Image from The Atlantic
Why can’t we get this virus under control? Because of primal urges, impatience with the lock down, not understanding or believing the science and a lack of trust by the naysayers. These are things that will never change regardless of the crisis. We were pent up for two months waiting for the virus to die down. We didn’t wait long enough. There the numbers were, in black and white, which we ignored. Did anyone follow the guidelines for reopening? After all, they are just guidelines. But get this, they are guidelines that save lives, opens the economy safely and gets us back to a place that is near normal.
Instead, we have rampant disregard for doing the right thing. Wearing a mask has now come front and center as the main way to control transmission. For whatever the reasons, there will be those who won’t wear a mask regardless of the consequences or who says to wear one.
I doubt we can force a subset of people to wear masks. One subset is the group in their 20s and 30s. They will inherently cave in to primal urges that precludes wearing a mask. They go to bars, go to parties, and have sex with asymptomatic carriers. None of those activities make mask wearing a fun thing to do. I get it. Primal urges win out over killer cold viruses every time. No amount of preaching will change that.
And then there is the person who believes he is on the fringes of society; not accepted for who he is, typically blue collar, and goes through life feeling like his voice is not heard. Not wearing a mask is his way of saying “ I won’t wear a mask just because someone is saying that’s what I’m supposed to do. I decide what I’m supposed to do”. It is the one thing he has control over because he has no control over anything else in his life. Defiance is his power play, regardless of the consequences.
In the meantime, that leaves us in a predicament. How do we reconcile these differences? Even if some people are forced to wear a mask, there will always be a group that won’t wear one. No matter what. Let’s face it. Even Dr. Fauci can’t convince those people. And look at the millions he has convinced.
The answer lies not in getting everyone on the same page, because that is obviously not going to happen. The answer is testing. But two things have to be in place before this works. Testing has to be plentiful; that is, available to anyone anytime they need it and results must be immediate.
Just think of the possibilities! Go to work each day knowing every single worker will be tested. Positive result? Go home for 14 days. No having to wait days for test results while others spread the virus. Act immediately, control the spread. You can breathe a sigh of relief knowing your coworker is virus free. Want to have a family get together? Everyone tests the day of the event. All who are negative get to visit. Any who are positive are out of luck this go round. But at least the positive one didn’t spread it to all the others. Want to party with your friends? Have a COVID testing party! Picture everyone on Zoom, all doing the test at the same time, then showing the results on the monitor for all to see. Gotta keep everyone honest you know. All who are negative can party hardy. Anyone who is positive stays home and watches Netflix. Teachers can teach and students can learn without worrying as much about getting sick. Not to mention the number of cases spared from not spreading the virus in schools.
Having immediate test results has profound implications. With fast test results you know within minutes, not days, if it is safe to do whatever you want to do. You know if you must quarantine. If you are positive it takes you out of circulation, thus preventing spread of the virus. Compare that to finding out test results in days. Waiting so long for results is part of the reason why we are in a mess. While waiting, the people who are positive are spreading the virus to multiple people, who then spread it to multiple people, and on, and on. It may make some of the non-mask wearers more likely to wear a mask since they know a test is coming up. Sorry, no getting out of wearing masks until a vaccine gives most of us immunity.
There will be new problems to deal with if testing is readily available to everyone. That is because tests are not perfect. There are false positives and false negatives which ultimately means you are taking a risk. Tests would need to be available for anyone to purchase. In the beginning they would likely be in short supply due to demand. Tests will probably be expensive, which should make people think about the right moments for when it is best to use a test. Some with positive results may try to hide the fact so they can party anyway. Not smart since they will be discovered when someone else gets sick and tracing gets back to them. Black marketers will scam people with fake test kits that aren’t accurate. And then, there must be a way for local health department staff to capture the results. That will be a daunting task. None of these potential problems are insurmountable and certainly should not stop fast, easy testing.
At this stage in the pandemic I find it interesting that professional athletes can test every day but hospital workers in some areas are not tested at all until they have symptoms. People are waiting in cars for hours for a test that can take two weeks to get results. Our priorities seem somewhat misguided in that respect. The Trump administration does not want to fund more testing. From what I have read, many influential people are trying to convince the administration that more money needs to go into testing. If any part of the pandemic needs funding, it is testing. The Trump administration needs to understand that testing gets us out of this dilemma, not worsen it.