For almost eight months, I didn’t know a single person who had contracted COVD-19. This made the virus seem far away, even though my family and I would regularly look up reports and examine the number of cases per county and state. The virus was a source of fascination, but an impersonal one.
Nonetheless, my family cared—and still cares—about keeping our community safe. Like most families in our town, we masked up, began sanitizing countless times per day, and practiced appropriate social-distancing. We avoided overreactions, unnecessary preventative measures, and nonsense, lest we be coerced into living in fear. However, we simultaneously wanted everyone to stay healthy.
Then, while I was at Bible study one day at the University of Chicago, I received a text from my 14-year-old brother, Andre. His COVID-19 test results had come back positive.
“Well, I guess I personally know one person who has the virus now,” Andre joked. He explained that he had been feeling a little bit run down and had been staying home from school, having a very slight fever. When my father called me shortly after receiving the news, he joked sarcastically over the phone: “So I have bad news for you. We can’t host your friends anymore for election night and we had to cancel our dinner reservation for Mom’s birthday. The good news? Andre is doing just fine and your mom and I are too. It is very mild.”
Regardless of their reassurances, I could not concentrate for the rest of Bible study. Thanks to the news reports detailing tragic deaths of young teenagers at the hands of the virus, I had not been this scared by something in a long time.
Upon returning to my dorm, I called Andre. He picked up immediately, in very cheerful spirits—cracking jokes left and right about his newfound “free time while under house arrest.” Although he was coughing occasionally, it was nowhere comparable to the graphic descriptions of the disease I had read about in many articles. Andre was not experiencing “delirium.” Nor did he have “debilitating fatigue and nausea,” as detailed by one patient who was interviewed by the New York Times. In fact, according to Andre, COVID-19 was “a bit worse than a cold.”
Andre’s case is more normal than not. Let us run through the numbers and set things straight. The six-digit death tolls are no joking matter, and COVID-19 is something that needs to be duly addressed by our government. However, over 80% of those who contract the virus experience few to no symptoms.
Consider also that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the CDC, and that COVID-19 does not even come close. In 2017, heart disease killed 647,457 Americans, generating a death toll of 198.8 individuals per 100,000. In the state that has suffered the most from the pandemic, New Jersey, the death toll of COVID-19 is around 184 individuals per 100,000. And let us not forget that the Garden State is the hardest-hit state in terms of deaths proportionate to population, whereas the national death toll of the US from the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins, is 69.59 deaths per 100,000.
While there has been no shortage of alarmist articles commanding residents to stay home at all costs, few Americans simultaneously claim that heart disease needs to be immediately addressed.
By no means am I diminishing the need to implement necessary measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, as our country’s best and brightest work to produce a vaccine in record time. And in an ideal world, nobody would catch COVID-19. However, the virus is an unfortunate reality—and the question becomes how we, as a country, react to this.
We have two choices: we can respond to the virus with reason and caution, or we can live in constant fear and isolation. Like all pandemics, people will get infected with COVID-19, and some will ultimately, and tragically, die. This is not meant to be a cruel statement; it is merely the definition of a pandemic. However, this fact does not justify an overreaction. If you are sick or are feeling sick, do your community a service and stay home. Wear a mask when necessary and avoid large, public gatherings. And if you are in a population particularly vulnerable to the virus, then it is certainly reasonable to take extra precautionary measures.
That said, Americans can handle the virus cautiously, while nonetheless proceeding with their lives. When my brother tested positive, my parents opted to stay home with him. They were willing to take this risk, because they knew that they were in healthy condition. My family was quarantined for the necessary time period, in order to eliminate the spread of the virus to our neighbors and our community. And after my brother recovered, they returned to their lives.
In other words, I place trust in the American people that they know the amount of risk they are comfortable with and that they will handle the current situation responsibly.
Far too many politicians, especially those on the left, take a different approach, opting to weaponize the virus and further their partisan political agenda. During the final presidential debate, former Vice President Joe Biden consistently made pandering statements to this effect. According to Biden, my family is hurting badly. There is going to be an empty chair when my family wakes up tomorrow morning. And Biden weaponized the virus to meet his own political ends, by arguing that Americans would finally have “science” on their side without Trump in office—despite federal-government guidelines, Operation Warp Speed, and the deployment of ventilators and personal protective equipment. Therefore, Biden’s signature phrase should be revised: “If you got a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t dying enough from COVID-19.”
Well, I have news for Biden. The science says that up to 80% of cases, including my brother’s case, are either asymptomatic or mild. According to data from the CDC, the COVID-19 death toll plummets for those under 65 years old to approximately 16.29 per 100,000 individuals—which is roughly three times less than the death toll of accidents for all age groups. So, please, stop the scare tactics. Stop politicizing the virus. Stop preventing Americans from working to earn their livings, going to school, and seeing their loved ones. We Americans see past Biden’s fear-mongering rhetoric, and we have had enough.
And do you know what, Mr. Biden? Just because you are telling my family that we are hurting and that we need your help does not mean that we are hurting or that we need your help. It turns out that Americans are good at planning and we know what it takes to combat a pandemic. My family will continue to handle the virus with caution, and we will otherwise resume our normal lives. And we, like most Americans who recover from the pandemic, will do so without allowing politicians like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to control our lives.
*The views expressed in this article solely represent the views of the author, not the views of the Chicago Thinker.