By Stephen Tuttle | Nov. 28, 2020
Some day historians may be able to identify the moment when too many of us stopped believing in science or facts and, instead formed our opinions based on social media, polemicists we see on television and hear on the radio, and worst of all, politicians.
We're currently in the midst of two excellent examples.
We now know quite a bit about the novel coronavirus and its transmission. We like to call these things facts. For example, we know the bug is most readily passed from an infected person by tiny droplets, including really tiny aerosolized droplets, that we exhale, especially if we cough, sneeze, sing, or yell. We know those droplets can travel several feet and hang in the air for up to four minutes.
We also know about 40 percent of those infected are completely asymptomatic but fully contagious. We know those asymptomatic carriers are the group most likely to infect others. We know that contagion is most likely to occur indoors in a group of many people, especially in a home. We know the current nightmarish surge is perpetuated by these gatherings.
And we know how to prevent most of it — masks that cover our nose and mouth.
At least a dozen published papers have already confirmed the efficacy of masks that cover the nose and mouth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes universal mask use in public would reduce coronavirus infection rates by as much as 70 percent. Epidemiologists and infectious disease experts are nearly unanimous in their opinion that such mask use is critical.
We're doing a lot better at keeping infected people alive, but we aren't doing even the simplest thing to prevent transmissions in the first place. Yet masks, of all things, have become a symbol of irrational protests and defiance. We eschew the very thing that could prevent business closures, on-again-off-again schooling, and other restrictions that are, at a minimum disruptive and at worst destructive.
Listening to and believing the politicians and commentators who are neither scientists nor experts while ignoring or denigrating those who are is just stupid. You would think that with a million new cases a week and hospitals at or nearing capacity, we'd at least agree on universal mask use. And for far too many, you would be wrong.
Meanwhile, the election results have made some people lose touch with reality altogether. We'd have to include President Trump, who at least publicly refuses to acknowledge the obvious, in that category.
Trump has claimed thousands of dead people voted, some voting machines were programmed to change his votes to his opponent's, poll workers changed votes, votes that arrived after deadlines were counted, and so on. (You might recall he claimed millions of illegal immigrants voted in 2016.)
Since no evidence exists that any of that happened, his lawyers have been having difficulty in court. The wild assertions they can make at a press conference don't work too well where actual evidence is required. No lawsuit has yet succeeded in changing any outcome anywhere, nor has one established any fraud or other irregularities.
Rudolph Giuliani is now apparently Trump's lead lawyer, and nobody has made wilder and less substantiated accusations. Early on he claimed the mob in Philadelphia fixed the election for Biden, an effort led by a guy currently on some kind of house arrest in Florida. Then there was that mysterious computer server on a U.S. military base in Germany that was used to electronically change votes.
But Giuliani's most colorful and absurd claim was that a computer algorithm developed for or by former Venezuelan Socialist despot Hugo Chavez somehow was able to magically change Trump votes into Biden votes in the five states that flipped from Trump to Biden. Hugo Chavez died in 2013, so we have to assume this clever bit of programming was developed before that. It sort of makes one wonder why they didn't implement the thing in 2016 and avoid the current unpleasantness altogether.
There is no evidence for any of it, which is why the Trump team keeps losing in court. In fact, there is significant evidence this was an unusually clean election. International election observers said as much, as did the 16 federal prosecutors who also observed, as well as the secretaries of state and county clerks who ran the elections. Our own Department of Homeland Security said it was the “most secure election in U.S. history” with no outside interference or electronic tampering.
Real science tells us masks help prevent the spread of a virus that has infected nearly 13 million of us and killed more than 260,000. Joe Biden won the election, and there is no evidence of widespread fraud or other irregularities. Ignoring those facts requires willful ignorance endangering both our health and our free election system.