If anyone had told us that we would be combating COVID almost two years after its onset, no one would have believed them.
Many of us remember the two-week shutdown of businesses and workplaces across the country in March 2020 to stop the spread of the virus. At that time, the impression was that once we did this, we could bring the virus under control, and we could go back to life as we knew it.
Many liken our fight against COVID as a war. If this though were a true war and we had the level of casualties and deaths as in this one (now exceeding the number of those lost in the Civil War), there would be a public outcry. Instead, we’ve become numb and sadly unmoved by the weekly COVID statistics of deaths, hospitalizations, and overall cases.
Those numbers no longer register with us as being real people with families and friends but rather a cold data point on a chart.
One can chalk this up to COVID fatigue. For many the pandemic seems unending. One variant of the virus begins to fade with another rapidly replacing it.
We’ve become confused as to when the latest surge began or when it may end and in turn which guidance or restrictions may apply.
Many have resigned themselves to the uncertainty that the pandemic has created. We are cautious in our planning of events or travel, lest those plans may be canceled due to a surge in cases.
We’ve become tired and frustrated being controlled by this unwanted guest in our lives who greatly shapes how we live and what we can do.
For some this frustration has turned to anger over the latest health orders, while for others there is a sense of weariness and resignation as the pandemic continues.
A major contributing factor to the public’s frustration has been the inability to know where we are in this fight and how much longer the pandemic may go on. For that matter no one is even certain what victory may look like. Will it be an annual vaccination or multiple boosters over the year?
COVID fatigue has shaken the public’s confidence in our elected officials and health professionals who have been leading the fight on a national, state, and local basis.
This deterioration in faith in those leaders to a large extent may be attributed to the ongoing changing guidelines, the on again/off again restrictions and mandates, and somewhat confusing proclamations, findings, and statements.
While it might be easy to blame those individuals, we need to understand that they, too, have been learning about COVID as this pandemic has evolved.
To a large extent our disappointment in our leaders is due to our high expectations going into this fight.
We have grown up and live in a world where we have come to believe that science and technology can conquer anything. Not only do we want science to accomplish the goal but we want it achieved fast so that it does not disturb our daily lives or our freedom to do what we wish.
Unfortunately, our medical and scientific community have become victims of their own success.
People remember President Kennedy’s bold promise in 1961 to land a man on the moon within 10 years and in 1969, Neil Armstrong took “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” in walking on the moon.
Many others point to the country setting its sights on eliminating polio in the 1950s which was accomplished with the vaccine created by Dr. Jonas Salk. More recently, the WARP initiative under the prior administration to create a COVID vaccine in a fraction of the normal time to bring a vaccine to market was an amazing achievement.
COVID, though, has humbled us as to our abilities to conquer all things, science.
It is not the first time that this has happened, but we have short memories of our failures.
In 1971 President Nixon signed the National Cancer Act with the stated goal of conquering cancer.
It was implied that this “war on cancer” would be similar to the moonshot with the impression that cancer would be eradicated in a similar time frame (10 years). Yet, 50 years later cancer is still with us and while survival and recovery rates are much greater than in 1971, this disease still ranks as the second leading cause of death in the U.S.
Whether due to ignorance or hubris, our elected officials and even those in the scientific community failed to prepare the public fully for this fight.
They portrayed it initially as a battle that could be won in months, when this really is a protracted war being fought on multiple fronts and on a worldwide basis.
We are winning the war against COVID but it is coming at a high price, not only in lives and public treasure but also in a loss in confidence in some of our governmental and scientific institutions. It will not be easy to restore but time heals many wounds.
Greg Fulton, a frequent contributor to The Gazette, is the president of the Colorado Motor Carriers, which represents more than 650 companies directly involved in or affiliated with trucking in Colorado.