ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Associated Press File Photo / The World Health Organization announced Monday it was "very rare" for the COVID-19 virus to be spread through people with asymptomatic cases.

If people around the world are facing a crisis of confidence, it's no wonder.

On Monday, the head of the World Health Organization's emerging disease and zoonosis unit said it is "very rare" for people with asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 to spread the virus.

If that were true, and the official said more research must be done to confirm it, the suggestion that everyone stay at home, wear masks and shut down the economy falls apart. In other words, a global recession may have been caused unnecessarily.

Admittedly, it is a lot to swallow, though you can find people who have said similar things for months.

The World Health Organization (WHO) official, Maria Van Kerkhove, said public health organizations should be focused on symptomatic individuals, should isolate them, should follow their contacts and should isolate those individuals. Doing so would drastically reduce the outbreak, she said.

A day later, after criticism, she backed down, said "very rare" was the wrong term to use and claimed she'd been relying on a subset of studies. She even allowed that some models had shown as much as 40% of transmission of the virus could be from asymptomatic people.

So much for trust in an organization President Trump — to the horror of his foes on the left — said weeks ago the U.S. would no longer support.

On the same day as Van Kerkhove's initial statement, the WHO gave its tacit approval to protests against racism, which have spread to Europe and Africa following an outcry in the United States over the death of a black man in custody at the hands of a white Minneapolis policeman.

"WHO fully supports equality and the global movement against racism," director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a media briefing. "We reject discrimination of all kinds. We encourage all those protesting around the world to do so safely. Clean your hands, cover your cough and wear a mask if you attend a protest."

Since no dramatic breakthroughs had been announced supporting Van Kerkhove's pronouncement, it was an easy leap to tie the entire COVID-19 pandemic to politics.

We weren't ready to fully make that leap, but we understand why more Americans were.

Barely over a month ago, protesters who wanted states to reopen their economies and put people back to work were unmercifully criticized by governors, health officials, the national media and others.

A blog by two professors at Southern universities, while allowing that among the protesters were people who expressed concerns about their jobs or the economy as a whole, suggested the lot was populated with "conspiracy theorists, white supremacists" and "citizens' militia members." The protesters risked spreading the virus, disrupting traffic and potentially delaying ambulances, they said.

"[W]e believe these protests may become a way right-wingers expand the spread of anti-Semitic rhetoric and militant racism," they said.

Calling the job protesters "idiots," the head of the National Association of Manufacturers said those who wanted the economies to open six weeks ago were endangering lives.

"These people are standing so close together without any protection — with children, for God's sakes," said Jay Timmons. "And they have no concern, and it's all about them, and it's all about what they want. ... But the one thing, the one thing we know right now that you shouldn't be doing is you shouldn't be coming in contact with other human beings, outside of your immediate family, your nuclear family."

Now racism protests are spreading, with no signs of dissipating, no social distancing, sporadic mask wearing, and chants, shouts and singing that can make the spreading of the virus much easier.

"We should always evaluate the risks and benefits of efforts to control the virus," Jennifer Nuzzo, a Johns Hopkins epidemiologist, tweeted last week, according to Politico. "In this moment the public health risks of not protesting to demand an end to systemic racism greatly exceed the harms of the virus."

A similar view came from the former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Tom Frieden, who fiercely railed against the efforts to rush the reopening of the economy in a Washington Post op-ed but is firmly in the corner of the current mass protests.

What changed? No breakthrough. No long-term study. Certainly not the disappearance of the virus.

We have no argument with people who peacefully protest against racism, but we believe the recent protests have made Americans even more unsure where they can place their trust.

Health experts? Nope. Politicians? Nope. The national media? Nope.

Unfortunately, with no one in sight on which to rely, cynicism often follows such a crisis of confidence. And this is one crisis to make even the cynical, cynical.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT