Setbacks In Learning
Credit: Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News / CTNewsJunkie via Cagle Cartoons / ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Susan Campbell
SUSAN CAMPBELL

There’s a myth – one I’ve never tested – that if you drop a frog into a pan of boiling water, the frog will immediately sense danger and leap out. But if you put that same frog into a pot of room-temperature water and turn up the heat, the frog will stay and try to acclimate until it boils to death.

The story is most likely false. A frog’s survival instinct is plenty strong, but it’s worth considering the drawbacks to acclimation as we enter a new phase of this extended pandemic. If you’re inclined to follow medical protocols and science, you can start to feel like that second frog as you acclimate to people who won’t mask up or vaccinate.

It’s maddening.

Connecticut has had more than 1 million people who’ve had COVID, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say our numbers are rising.

In fact, the CDC recently announced that four of Connecticut’s eight counties – Fairfield, Litchfield, Middlesex, and New Haven, half our geography and roughly 60% of the state’s population – are under what’s considered “high” community transmission, a measure that includes – but is not limited to – the number of new cases in the previous seven-day period. “High” means more than 100 new cases have been recorded in the preceding week.

Honestly, what did we think would happen? That the pandemic would simply go away? Viruses don’t work that way, and the easiest methods of stopping the pandemic haven’t been popular. While the virus morphs and shifts, just 15% of people who are eligible are up to date on their boosters, according to the CDC. Meanwhile, as of Wednesday our state positivity rate was nearly 18%. Hospitals are again stretched to the limit by a so-called triple-demic: COVID, the worst flu season in 20 years, and a surge of RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus. Health care officials say we can expect to see incidences of both flu and RSV to rise now that most of us are home from socializing over the holidays. Pharmacies report a shortage of over-the-counter medication to alleviate flu symptoms, especially medication for children.

It is unconscionable that at this late date we would be at this point, and that the conversation about public health continues to be derailed by bad actors who’d rather share their vague notions of personal liberty, who quaff the nonsense spewed by conservative news outlets, who continue to diminish the threat of COVID at their – and our – peril. It is worth noting that among the nay-sayers, there is literally no discussion about the medically vulnerable, the people with long COVID, the people for whom a bout of COVID could be fatal.

At its heart, this pandemic has very much been a test of our media literacy. One study showed that people who were media literate tended to take proper precautions around COVID because they read and discerned. A September ‘22 working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research said that the death rate among Republicans who consume conservative media (listened to talking heads such as Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity – who originally downplayed COVID) was 76% higher than that of Democrats. 

This is our reality, and numbers don’t lie. To quell some of the spread, the CDC is again suggesting that people wear masks at indoor public spaces, and on social media, the discussion has gone predictably south. What do you say to people – beyond “Shut up” – who have kept us stalled in a pandemic. In September, even President Joe Biden told CBS’ “60 Minutes” that the pandemic is over, and public health officials rushed to cry malarkey. We all want it to be over, but sorry, it isn’t.

Sadly, in our politicization of absolutely everything, bad information is not just coming from politicians seeking to placate the noisiest among us. In 2021, Rochelle Walensky, CDC director, said “Your health is in your hands,” only that’s not true. This is a pandemic. Your health is in my hands, and mine is in yours. In a recent New Yorker article, Amy Fairchild, dean of Ohio State University College of Public Health, said that public health is an argument about what we must do for each other, and for the common good.

So far, we’re losing that argument.

We have gotten through some sad and scary pandemic days, albeit some of us reluctantly. If the CDC won’t tell you, I will: Your liberty ends where my health begins, and my liberty ends where your health begins. Wear a mask. Get your shots. Quit whining. For the sake of all of us, let’s do this.

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Susan Campbell

Author of "Frog Hollow: Stories From an American Neighborhood," "Tempest Tossed: The Spirit of Isabella Beecher Hooker," and "Dating Jesus: Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl." Find more at susancampbell.substack.com.

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