Covid and the Individual: What Should Have Been Said

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Public health authorities could have helped normal people decide what they could do for themselves to prepare for the pandemic.

What follows bears no resemblance to the advice tendered in the last year by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Governor Gavin Newsom, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and their less talkative state and local counterparts. But here is what they might have said, if they were the sort of leaders they clearly think they are:

There is a new respiratory virus called Covid-19. It may or may not be more deadly than the common cold, flu, or pneumonia. All respiratory viruses should be taken seriously, especially by the elderly, obese, or diabetic.

Check immediately to see that you have up to date flu and pneumonia shots, that you have them recorded on a vaccination certificate, and that you get a Covid vaccination when available. Make sure your primary care provider has records of them.

If you are elderly, obese, or diabetic, promptly undertake to shed weight. (See this recent article by Micah Meadowcroft in these pages.)

Lay in a supply of zinc, for example Cold-EEZ, and vitamin C pills. At the slightest sign of respiratory problems, start taking them. After the onset of any respiratory problem, acquire a pulse oximeter at your nearest pharmacy and consult it daily.

Call your health care provider at the onset of any respiratory problem and obtain his advice as to 1) where and whether to get tested for Covid-19; 2) what palliative drugs are available, and how and when to acquire them; 3) where to get vaccinated for Covid-19; and 4) what symptoms justify hospitalization or further action.

Because of palliatives, herd immunity, and other reasons, Covid-19 is no longer deadly if treated promptly, nor are there shortages of hospital beds and equipment. A point will soon arrive or has arrived when the unvaccinated will have no one to blame but themselves for their vulnerability. The justification for lockdowns has therefore disappeared.

Lockdowns cast the burden of the disease not on individual choices, such as avoiding vaccination, but on classes of useful businesses and cultural and educational institutions. It is prudent (for others’ sake) to avoid the society of persons known to be unvaccinated, and accordingly to avoid large crowds in bars, night clubs, and stadiums. Voluntary masking at concerts may be prudent if the un-vaccinated are admitted. But mandates have outlived whatever usefulness they had.

Business owners, schools and employers may on a voluntary basis want to install temperature checks or require proof of vaccination to increase the sense of security for their customers, students, teachers, and employees. There should be no objection to this; free societies, as Edmund Burke suggested, are governed by manners as much as laws. All of this should be a temporary measure, discontinued when vaccination becomes more universal.

Efforts should be made to coordinate and combine flu, Covid, and, if possible, pneumonia vaccines. Relevant laboratories should be decentralized, not concentrated in Atlanta. States should be encouraged to develop their own testing capacities. Vaccines that have been widely used with few side effects should be promptly finally certified; the “cover your ass” syndrome regulators are prone to should be avoided; risks must be weighed against large quantitative benefits. Although compulsory vaccination laws were upheld by the Supreme Court more than a century ago, compulsion may produce synthetic martyrdom.

There should be more adequate financing of contact tracing for venereal and other diseases, research and reporting on unpatentable natural cures not invested in by pharmaceutical companies, and greater efforts to influence diet, by taxing excess sugars as in Britain, France, and Mexico, and introducing enhanced labelling requirements. Regulations affecting the distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables should be relaxed. Any enhanced federal or state health expenditures should be directed at public health properly so called, not at reducing the burden of insurance payments on consumers.

The right of citizens to freely assemble for educational, religious, political, and cultural purposes, to prudently assume risks, and to manage their own health care must be respected. Mandates should be few, rooted in public understanding, and not frequently changed. Assumption of risk is the concept dominating public policy as to the flu and flu vaccines, and as the disease becomes less deadly it should become the policy for Covid-19. It is neither fair nor rational to penalize the normally prudent to protect fools.

George Liebmann is president of the Library Company of the Baltimore Bar, and the author of numerous works on law and history, most recently Vox Clamantis In Deserto: An Iconoclast Looks At Four Failed Administrations.

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