Letter to the editor: Yielding some liberties for the greater good

Editor:

Posts on My Edmonds News have characterized government-mandated restrictions aimed at curbing COVID as “courage on life support” or people refusing to “take responsibility for their own health.”  It’s not clear to me what, exactly, they are advocating.  When a problem is as huge as the virus, the government is the only entity big enough to address it.

A million cases of COVID were reported last week, and on Saturday more than 1,300 people died – a number equal to three 747 crashes.  The first wave, in April, registered 34,000 new cases per day; the second wave, in July, reached 76,500 per day; Saturday alone saw 167,000 new cases. Nearly 250,000 have died from the virus. (Figures from the November 16 Washington Post.) Thanks to deniers, and to people who refuse to mask up and/or gather in large groups, the total will grow again.

Is “courage on life support”? Or are we turning to our elected government to do its legitimate job when things get too big for the individual to fight alone, especially given the disinclination of some to fight at all?

Certainly, everyone one must “take responsibility for their own health,” but expecting the government to play a central role is simple reality in the face of extremely complex medical issues, medical supply distribution, setting public health standards, using the National Guard for distribution and testing, and ultimately, enforcing standards agreed on by a consensus of the people whose job is to study all these things. The states where government has done the least are now the hottest hotspots.

A part of the social contract is that we yield up some “liberties” for the greater good: We wear bike helmets, we use seat belts, we refrain from texting while driving. We refrain from outdoor fires when the air is unhealthy. We no longer use outhouse pits in urban area. Is all this “…putt[ing] your faith in government to take care of you”? Or is it rather allowing government to fulfil its legitimate function?

Bluntly, I don’t want to live in a state or country where elected government abdicates its responsibility to take care of crises too big for the individual to handle independently, or when my “liberties” are allowed to pose a threat to your health and well-being.

Nathaniel Brown
Edmonds

28 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Yielding some liberties for the greater good”

  1. I like Mr Brown’s letter and reasons to use good public health methods to try to curb the virus. When I worked as a nurse practitioner, this is the time of the year that we always called “illness season”. This year’s illness season is much more dangerous. So I hope that everyone will follow the guidelines to protect themselves and others since for many, this is not an illness where you are sick on the couch for a week and then get better. It is one that can leave long lasting problems and for some, death.

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  2. Thank you for your reasonable approach to keeping the public healthy. The common good sometimes supersedes individual freedom.

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  3. There have been several reports of dying patients lamenting that they thought COVID-19 was a hoax, before taking their last breath. This week a South Dakota nurse described patients’ denials just before succumbing to the virus: “This can’t be happening, it’s not real.” The government mandated restrictions are sadly needed because, at some level, many of us remain in a state denial. Thanks to Nathaniel and Beth for emphasizing the need to take personal responsibility for the well-being of ourselves and others.

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  4. Yes, thank you Nathanial and Beth for speaking up. For caring.
    And hopefully our new leaders in the White House will be able to clear a way through the previous abysmal neglect to care and manage us through this huge threat to us all.
    It is a battle against a foe that takes lives. So needs to be taken very seriously. For everyone’s sake.

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  5. Of course people die, and it can be measured in 747’s. What is unusual about this. In 2020 about 2,500 people in WA died of CV-19. That’s about four 747’s. In 2018 about 3,600 people died of the Flu and Pneumonia. That’s about six 747’s.

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    1. This is typical trolling and gibberish. The 2517 deaths in WA due to COVID occurred in approx. 6-7 months, not 12. Not sure where your 2018 data comes from but Flu and Pneumonia are 2 separate disease conditions that you’ve aggregated. Washington department of health stats are that in 2018-2019 there were 245 deaths due to Flu.
      https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/5100/420-100-FluUpdateSeason2019.pdf

      It’s clear that COVID19 has stressed out our health care delivery system and the people who run it. You have every right to intentionally contract COVID, but you don’t have the right to spread it.

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      1. Don, please, you are trolling. Read your own link and it’s reference to the CDC.

        https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/how-cdc-estimates.htm
        “We look at death certificates that have pneumonia or influenza causes (P&I), other respiratory and circulatory causes (R&C), or other non-respiratory, non-circulatory causes of death, because deaths related to influenza may not have influenza listed as a cause of death.”

        There’s a lot of careful analysis there. Flu causes Pneumonia. CV-19 causes Pneumonia. The CDC’s “P&I” numbers are completely appropriate. The figures you’re referencing are Flu-deaths not associated to Pneumonia. CV-19 deaths would be drastically lower too if you didn’t include the onset Pneumonia. CV-19 patients are put on anti-biotics because of bacterial lung infections, not viral infection.

