The political philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre once observed that the surest obstacle preventing someone from seeing the “facts” in front of them is their particular theoretical vision of the world. In other words, if I am going to affirm that there is a real table in front of me, I can only do so because my worldview gives me such capacity of affirmation.
This connection between the facts and our theoretical account of the world is quite relevant to the current Covid-19 pandemic. SARS CoV-2 will, very soon, have been a part of our life for a full calendar year. Since so little was known in the early stages of the pandemic, there was not much to say other than what was being seen in hospitals. The initial worry, rightly so, was whether or not hospitals could withstand this mysterious virus. At the present time, it seems mostly clear that hospitals are, and will continue to be, more than capable of responding to the current public health crisis.
For many reasons, this truth still appears to be not only called into question, but even openly rejected. The prevailing narrative continues to be that systemic collapse of our hospitals is right beyond the horizon. Like most of the stories told about SARS CoV-2, the goal posts have once again moved.
A recent article on the condition of hospitals in the Cleveland, Ohio area is just one more example of what I am describing. What is telling about the news report is the particular narrative lens given at the beginning of the article: “Several hospitals in Cuyahoga County are almost at capacity due to surges in Covid-19 cases in the state of Ohio.” If the reader is unsure how to understand the data underneath the opening paragraph, it is clear how one is supposed to read it.
And yet, when one reads further down into the article, it becomes rather clear that just two of the hospitals are even inching towards capacity, namely, Hillcrest and Southwest General. The other individual hospitals, and the counties as a whole, are either at a relatively normal capacity level, or even well below capacity.
Along with this, there is another point to keep in mind. According to one source, the average reported hospital stay for admitted Covid patients in early March was 10.5 days. Compared with the data from the month of September, the average length of stay for an admitted Covid patient is just under 4.6 days. And this number, as of December, is likely to be around 3. Thus, with the strength of the therapeutics readily available (and lets not neglect the multi-faceted ways that food and supplements are a great protectant as well), the concern about hospitals being overrun is not merely a leftover worry from March and April. It seems no longer disputable that our hospitals are more than capable of handling the virus. Instead, the continual barrage surrounding hospital capacity squeeze is fundamentally about peddling a narrative centered upon fear.
At this point, the most common and immediate reaction will be something along the following lines: “Well, one only says such things because you believe that the virus is not real.” Such a position is a non-sequitur. The argument would run like so: “You believe our hospitals can sufficiently handle Covid-19 and our ICUs will not be overrun, therefore you do not think the virus is real.” There is nothing whatsoever in the premise that provides a grounding for such a conclusion.
And yet, is this not an all-too-common way of thinking and feeling? To question the hospital capacity narrative is to reveal oneself as pushing a conspiracy theory. Such a person is dangerous, likely voted for Trump, and should certainly be considered a threat to democracy, science, and “facts.”
To uphold the claim that our hospitals will endure through SARS CoV-2 is not equivalent to saying that the virus is not a real thing. Of course the virus is real. The more substantive matter is what we are actually doing to help those who really need to be protected as best as reasonably possible without destroying the rest of society. Consider that at least 40%, if not more, of the 300,000 deaths coded for Covid-19 in the U.S. are from those who were in long-term care facilities.
If the effort to vaccinate was truly about protecting people, then the first to get the vaccine would be those in the highest at-risk category (along with allowing healthcare workers the voluntary ability to take the vaccine or not). Unfortunately, this is not being done. Instead, what we are seeing is a theatrical production. Some individuals are displaying their virtuous actions by having public audiences observe them taking the vaccine. This is a rather strange tactic to facilitate public trust, unless the goals are more emotional than logical in nature.
The crisis we face is not whether our hospitals can adequately respond to the virus. The doctors, nurses, and hospital administrative personnel have once again demonstrated why they are so good. This is not in question. The larger problem actually centers around the appearance of reality and what is actually the case. The mainstream media, with few exceptions, wants the appearance of overrun hospitals to be the case. The narrative on display has been to close the gap between what appears real and what is real. Yet, further examination almost universally reveals that the gap between appearance and reality is much greater than we first see.
The health of our communities will depend upon citizens’ being willing to suspend judgment when looking at the varied images placed before our eyes. Be patient—and have the humility and courage to affirm that the truth is behind those images and first-level narratives.
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