At a press conference on Friday, Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris was exasperated. And sad. And maybe a little angry and confused. At a couple of points, Harris genuinely seemed on the verge of tears.
And why wouldn’t he be? For nearly two years, the man has been caught in the middle of one of the most maddening, emotional, deadly, infuriating mass casualty events in the recent history of this country. More than 12,000 Alabamians have died of COVID-19, part of the more than 650,000 Americans dead from the virus in less than two years.
Yet, somehow, we are more divided than ever as a country over this pandemic. Or, to be more accurate, over the mitigation efforts for this virus.
One side is screaming about masks and vaccines and social distancing and be safe. The other side is convinced … honestly, I don’t know what in the hell they’re thinking, other than the opposite of all the safety stuff.
Harris, along with all the rest of the doctors and nurses and scientists and teachers and superintendents and anyone who has thoughtfully made a decision in which they tried to do their best to protect the health and well being of people, have all found themselves caught in the middle.
Shouted down. Screamed at. Assaulted. Threatened.
Harris had to wear a bulletproof vest.
Let me repeat that: The state health officer, a mild-mannered doctor who everyone genuinely likes, was advised by state law enforcement officials to put on a bulletproof vest. Because they thought someone might try to kill him.
As crazy as that sounds, it’s probably true.
A teacher in Texas had her mask ripped off by a parent. A doctor who spoke at a school board meeting in Tennessee needed police protection to get to his car and was threatened by protesters the entire way. Nurses have reported verbal assaults leaving work — so many that they’re changing out of their scrubs at some hospitals to avoid the confrontations.
School board meetings have turned into absolute chaos that require police to be present. City council meetings are heading in that direction.
There are fights at stores. There have been shootings of store clerks by enraged customers. Airplane cockpits have seen more punches thrown than the inside of an MMA ring.
And what I can’t figure out is WHY IS EVERYONE SO MAD?
Seriously. Why are you people acting like maniacs over this? Are you really trying to fight doctors in a parking lot over that doctor saying he thought wearing a mask would best protect your child from a deadly virus?
Because that’s insane.
What do you think is going on here? Do you think the doctors and teachers and superintendents and scientists have an agenda? And what, besides trying to keep you and your family safe, would that agenda be?
Do you understand what I’m saying here? Those people you’re yelling at and threatening and assaulting — the worst thing any of them have done is try to protect you and your loved ones by recommending or requiring that they wear a mask.
It’s fine that you disagree with it. Masks aren’t a perfect tool to protect people, but there is evidence, and a few studies, that show they reduce the spread of the droplets that carry the virus.
And maybe all of these people and all of their studies are wrong. Maybe masks don’t do a damn thing. And if that’s true, at the end of all this, when we finally get this virus under control, the awful result of wearing masks that didn’t really help will be that we wore masks that didn’t really help.
On the other hand, the much more likely scenario — since you anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers have been wrong about every single thing so far — is that we learn in the future that masks were somewhat effective in stopping the spread. And that somewhat effectiveness will equate to saving hundreds, if not thousands, of lives and preventing serious illness among your fellow Americans.
Maybe it would keep your mom or dad healthy. Keep your grandmother out of the hospital.
Maybe that mask in a school will prevent you from sitting by a bedside watching your young child struggle to breath. From having hushed conversations with a doctor in a hospital hallway. Or maybe it’ll be even simpler: you won’t have to miss work to care for a sick child for several days.
You do understand that that’s what all of these mandates and requirements are about, right? These people aren’t requiring masks and pushing vaccines because they’ve got some nefarious agenda. They’re not trying to get one over on you.
They care. About you. About the health of their fellow citizens. About the kids they’re in charge of ushering through life five days a week. About the elderly patients they care for every shift. About the at-risk patients they see on rounds every day.
Even if they’re 100 percent wrong (they’re not, but even if they were), what they’re doing comes from a place of caring and concern.
And what you’re doing, with all the yelling and screaming, comes from a place of crazy. Stop it.