Editor’s Note: Michael Wagar was previously the publisher of Nisqually Valley News. He now resides in Lewis County. This commentary was initially published in the NVN’s sister newspaper, The Chronicle.
In the history of mankind’s dealing with pandemics, at least one fact rings true — they always end.
Hopeful new indications point to perhaps the beginning of the end of these calamitous times, as cases across the globe for the most part are in decline. That is certainly true for Lewis County. Gov. Jay Inslee this week declared our county is now entering into Phase 2 of his reopening plan on Monday, meaning restaurants now can seat at 25% capacity, fitness centers can also open at 25% capacity and sports competitions can resume (with limited spectators).
The Phase 2 designation is based on case rates, hospitalizations, intensive care unit capacity and positive test percentages.
With an estimated availability of full vaccinations by this summer, I believe both the shots and an increase in people already having the virus, will lead to what will be the new normal. I imagine people will wear face masks in the future (perhaps not all that much in Lewis County), but life will return to normal.
But that all supposes the virus is even real.
Where I live, up on a hill above Lake Mayfield in Mossyrock, it is definitely Trumpland. Most of my neighbors are what we call ReTrumplicans. Many, if not the majority, believe the election was rigged against both Trump and gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp. Despite Trump losing by about 7 million votes, and Culp behind Inslee by 545,000 votes, they still believe their politicians were jobbed and robbed.
They also enjoyed dining at nearby Spiffy’s Restaurant as the owners thumbed their noses at Labor and Industry officials calling for closure. I’m sure most of my neighbors who did frequent Spiffy’s did not wear facemasks.
The truth, however, is that the virus is very much real.
This past Thursday, the county reported 42 new COVID-19 cases. Since March, the county has reported 2,864 cases and 36 deaths.
My neighbors, however, believe the numbers are inflated, perhaps not even real. They state doctors are paid $4,000 every time they sign a death certificate with the cause of death the virus. They believe this is all some type of conspiracy to steal the freedoms from Americans and usher in a new world order, or some such catastrophic change. Many still believe Trump will somehow retake the White House, that God has a miracle just around the bend.
I just happened to visit my doctor on Thursday as part of an annual checkup. I asked him what his response is to the $4,000 allegations. He chuckled. “If I could make $4,000 by fraudulently signing fake death certificates, I’m all for it,” he jokingly said. Becoming more serious, he said once a week he does virus duty somewhere in the area. He said he has seen plenty of people die from the virus.
But he also said you can’t change people’s minds if they are set. People will believe what they want to believe, despite contrary information.
I will stick with my own facts on this one. Two close friends from Lewis County have suffered from the virus in the past month or so. One was bedridden for about two weeks. The other was hospitalized for a few days. My uncle came down with the virus and died. My aunt was not able to be with him, as she also was in the hospital with the virus. A former co-worker's husband died from the virus a couple weeks ago. A nurse friend working in an emergency room in Seattle knows the virus is real as she experiences death and sadness from the virus on a regular basis.
I’ve known the most intelligent of people fall for financial scams, religious fakers and the like.
My neighbors are not dumb. They are smart, creative, successful people.
I do not pretend that everything I believe is right. But I also know how much misinformation is out there.
As William Shakespeare wrote, “A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.”
So, I’ll be a fool for believing the virus is real, that people suffer and die from it.
What to do? I’m not going to try and get the hoax believers to change their minds. I’m not that big of a fool.
But I am going to be a bit conservative on this one and wear my mask, try to keep a decent space between me and others, and wait just a bit longer to visit loved ones and friends in person.