Guest Editorial: Politics and Virology Don’t Mix

By Alexander Lomax

As a liberal with a science background, I have had myriad things to say about this pandemic. Initially, my beef was with the politicization of it, primarily from the right. The desire to nullify it, compare it to the flu, and to reject simple modes of reducing transmittance was at least somewhat a top-down driven movement, led at least de facto by a President who simply couldn’t deal with a pandemic in an election year (or any other year, for that matter). The pendulum always does keep swinging however, and for the sake of balance and intellectual credibility, it’s time to have a talk with my fellow liberals…

I’ll preface this by saying that while I have thought about this particular op-ed for a while, what spurred me into actually writing it was a recent trip to perhaps the pre-eminent liberal hotspot of the United States: the Pacific NW. While I was there I saw fear; I saw that fear manifested via actions designed to nullify most non-existent risk. After seeing probably 25% of drivers driving with masks on, and folks being masked up while walking by themselves with no one around, all the while in an area with very low infection rates, it was clear that perhaps the pendulum had moved too far.

I was vociferous in my views that while we were still figuring out what this virus was, that caution was prudent. I was similarly loud about how if we feel confident that simple harm-reduction methods like masks and distance work, then we should embrace them. So with that spirit in mind, I will be similarly pronounced when I say…there is such a thing as being too cautious.

I’ve known many friends who have been afraid to leave the house, who are only now leaving the area for the first time in over a year (and likely others who haven’t yet ventured). Many of them are relatively young and able-bodied. Caution is warranted, but losing a year of your life to being holed up is not a good use of our most precious resource.

One thing that I learned from this pandemic is that there is a certain subset of the population that seems to get a kick out of bathing in concerns and negativity; fear-porn, I like to call it. And it disappointments me that folks who once talked about the importance of science now seem to think that the virus is transmitted like pollen during allergy season. Science has turned into a simple buzzword.

Life is fleeting; it was before this virus and it will be afterward. There are many beautiful things that can be enjoyed safely, things that are much better for the soul than embracing fear. I hope that my fellow liberals embrace as much life as they can as soon as they can; they may not have much more left, as our existence is fickle.