One of the themes of DaThomas Paine’s “Common Sense” is that there needs to be a balance between man’s pursuit of liberty and the government’s responsibility to maintain order for the common good.
The great thing about America is that everyone is allowed to have their opinion. Exchange of opinions is what defines a democracy. Democracy, atits best, is the distillation of the spectrum of opinions and the establishment of a compromise which accommodates that span of ideas. In most eras of American history, this democratic process has worked, primarily driven by statesmen who serve the common good.
The First Amendment right to free speech is the cornerstone of our national ethos. Nonetheless, I was dismayed to see protesters in multiple states take to the streets to oppose the self-isolation orders imposed by their state and local governments, at the direction of the federal government. Even though I cannot fathom the logic of their protest, I fully support their right to express themselves.
As a retired physician from the NY metropolitan area, I know that many, many people are dying of Covid-19 and that my colleagues are stretched to their physical and mental limits trying to manage this disease. I understand and empathize with the fact that many people have been badly injured, both emotionally and financially. I also understand that not every part of the country is affected to the same degree by the pandemic and that easing of self-isolation rules will roll out at different rates across the country.
What I cannot understand or tolerateis that in congregating without any regard to the spreading of disease in direct violation of rules formulated to keepthe disease in check, these people are putting themselves AND OTHERS in danger by ignoring basic common sense. Social distancing was instituted because the disease is spread from person to person by contact that is by no means intimate. Furthermore, people may not get sick for a very long time after they are infected and are infective; some do not get sick at all. The only way that this disease can be checked without an effective vaccine is by avoiding contact with other people. VERY SIMPLE. Do not gather in crowds to express your opinion. Use social media, traditional media and contact your representatives. Do not risk other people’s lives because you are overdue for your haircut. Do not block health care workers from getting to work.
Lastly, the behavior of politicians who have politicized these protests and egged on the protesters is contemptible and misinformed. The concept that lives must be sacrificed for the economic recoveryis beyond common decency.
At this moment, the solution to opening the country involves widescale testing of the entire population, both for Covid-19 positivity (active infection) as well as blood testing for antibodies to the virus (indicative of active or previous infection). In combination, these tests can better approximate the extent of disease so far (current estimates are likely far below the real infection rate). People who have reliable evidence of prior disease and who have recovered can reasonably reenter the economy without risking others. Careful analysis of the data derived by pooling these results can help us understand how the virus travels and how to identify regions at imminent risk.
Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” remains valid in modern times. This pandemic will continue for the foreseeable future. We all need to continue to use self-discipline, common sense and the guidance of scientists rather than to rush blindly into reopening the country.
David Berger MD