A milestone this week probably became the story of our lifetime, probably all of our lifetimes.
On Monday, Colorado health officials tallied 10,018 deaths across the state attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. The gruesome factoid came on the same day one year ago the United States administered its first non-trial vaccine against the pandemic. Also this week, the national death toll rolled past 800,000.
That was just the news. The story? Many of those deaths and millions more sickened by the virus, many for the rest of their lives, didn’t have to happen.
My childhood pal Artie Gonzales, who died just days after being sickened by the virus, almost certainly would not have died had he been able to move up in line to get a vaccine last March.
My journalism school alum Laurence Washington would most likely still be here if he’d been able to get the vaccine before he was exposed to the virus and fell mortally ill at the first of the year.
But as tragic as all our earlier losses were to the pandemic, it’s the losses that have come after that are so obscene.
They didn’t have to happen. They don’t have to happen. They’re going to keep happening because of endless lies and disinformation that leaves millions of scientists, health professionals and the generally cognizant absolutely baffled.
In what was probably close to a real, live, get-the-Vatican-on-the-phone kind of miracle, just months after the pandemic virus was identified, America had a safe, working vaccine for it.
This really happened. I was there.
Just a few months later — after it was proven safe, after it was proven effective — we were able to give out the first dose a year ago. Then, the nation steamrolled enough for everybody just a few months after that.
“Proven” is the key word here. It’s the same kind of proof that gets space ships loaded with humans into the void of space and back again, safely. It’s the same kind of proof that almost everyone in the country runs toward when they get cancer, diabetes, a hernia, or even strep throat.
But because the nation has also been infected with Trump, failed science classes, Fox News, social media and myriad other maladies, a big enough swath of the state, and the nation, refuse to vaccinate and wear masks. And so our friends, neighbors and loved ones will just keep right on dying from COVID-19.
If ignorance, stupidity and stubbornness were a crime, the prisons would be even more overloaded than Colorado’s hospitals and ICU units. Sadly, we continue to allow the anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers to impose the death penalty on the innocent and the naive.
This week, The Sentinel Editorial Board took Gov. Jared Polis to task for comments he made publicly about the pandemic “emergency” having ended (it has not ended) and for his continued dodging responsibility for a statewide mask mandate.
The editorial generated a mountain of comments, many of which signal what humanity is up against as misinformation, disinformation, lies and the ludicrous virally infect the minds too many.
Here are a few choice comments illustrating why the pandemic remains a deadly pandemic.
Misinformation: @JustAMom0610 — You cannot be serious with this: ‘Masks are not attire. They are medical devices proven to slow the spread of a pandemic …’ So we can buy proven medical devices at Old Navy now? Got it.
Reality: The CDC and WHO have repeatedly proven that those infected, knowingly or not, wearing cloth or paper masks reduce the spread of their infection by about 50%, possibly more.
Misinformation: @HalllEvie — I’ve known at least a handful of people who got covid while masked and vaccinated, (masks) should be optional at this point.
Reality: Masks primarily protect others from infection, not the wearer. Had your “handful” of people been around others infected but masked, they would have been far less likely to become infected themselves.
Misinformation: @markmueller0 — (The pandemic) has been over for awhile. As The governor said, it’s not their job to mandate what people wear. This is the last effort of those who have always wanted this to be the norm for years before covid.
Reality: It is the job of the state to protect the public’s health. Local health officials have pleaded with the governor to impose a needed mask mandate. The local politics of this make compliance nearly impossible. The lack of a state mandate is primarily what has destroyed the Tri-County Health Department and will now cost taxpayers millions.
Disinformation: @BradyHaynes7 — Good! Folks starting to act like adults again. If people are so terrified that they think they need a mask, they should go ahead and wear one. It’s up to YOU to protect yourself. No one has the right to strip away someone’s autonomy because they’re scared. That’s ridiculous.
Reality: Masks protect others when infected people go into public places. While anti-maskers make it seem that it is they who should choose to not wear a mask while possibly infectious, they are actually choosing to infect, sicken and even kill innocent people whose only choice it is to quit their jobs and hide at home, or risk infection, illness and death.
Disinformation: @Bubba3310 — Cloth and paper masks do not stop respiratory viruses. It’s called science.
Reality: They actually do. Credible science has proven that for decades. There’s a reason physicians and nurses wear paper masks in hospitals and operating rooms. They work to protect others.
Misinformation: @KoshkaRoo — (Polis is) one of the few democratic governors speaking common sense. People who need to wear masks can continue to do so, majority of people are safe – we have vaccines and treatments – that’s our new normal.
Reality: Masks protect others from people who are in public and infected. The majority of people are not safe around infected people, especially, it appears, from the omicron variant. The vaccines and treatments so far have not kept Colorado hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients and may fail if the infections become even worse.
Misinformation @TraciAndreas — Wear one if you want. Nobody is stopping you. You act like you need Daddy Governor to give you permission.
Reality: We need “Daddy Governor” to force people to wear masks in public so they do not infect others, knowingly or not.
Disinformation: @Dopebeatsdotnet — None of us are doing that anymore. Didn’t you get the memo?
Reality: Every county except Douglas County in the metro area currently has an indoor mask mandate, despite Polis’ refusal to impose one statewide. But without tougher compliance regulations, it may not work to reduce infections and the flood of patients into area hospitals.
Lie: @CatahoulaLD — Masks are ignorant. Like the people who think they work against a virus.
Reality: Masks are proven over and over, using credible scientific methods of study, to reduce the rate of infection during an airborne virus pandemic, and subsequently, reduce sickness and deaths. Scientists and researchers not only have no reason to press false information into the world, but it would be anathema to their training and constitutions. Every credible doctor in the nation presses people to get the vaccine and follow proven anti-disease protocols because they work.
Disinformation: @007Guyver — Many have lost all perception of risk but that’s their problem. When rules are worthless and unjust, we are not only right to disobey them, we are obligated to do so.
Reality: This is not a war. No one’s rights are impinged. This is not a political problem. It’s a pandemic. It’s a microorganism that is incredibly efficient at invading the human body and using it to reproduce and spread to other human hosts, primarily by breathing. In doing so, it has killed 10,018 Colorado residents so far, more than 800,000 people across the country, and millions more have been sickened, many of them disable for the rest of their lives. No one has the “right” to purposely or thoughtlessly sicken and kill others.
Disinformation: @sburke85 — Masks don’t do anything except maybe make you feel good. There is very little we can do about COVID.
Reality: The data, collected and reviewed scientifically, is unequivocal. Vaccination, masks and social distancing greatly reduce the risk of spreading infection. Vaccination greatly reduces the risk of hospitalization and death. Because of attitudes and viral commentary like this, much of it prompted by irresponsible political leaders and right-wing propaganda news sources, we have watched an opportunity to harness or outright end the pandemic slip through our fingers. It is however, not too late to vaccinate, mask up and end the worst part of the pandemic, rather than listen to people like this and perpetuate the pandemic for many more months, and even, possibly, years.
Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected]