No Denying

by Tom Swift

I don’t believe in germ theory. After all, it’s just a theory! I can’t see the germs! And I feel fine! I mean, really, how do these scientists know germs cause disease? How do they know humans are to blame for the spread of this so-called Coronavirus — what they are now calling COVID-19 or some such name probably invented to scare us?

That is, of course, an absurd view.

Everywhere you go, you see people wisely modifying their behavior. They are using hand-sanitizer. They are buying cart-fulls of toilet paper. They are clearing out aisles of cleaning supplies. They are staying home from places they would usually go, working from home if they can, canceling plans, avoiding groups. Leagues and games and concerts have been postponed. Theaters have closed their doors. We don’t want to get sick. We don’t want our loved ones to get sick. We are living very differently than we were a week ago.

All of this change, this radical alteration of behavior, is on account of the work of scientists, men and women who spend their lives learning about the formation and spread of diseases. They are, to be sure, human — they do not know all, they will not get every projection right, they will learn as they go, and revise their advice as the data suggests (as I write these words a news story in my feed describes, for example, that scientists are now learning the virus may be more transmissible by asymptomatic people than first believed). Yet they are smart and capable and caring, spending all of their waking hours trying to solve a problem that will causes lives and change the way we live. They are not perfect but they are the best we got. To dismiss these scientists outright would be to stand on the fringes and put lives at risk. We are in almost universal agreement: change is necessary.

We all have faith in science now.

The president had called the virus a hoax. He said it would magically disappear. Those sympathetic to him in the media had said this would be no different than a common cold — and other statements of which they had no factual basis. I am not interested in pointing fingers at such people. To do so now is to take them more seriously than they take themselves. It’s time to tune out such voices and do what we need to do for now and for the future. But the point is this: There were coronavirus deniers in powerful places with sizable platforms. Meanwhile, we lost valuable time — and every hour before an outbreak has to be worth at least twenty hours following an outbreak — educating the public and developing possible solutions. We do not have time to listen to the fringes anymore.

One thing I kept thinking about yesterday, as I got my toilet paper and stocked up on canned goods: this is little different than climate change. There will be a time when our behavior will be forced to change in radical and possibly permanent ways because of man-made climate change. For decades now men and women who spend their lives studying the climate have been warning us.

Too many of us have listened to the deniers — or at least let them have the room. Too many of its have not taken those warnings seriously. Too many of us have dismissed the science.

Will we now?