of mistrust without mentioning the national news media. Early in this same paragraph, Mr. Franke says he does not know or care much about the science behind understanding COVID-19. A curious statement, made even more curious since Mr. Franke spent many years working for and then heading Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. This school recently became solely Purdue University Fort Wayne.

Mr. Franke natters on about half-truths and untruths about the responses governments have taken to gain control of the coronavirus. And then he trots out the conservative icon of exceptionalism. This ancient view on the world has taken the United States down various wrong paths, including the near eradication of First Nations peoples, our brush with imperialism and, more recently, our national refusal to accept that a national health care plan that is necessary to controlling health care spending and improving medical care in this country.

And then we come to Mr. Morris. He takes aim at the vaccines that will help us gain control of COVID-19. I really am amazed at his assertions. That is, seat belts cause us to drive more recklessly, feeling we are kept safe by those same passive restraint devices. Never mind that seat belts and later, airbags, have reduced serious injury over the past 40 years and more. And then he takes aim at insurance, stating that people take inordinate risks due to feeling they will be rescued by their insurance companies who will bail them out when they experience the negative consequences of their negative actions. People take risks for many reasons. Few of them do so thinking their insurance will help them.

These are the rationales Mr. Morris used to lead us into his musings about vaccines for COVID-19. In his view, people will stop taking necessary steps to reduce their risk of contracting COVID-19 because they will feel less vulnerable. This is partially true and will be largely limited to those who already flout rules for wearing face masks, keeping a social distance and washing hands. And then he launches into an argument that boils down to we must live life as if it does not have risk, but take precautions anyway. Really? I think a healthier way to look at this is to acknowledge COVID-19 presents significant risk to us individually and as a people. And the appropriate response is to vaccinate as many people as possible. This will allow us to achieve herd immunity. This will allow us to provide some protection to those too old, too young or ill to safely take the vaccine. This would also allow those who might have a reaction beyond a sore arm to not take the vaccine.

People have raised various reasons for not taking precautions against COVID-19 and against taking the vaccines. Most of these reasons are not valid. As noted in the last paragraph, some are valid. If we are to get control of this virus we must continue to take basic precautions and promote a nearly universal acceptance of the vaccine.

Jim Matthews

Greenfield