STREET SMART: Don't overreact

 

March 26, 2020



m a month working in Seattle. I got there just in time to be in what the media has referred to as “the epicenter of the coronavirus in the United States.” The media response to this virus is extensive and, in my opinion, potentially dangerous. I recognize that the coronavirus is quite serious, but I also believe that the constant reporting is a hazard. I’ve seen this happen before with the AIDS epidemic. I’d like to try to explain my opinion by drawing a correlation between what happened then and what we’re seeing now.

I was a police officer in Los Angeles in the early ‘80’s when AIDS first hit our country. I remember that initially, AIDS received sporadic attention in the media. The disease was thought to be rare and impacting only gay men. However, after a short period of time, the media began reporting more and more AIDS illnesses and related deaths. It was soon reported that there was no cure and getting the illness was the equivalent of a death sentence. Before we knew it, we had an epidemic on our hands, and we were not prepared to deal with it. The news was full of reports about AIDS, much the way it is now with the coronavirus. Soon, AIDS was all people talked about (sound familiar?). People had questions that couldn’t be effectively answered because no one understood the disease. Since no concrete answers were available, people began filling in the blanks themselves. Because of the constant reporting about AIDS, a panic set in and that panic lead to myths and misinformation regarding the disease.


I clearly remember being told by my superiors that AIDS was transmitted via bodily fluids and that a person could get the illness quite easily. We (police officers) were warned by our bosses that if we were so much as spit on by an AIDS infected person, we would contract the disease. Contact with another’s blood, saliva, and sweat are occupational hazards and a regular occurrence for police officers. However, other than being quite unpleasant, that sort of contact had never been especially dangerous. Now we were being told such an occurrence might be deadly. It was a sobering thought and it generated a great deal of discussion. These talks actually went to the point of discussing the potential use of deadly force on a person who was trying to spit on us. The theory being, that a person, who knew they had AIDS and was trying to spit on us, was attacking with a deadly weapon (AIDS infected bodily fluid). These were serious discussions taking place in roll calls all over the city. It seemed ludicrous to consider shooting someone for spitting on us, but there we were talking about the possibility. It was like something out of a bad SciFi movie. An example: I recall one incident where an AIDS infected male wanted to commit suicide. This person called the police and began to spit on the responding officers, hoping they would shoot and kill him (a phenomenon known as “suicide by cop”). Thankfully, that didn’t happen, but what if it had (maybe it did somewhere else… I don’t know)? It would have been a tragic and unnecessary death caused by the hysteria about a misunderstood disease. Another side effect of the hysteria was that hate crimes against the gay community rose dramatically.


How to report the coronavirus creates a difficult situation for the media. The public wants and needs to be informed. However, I believe that the constant reporting is creating a familiar hysteria. I’m not suggesting that we ignore the reporting. We need to listen to the direction we’re receiving from the experts as they learn about the disease. I am saying that we should guard against an overreaction to what is being reported. We’ve all seen the reports of people getting into fist fights over toilet paper (hoarding of toilet paper makes no sense to me…I think that when the need arises, the average person will find a way!), lines at the gun stores, and a shortage of disinfectant wipes. I think everyone should slow down, take a step back and look at what we know about coronavirus based on facts…not speculation or rumors.


Sanders County Ledger canvas prints

The World Health Organization has reported that 80% of the people who contract the coronavirus will have “minimal” symptoms and many won’t even know they have the disease. That report alone should be comforting. The experts tell us that coronavirus symptoms are flu like and that the disease (although quite contagious) is transmitted in much the same manner as the flu. They tell us to wash our hands regularly, don’t touch our faces and to cover our mouths if/when we cough. Simple enough right and shouldn’t we do all of this anyway? I was taught the same things in kindergarten. Additionally, if you feel sick, stay home until you feel better. Reports indicate that social distancing is having an impact. Take these steps seriously. These are things all of us can do to protect ourselves and one another. Also, the Center for Disease Control reports that the most at risk are those 60 and over with underlying health issues. Ironically, the same is true for the common flu, so we need to understand that too before overreacting.

One final opinion, it really angers me to see how this situation is being politicized. This is an instance where politics should be sidelined for the good of everyone. I think it demonstrates a lack of focus and integrity when politicians use a situation like this virus for political gain. Everyone is looking to point out how something is mismanaged by another rather than working to help address the problem effectively. Theories abound for the political reasons this is all happening a few months before the election and some of them may have merit. Maybe I’ll discuss that later. For now, I’d just like to see all politicians stop the B.S. and get to work on what’s important. Teddy Roosevelt said, “Complaining about a problem without posing a solution is called whining.” I couldn’t agree more!

Blaine Blackstone is a retired Los Angeles Police Sergeant who enjoys the simpler life in Thompson Falls. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

 
 

Reader Comments
(1)

puddlejumper writes:

AMEN BROTHER !!!!!!!!!!!!

 
 
 

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