According to the CDC, in the 2019-2020 Flu season, it is estimated that 39 million to 56 million were infected by the illnesses, 410,000 to 740,000 hospitalizations and 24,000 to 62,000 deaths
By contrast, in 2020-2021, it is estimated that 2 million to 5 million were infected by the illnesses, 26,000 to 54,000 hospitalized and 1,500 to 4,500 deaths.
If we were to continue socially distancing during Flu season in the future and keep COVID protocols in place, lives will be spared. But there is a cost. The cost is how much inconvenience the culture is willing to accept to accommodate someone who is vulnerable. We build ramps now for those who are in a wheelchair. We slow down in school zones where kids like to play. We wash our hands before preparing a meal. We don’t double dip in community bowls.
That is remarkable. Now obviously this was the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic where social distancing, washing of hands, wearing masks, isolating were all in place. We do all these things because we care. Because the culture functions better when we can agree upon this invisible set of rules. But will we continue to wear masks? Get vaccinated? Boosted? For how long? Has it been long enough? What about the children?
All questions with no easy answers. All questions that the culture will have to decide: What rules do we want to make and what happens when someone breaks them? Is it the state’s responsibility or the markets or communities to enforce these rules?
But I think the key question going forward with COVID is What is the acceptable level of death we are willing to tolerate in our culture?
If that number is zero, we will have to isolate especially as variants continue to sweep through. If that number is millions, we can go back to life before 2020. Or maybe it will be somewhere in the middle. The tug-o-war of individual freedom and protection of the masses will continue. The Flu is something that we have lived for all our lives, we never stop to wonder before 2020 that maybe we should be masking for someone else. The conversation is evolving. What’s next will say more about what we value and prioritize the most.
The policy reflects someone’s agenda.