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Commentary: There's a sense the wheels are coming off

Science key to success
Nelson Chris web
Chris Nelson is a syndicated columnist. File photo

Do you get the distinct impression that authority – in all its overreaching and myriad forms – is becoming extremely nervous about this dreary pandemic? 

And no, not just because so many are again catching this virus, with some dying as a result.

What’s shaking the politicians, experts and our self-appointed saviors, is nature doesn’t give a fig for their words, schemes and assumptions that, in pronouncing some new or regurgitated measure, it follows it’ll automatically work.

Yes, there’s a sense the wheels are coming off this Covid-fighting bus. 

Admittedly it’s unfair to criticize anyone, anywhere, nonplussed about stopping a pandemic in its virulent tracks. We’ve been trying for thousands of years with only limited success – heck, isolating those with the plague is mentioned in the Old Testament’s Book of Leviticus.

But we’re so conditioned to turn to government at every level, expecting to be saved and succored, that it’s wildly disconcerting when realizing those seemingly smart folk might not really know what to do.

However, getting anyone in authority to admit this is rare as those famous hen’s teeth. Therein is the problem: instead they double-down on dubious strictures already found wanting. Ego mixed with hubris is a dangerous brew with lives at stake.

Take, for example, the advice of Canada’s top public health doctor, Theresa Tam, on suitably celebrating the recent Halloween. We were supposed to place candies on the end of a hockey stick, poke it out the door allowing kids to safely remove their treat. 

Imagine, millions of folk poking big sticks out their front doors as kids, dressed in outlandish costumes, wander nervously down Canadian pathways. Monty Python rarely had such good material to work with.

More seriously, three months ago politicians and health experts were adamant on wearing masks while indoors in public places. Trust the science, they lectured us. Yet the science relayed back in March by the World Health Organization, the Centre of Disease Control, and Dr. Tam herself, advised doing the opposite, thereby avoiding a false sense of security. Anyway, we didn’t wear them properly.

Yet now, after dutifully complying with the new science, the infection numbers are again skyrocketing. (The latest Tam missive: often our homemade masks are too flimsy, as general airborne risk of COVID – the aerosol effect - becomes increasingly worrisome, rather than simply being too close to someone infected.)

Still, wearing masks at least makes us feel we’re fighting back, although quitting smoking; losing excess weight and laying-off the booze might eventually prove more effective in staying healthy.

Regardless, it was closing everything down and staying home that led to infection rates plummeting in early summer. 

Except, soon as we ventured outside again, like nervous groundhogs, COVID was figuratively waiting on our front step. Now experts are having second thoughts about those dramatic shutdown tactics too, increasingly stating it’s actually more dangerous due to missed medical screenings, mental health issues, lost jobs and social isolation.

And remember when those same folk also informed us closing borders was both pointless and racist? Yet, shortly afterwards – clunk: the sound of gates being locked to foreigners everywhere resonated across the globe.

OK, enough of this so-called doom porn. There’s real progress developing a vaccine – both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca trials looking particularly promising. Meanwhile, we’ve learned lots about treating victims and the age groups and health conditions of those most at risk.

That’s true science: on-the-ground hard work allied to human ingenuity, as opposed to dubious modelling and ever-changing, best guesses. 

It’s those scientists and medical folk – shunning the microphone because they’ve real, important work to do – that will likely drag us out from under this pandemic cloud. Then we can again use our hockey sticks for the purpose originally intended.

Chris Nelson is a syndicated columnist.