        Do a sanity check on your math. 80,000 people died from flu in 2018 in the US.
        https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/news/20180927/80000-americans-died-from-flu-last-year

        Here is a week-by-week comparison of Washington State P&I deaths (2018) along with a week by week comparison of P&[CV-19] deaths (2020), all data from the CDC.
        https://tinyurl.com/y3ompkdd

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        1. Flu and CV-19 MAY cause pneumonia, but hospitals are a major source of it. During a single hospital stay my wife almost died from it and after she recovered she contracted a second variety of it and almost died.

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  6. I just hope these folks don’t feel their liberties are being infringed when we both come to a four way stop. In my youth, a fellow took the liberty of drinking while driving, took the further liberty of ignoring a stop sign, and nearly killed me. I was the one who came a hair’s breadth from being on life support.

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  7. Fact check: From DOH.WA.GOV website, 2018-19 flu deaths (all strains) totaled 245 for entire state of WA. In 2017-18, the total was 296.
    Not remotely close to 3,600 and about ten times less than Covid deaths.

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    1. Please see the reply to Don. It is a well-known fact that about 80,000 people died from Flu (P&I) in 2018 in the United States. There’s no way WA accounted for only 296 of those cases.
      https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/news/20180927/80000-americans-died-from-flu-last-year
      https://www.usnews.com/news/health-care-news/articles/2018-09-27/cdc-80-000-people-died-of-flu-complications-last-season-in-us

      To Edmonds, many thanks to the support I’ve been getting on this topic offline. I’ve never been given so much positive feedback on any of my activity on MEN. Thank you.

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  8. Matt has some interesting points. I truly hope he lives to be my age! My grandkids are in their 20s and my daughter and son in law are not yet in the “vulnerable” age group. They are very respectful when we are near each other to maintain distance, and where masks as a way to “possibly” help keep grandpa and dad alive a little longer!

    I am hopeful that Matt’s and grandkids do the same for him whenever they may expose him to something.

    I am going to bet that in the future my family will take extra precautions when they have any illness that may be transmitted, CV, Flu or what ever. Matt you can count on me if I see you out and about, that I will do every thing I can to not infect you with anything! I know it will be you because you will not be hiding behind the mask! Smile!

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  9. I can totally wrap my feeble brain around a crusade against the virus but, I have to admit, I can’t quite understand a crusade in favor of the virus. I guess if you see killing off a bunch of the old, to make way for more opportunities for the young, this makes some sort of sense intellectually, but otherwise I just don’t get it.

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      1. I have no problem with anyone questioning anything. That’s what freedom and Democracy are all about.

        I just don’t get why anyone would promote spread of a potentially lethal virus, as opposed to fighting it with every available means, including masks and vaccines. From a pure logic perspective, I don’t get it, other than thinning the herd.

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        1. Clint, totally respect you. You should ask to have that taken down instead of doubling down. You insinuating that younger people want the virus to kill older folks for some sort of socio-econological advantage. Again, I appreciate you and love your activity and you are very often on point.

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  10. Virus diseases do not care about your political beliefs. Any idea that they will spare you because of some preconceived notion lacking in empirical evidence or because of something someone wrote on the internet is demonstrably false. All one can do to level the curve until a vaccine is available is to follow recommendations made by people who have earned the right to make them. No one likes waring masks or socially distancing, but if that is what it takes to keep our hospitals and morgues from filling up, then we would be fools not to employ such methods.

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  11. The WebMD article doesn’t agree with the CDC’s website, which states the estimate for 2017-2018 was 61,000 deaths (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden-averted/2017-2018.htm#:~:text=(Table%203).-,Conclusion,the%202017%E2%80%932018%20influenza%20season.)
    Numbers by state are not broken out by the same time period, they go by calendar year rather than flu-season year. They also only give combination influenza and pneumonia stats, from what I was able to find. For 2018, CDC has 930 deaths in WA and for 2017 it has 1041. (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/sosmap/flu_pneumonia_mortality/flu_pneumonia.htm)
    Matt, you hit on the comorbidity point a few times and that’s certainly true. Each system lists things differently, and it takes a lot to disentangle them. That they usually report pneumonia and influenza is just one example. And it doesn’t help that CDC’s report format for 2017-2018 is totally different from pretty much all of the other years.
    I looked at your graph with the FluView data for 2018, and that data isn’t consistent with these numbers, either. If all of 2017 and 2018 had 1971 deaths in WA due to P&I, the green line on your graph can’t be right.

