With the advent of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in the fight against SARS-COV-2, the time is ripe to foster a public conversation on how to return to a normal social life. This conversation will not be easy, and still faces numerous uphill strongholds. Some public health officials are claiming that returning to a normal way of life may not be feasible until 2022. Along with this has been the fact that fear is still the predominant narrative surrounding SARS-COV-2.
The crippling fear has only been further solidified through the continued use of highly restrictive NPI’s (non-pharmaceutical interventions). Whether it is lockdowns, school closures, stay-at-home orders, or reduced capacities for businesses, there is little evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of such measures in stopping the spread of the virus.
The exhausting and destructive nature of these practices can no longer be considered legitimate options. While there continue to be unknowns about the virus, we should at least affirm what we already know. The pre-SARS-COV-2 scientific tradition on restrictive and prolonged mitigations is rather clear on this. In a 2006 journal article, “Disease Mitigation Measures in the Control of Pandemic Influenza,” the authors offered the following judgment regarding restrictive measures in a pandemic, and their connection to human flourishing:“Experience has shown that communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events respond best and with the least anxiety when the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted.”
Now that we have passed the one year anniversary of the SARS-COV-2 pandemic, we must consider how it is that we can begin to restore the normal social functioning of our communities. It is in this light that I will offer the following proposals.
First, those who have positive antibodies should be strongly encouraged to return to a normal social life. The natural immunity from other coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS, which are similar to SARS-COV-2, reveals that the duration of the antibodies lasts around 1-3 years. While there is still a level of uncertainty regarding the strength of the antibodies, there is growing evidence suggesting that the antibodies for SARS-COV-2 are likely to be long-lasting. In light of these findings, such individuals with antibodies to the virus ought to be advised to recover a normal life. In particular, those who have the antibodies for SARS-COV-2 should be told that they would no longer need to wear a mask, nor should they need to continue practicing social distance measures.
This first proposal would be a sign that we are using the best of what we know about immunity and its relationship to SARS-COV-2. Typically, when someone is exposed to SARS-COV-2, they and those around them will self-quarantine for up to two weeks. Once the quarantine ends, these individuals will then look to have one or more PCR tests that come back negative. While there is certainly merit to this protocol, it also seems to be a rather unfruitful practice at this stage of the pandemic. Numerous seroprevalence studies of SARS-COV-2 have shown that the number of people who have actually been infected is roughly ten times higher than reported cases claim.
In addition to those who have the antibodies, we should be encouraging those who have received a vaccine to return to a real level of normalcy. Much of the societal conversation around lockdowns, or individuals who were limiting their public presence more generally, was centered around the feeling of safety that a vaccine would provide. Citizens would feel less anxious and be willing to live in society again once a vaccine was safely developed. The vaccine has arrived, with millions of people already having received one, and there seems to be almost no noticeable change in practices or beliefs.
If the vaccine is supposed to enable us to return to a more normal way of life, how is it still the case that fear has barely abated? It does not seem to be the case that, as more people get vaccinated, the safer people will feel. This narrative must change.
Finally, there needs to be greater emphasis upon the fundamental role that increased immune and metabolic health plays in fighting against this virus. Initially, our primary concern was that of protecting our hospital systems so that they would not be overrun. And now, we are hyper-focused on restrictive measures so that fewer and fewer people will ever become infected with SARS-COV-2.
Instead of fear, our dialectical framework must shift towards what individuals and communities can do to increase the best defense they have against viruses, namely, their own immune system. We could, for example, encourage and educate citizens on the prophylaxis and early outpatient protocol treatment offered by a group of physicians in the Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance. These physicians continue to highlight the substantive research showing the protective and enduring capacity of taking a daily regimen of Zinc, and Vitamins D and C in the fight against SARS-COV-2. Additionally, as Dr. Mark Gordon has recently argued, there appears to be good evidence of coupling Quercetin with Zinc as a powerful agent for enabling Zinc to penetrate the cells to kill the virus.
This focus point, along with eating foods that help decrease inflammation in the body, also allows us to see the potential for the current vaccines in their proper light. Due to the intensity and duration of the present societal restrictions, it is a natural effect to believe that a vaccine will ultimately be the antidote. And yet, to borrow a phrase from the political philosopher Joshua Mitchell, a vaccine is a supplement, and not a substitute, for health. Vaccines can certainly be effective, especially for those who are extremely vulnerable.
At the same time, exaggerating a vaccine’s impact not only undermines public trust. Simultaneously, it provides a narrative wherein individuals begin to conceive of health as the highest good, which ought to be protected at all costs, no matter the outcome.
The proposals offered here are simply a starting point. More creative alternatives to lockdowns and restrictive mitigations must be pursued, and quickly. What is at stake here is not whether we should do what is reasonably possible to protect those who are most vulnerable. The deeper question is whether a truthful account of human flourishing can merely be reduced to safety. Matthew Crawford puts this issue in a focused light: “the safer we become, the more intolerable any remaining risk appears”. In this light, the more we cling to safetyism, the more certain we will prevent ourselves from returning to the normal functioning of our common lives. We should be ready, and willing, to reject this debilitating worldview. Our happiness and flourishing is at stake.
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