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EDITORIALS

Give credit to pandemic truth-tellers

The (Independence) Examiner

Among the heroes of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic are the public health leaders who have tried to cut through sustained political interference and the fog of disinformation to give the public a clear picture of what the country is going through.

It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s not the job of health officials to concern themselves with optics or with the next election.

The nation has chosen a halting and half-hearted response, and we are paying a price. Washington has no coherent strategy beyond advice and — appropriately — throwing a lot of money at a handful of companies trying to develop, test and produce a vaccine. The state of Missouri also has chosen a non-policy other than its crossing fingers and saying people ought to do the right thing.

Meanwhile, this remains a “red zone” state, and even the White House says Missouri needs a mask mandate. Eastern Jackson County has been in the “red zone” — a positivity rate of 10 percent or higher, meaning significant community spread of COVID-19 — for almost three months.

The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said repeatedly that the country could get this under control — drive it into the ground was his phrase — if people would simply embrace the use of masks and other simple, safe steps such as social distancing. It seems, now we’re in the fall and headed into the cold-and-flu season, that message might at last be getting through.

One or more vaccines will come eventually, but it’s foolish to fall into silver-bullet thinking. It’s prudent and effective right now today to use the tools and protocols at hand: wash your hands, wear a mask, get a flu shot, stay socially distant, avoid large gatherings of any type.

TV is full of ads and other messages implying that “back to normal” is here or at hand. Those ads are trying to sell you something — a new truck, a vacation, a candidate. But wishful thinking does not change the facts at hand.

We’re a little more than half a year into this disease’s rapid spread across the United States, and chances are that we’re still nearer the beginning of this than the end. Milestones such as 200,000 deaths in the United States and 1 million worldwide were dismissed as hysterical in the spring but now come as just another headline.

Those who try to explain this away say grievously unhelpful things such as, “It’s just the hospitalizations that matter” or “It’s just the deaths that matter.” Then one of those measures goes up, and the rhetoric shifts to another metric. All of which marginalizes the families left behind, those who are gravely sick for long periods and sometimes left with permanent health problems, and the steady damage to local businesses caught in this lingering struggle.

The sooner we choose to get serious about the pandemic the sooner the economy — paychecks and profits — can get stable.