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    1. Brian, Flu deaths in 2018 were originally totaled to be 150,000. There’s a lot of nuance and thoughtfulness in determining the causality of the death relating to the flu, and I’ve been reading through that and trying to understand the evolution of the methodology. The graphs I provided used the latest data from the CDC for the 2018 year. The numbers are retroactively adjust upwards and downwards depending on the chosen methodology. I don’t think any of us would argue that the same nuance and thoughtfulness is applied to CV-19 mortality.

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    2. ….also note, the green line on the graph is aggregated. FluView lists mortality for the flew as “Total Deaths” [by state including those not caused by P&I], then lists a percentage of those deaths caused by P&I. It’s just a matter of doing the math. There’s a legend to the data as well provided on the FluView website.

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  12. We get lots of nice stats on Covid positive tests and deaths. How many have recovered from Covid?? That would be another interesting stat when considering the ‘Greater Good’ !!!

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    1. But we don’t “have a lot of nice stats on positive tests.” We have a lot of assumptions.

      The common PCR test doesn’t assess viral load. Therefore, it cannot be known if the individual “positive case” is actually contagious. (There’s even a question as to whether the viral debris detected is even COVID-19)!

      Our officials and media are reacting/reporting as if every positive case is a contagious individual, and that is a gross misinterpretation of the data.

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  13. I’d just like to add a few thoughts, however, I do not believe that any fact or thought will convince anyone who does not wish to take Covid-19 seriously for themself or others.
    1) My mother died of pneumonia & she & millions like her should not be in the flu & pneumonia aggregate, as hers was completely due to leukemia, per her doctors. I question the original post’s 3,600 estimate.
    2) Covid-19 is much more contagious than flu, per the medical experts, thus the common-sense and simple prevention recommendations, regardless of their disregard by conspiracy theorists or others.
    3) Even young and healthy people cannot know how their own RNA and DNA might react to Covid-19. Medical articles exist to explain this. To extrapolate from one’s own top health condition that Covid-19 could not possibly make you regret ever contracting it is unavoidably foolish. For a person to always assume that something happens to others and not to them is not only taking an unnecessary risk, but also ignoring actual statistics/people which could very well be you or someone you love.
    4). If you’ve never been on a ventilator b4, that’s good. Our 25-yr-old son spent 2.5 months on one in ICU. Horrible experience. He is 10 times more likely to die of Covid than an avg. person per 2 new global studies including his population; these facts don’t lie.
    5) We are ever mindful of weary hospital workers daily and we take precautions for them as well as for ourselves and strangers. We care about and are considerate of others. If only…

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    1. FluView does not keep track of Pneumonia deaths caused by Leukemia as far as I can tell. The CDC even contextualizes the data saying that very few death records implicate the flu even though it was the catalyst for the other infections. That’s why its a model and not hard numbers.

      Forget Influenza for a moment … Why don’t we all wear masks every year to protect ourselves from Pneumonia? Pneumonia is killing people infected with CV-19 as well.

      I am sorry for your loss.

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  14. You could probably have all your questions answered by highly educated medical experts if you genuinely want answers and desire to respect their knowledge and responses. My civilian understanding is that pneumonia is generally an opportunistic disease that takes advantage of one already either compromised or predisposed. You know, I’m sure, that it can be bacterial, viral, or fungal in origin . Nasty pneumonia superbugs can be picked up while in the hospital. So, yes, it can be contagious, but for a healthy person without underlying conditions, I don’t think that it is terribly contagious, thus masks aren’t warranted. One doesn’t generally hear of spreading pneumonia. Our son was hospitalized several times for pneumonia and we weren’t asked/expected to wear masks at his bedside ever. Pneumonia is often a secondary condition and opportunistic to many other primary diseases. Again, COVID-19 is highly transmissible (more than flu) and there is a global pandemic now. It’s irresponsible to ignore & argue about the unacceptably high numbers in our states and the rates of hospitalizations that are wreaking havoc. The exponentially increasing numbers in the US are shameful and preventable. We have an annual flu vaccine which is pretty good (not 100% and varies in effectiveness yearly as they attempt to target the strain that will be circulating). We do not yet have a COVID vaccine in the arms of a massive number of Americans and it will take time to roll out to the willing and we likely have a lot more to learn about COVID vaccines and COVID itself (mutations, etc.). So, this will be my last comment about simple, preventive methods to keep our numbers, illnesses, long-term irreversible effects and deaths down – a mask, social distancing, not gathering…just until medical experts advise otherwise.

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    1. CV-19 therapeutically is treated with heavy antibiotics due to pnemonia. Again, I dont see why influenza causes pnemonia is counted different than cv-19 caused pneumonia. My pot committal theory really explains why we’re less happy when the data I’ve shown doesn’t show CV-19 as being any more dangerous than flu. We’re looking for ways to say it isn’t so.

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