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On the Mirror of Infectious Disease

We are potential vectors. We are potential patients.

That’s true of us as individuals, and it’s true of our various social spheres: home and workplace, town and city, county, state, and nation.

Just as the infected individual has an immune response, so do our social collectives. We limit contact, we increase awareness.

COVID-19 is a danger because it is novel to our bodies. If we’d seen it before, we would be far less susceptible. But as society, we have seen infection before. We could choose to be far more prepared. Preparedness is a vaccine for the unknown.

Just as the individual’s circumstances prior to infection make a difference, so do the community’s. States that expanded Medicaid are more prepared than those who did not. States with large populations tend to have more experience with public health out of necessity that large numbers brings.

But state-prior-to-infection is only one part. How the body reacts, the circumstances of convalescence, is another. Again, we could be prepared, having more thorough plans, but we have a mixed bag. We don’t have a plan for the uninsured. We don’t have a plan for the wage worker. Maybe we’ll get one.

The main thing about infectious disease is that it can be planned for. It is messy either way, but it doesn’t have to be too messy. It is among the predictable disasters. We tend to do poorly with them all, only because we have not chosen to prioritize them, to practice them.

Most of that is the monetary decision, which the market has been correcting for. That, as a society, not as individuals, the choices were made. Build bombs, not hospitals. Build tax cuts, not infrastructure. Build oil rigs, not wind turbines. Build cars, not trains.

Each choice society makes has a consequence. Each individual in a society makes a choice, to go to a crowd in the midst of a plague or not. To isolate if they believe themselves exposed, or not.

Each society that makes a choice has a consequence. The town that gets sick or doesn’t. The county that funded its hospitals or didn’t. The state that expanded Medicaid or didn’t.

The bottom line: if you don’t like how this turns out in your neck of the woods, you should go vote in 33 weeks for other people who (maybe) will improve things for the next time around.