"How can people be so stupid?" - (10/20/2020)

By Dr. Ron Gasbarro

The pharmacist was whipping up a batch of his special elderberry codeine elixir when he noticed a man entering the pharmacy without a facemask. “Excuse me, sir. We require a mask in this store,” the pharmacist said politely. “Oh, I don’t buy into that mask rubbish!” the man said. “I can see which side of the fence you are on!” Intent on keeping politics out of it, the pharmacist took out his temperature gun and zeroed in on the man’s forehead. “Whoa!” yelled the man as he ducked. “You’re invading my personal space!” The man proceeded to cough violently. “Where’s the cough medicine?” he asked. Mrs. Brown witnessed this encounter and whispered to the pharmacist, “How can people be so stupid?”

This past year, the pharmacist has locked horns with people who have funny ideas about the COVID-19 virus. Example: “The COVID virus is no worse than influenza.” Epidemiologists believe that the fatality rate of COVID is 5 to 10 times higher than that of the flu. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that the flu causes 12,000 to 61,000 deaths a year in the US. In contrast, COVID-19 has resulted in 222,400 deaths as of mid-October. Many people have partial immunity to the flu because of inoculation or by prior infection with one of the flu’s many strains. However, Planet Earth had only just encountered COVID-19. We do not know with what we are dealing. So, no, this coronavirus is not “just the flu.”

Are masks silly? Yes! They are also potentially life-saving. Since the virus caught us with our pants down in terms of a vaccine or medication, all we have are masks, social distancing, and hand washing. Is a vaccine on the way? Maybe. If a viable vaccine emerges, the process will take time to ensure that it is safe and effective. What is the dose? How many shots will we need? The usual length of time for vaccine development is 10 to 15 years. Ebola, a virus that causes hemorrhagic fever, was curtailed with a vaccine that took an unprecedented 5 years to develop. We are still working on an HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) vaccine. After 40 years, no vaccine for HIV yet exists. However, a healthy armamentarium of medications is available that has extended the lives of people with AIDS.  

But back to COVID. Some people are stubborn in accepting that the virus has a stronger will to live than they apparently do. COVID does not care to which political party you adhere or in which state you live. It is going to endure, especially if you defy it. You beckon it into the moist caverns of your naked sinuses where it sets up shop. If it kills you, then it just calls the COVID Moving Van Company and relocates.  

On the stupidity scale, is this stepping into Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” territory? Is it similar to fish that first evolved with legs to allow them to walk on land? But oops! Lungs to help them breathe on land were not included in the first iteration. Therefore, the fish with legs stayed in the water where they could breathe through their gills. Eventually, the legs became unnecessary, and only the fish that could breathe underwater survived. Is this what is happening now? Humans so willful that - even if explained using stick figures and finger puppets – they continue to refute the science and gradually become extinct. By the 30th century, history books will be replete with accounts of the human subset that would not wear a mask and died off from COVID. “What a bunch of dumbbells!” future scholars will say.

“Stay safe, Doctor Snowflake!” mocked the maskless man as he left the store coughing. The pharmacist muttered something under his breath. Mrs. Brown later told her neighbor Madge that it started with “go” and ended with “yourself.” You know the rest. 

Ron Gasbarro, PharmD, is a registered pharmacist, medical writer, and principal at Rx-Press.


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