Back in the spring, Kansas decided it was more important to open bars in June than to send kids back to school in August.
About the same time, Kansans also decided that we cared less about protecting one another from a highly contagious disease than about people’s aversion to face masks.
And simultaneously, as a state and a nation, we decided it was fine to flout pandemic-related laws, especially since so many police chiefs, sheriffs and other law enforcement officials proudly refused to enforce them anyway.
Those decisions came with consequences. We never effectively suppressed COVID-19, and it’s now surging again across Kansas and the country.
Credible health authorities predicted this would happen. The same authorities warn that the state and the nation likely will see daily coronavirus death counts rise significantly.
Not that we have to believe experts.
Another thing we decided across large political swaths of the country is that we would rather smear the reputations of our top doctors and scientists than face facts.
To their credit, that didn’t stop most of the experts from trying to do their jobs. As a result, the death rate among those with COVID-19 is much lower than it was in the spring.
That’s because scientists and medical experts learned a lot quickly. They learned how the virus attacks the body. They developed better treatments. They learned what pharmaceuticals are effective.
Researchers also learned more about how the virus did — and did not — spread.
It’s information we didn’t have in the early months of the outbreak, when lockdowns and business closures were precautions that made sense.
With the information now available, we can target the kinds of activities and environments that put people at risk. There’s no need to enact the widespread shutdowns that were common in the spring. There are, however, plenty of reasons to take reasonable precautions.
No one should expect to eliminate infection risks entirely.
After all, risk is associated with many of our daily activities, such as driving a car. What we need to decide is what are reasonable risks and reasonable precautions, given the dangers posed by the illness.
That assessment needs to account not just for the possibility that we will get sick, but that we could unwittingly pass the virus to others.
Most of us have heard of the infamous Maine wedding. Sixty-five people attended. At last count, the wedding was connected to 177 COVID-19 cases and the deaths of eight people, none of whom attended the wedding.
The current proposals for "herd immunity" heralded by the White House basically call for 200 million Americans to get sick — while hoping millions won’t die. The plan is to encourage most people to get the virus, while further isolating those most vulnerable to developing deadly cases.
National expert Dr. Anthony Fauci calls the plan "ridiculous," saying it would be impossible to manage or enforce such an endeavor. The death toll would be disgraceful, even criminal.
Such measures also would be cruel. The pandemic so far has taken more than 220,000 American lives. Many more people have been kept from their spouses, family and friends for seven months or more; this would prolong their agonizing isolation.
It’s another ploy that substitutes politics for science. From the start, President Donald Trump has pursued a public relations strategy instead of following medical advice.
We are living, and dying, with the consequences.
A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers across Kansas.