The Daily News took a social media beating the other day when we published a guest column that apparently rubbed many folks the wrong way.

The author wrote about being bewildered by some of the hoarding choices made by fellow shoppers at a local market, especially in the face of what he has determined to be a “massive media scare.”

Clearly, there’s something about the coronavirus pandemic — or at least some elements of it — of which he is wary. And he’s not alone. Doubters and resisters are everywhere.

Looking at the reader comments on the column, clearly there are aspects of the writer’s perspective of which many people are equally wary. Vehemently so.

Despite requests to take down the original guest column, we left both it and the dissenting comments where they were.

This health crisis has taken much away from us as a society. Jobs, for some. Retirement savings. Loved ones. And simple pleasures such as gathering with friends.

One thing it hasn’t taken, however, is our right to our own opinions. Not just having them but expressing them. And the right to question. The right to refuse to idly accept what we’re being told. It’s what Americans do.

As a vehicle for reporting the news in our news sections and engendering conversation and interpretation in our opinion sections, we’re glad of it.

But aside from the coronavirus, something else seems to be spreading as well.

It’s a fast-moving wave of judgment. And it’s ugly.

Social media is full of damning posts from would-be virologists bellowing about what you should and shouldn’t do to avoid it and once you’ve contracted it. Parents are under pressure about how to craft the perfect homeschool experience. Some people are being shamed for carrying on with everyday life, whereas others are being shamed for not carrying on with everyday life.

As of Saturday at least, neither the state nor the county are on mandatory lockdown such as California, New York and Illinois are. But we all have been asked to stay at home as much as possible and to not even venture to work unless we are essential employees at essential businesses.

But who are any one of us to say who is essential or not, aside from the glaringly obvious? The guy down the street who heads out to work in the morning looking nothing at all like a doctor or a police officer, EMT or other first responder just might be the guy who makes sure your trash gets picked up. Or who keeps the city water flowing to ensure you can flush when you want to. Or who delivers your elderly neighbor’s medicine.

It’s simply not for any one of us to judge whether he ventures to work or shelters in place. Just raise a coffee cup, say good morning, and wish him well.

We’re all in this together. We’re already mandated to physically distance ourselves from each other. The last thing we need is to compound that distance on a deeper level by judgment or snobbery or ignorance.

Margaret Battistelli Gardner

Margaret Battistelli Gardner: 409.683.5227; Margaret.Gardner@galvnews.com

Deputy Managing Editor

Margaret joined The Daily New in December 2019, bringing more than 20 years of editorial experience to the team. A Philadelphia native, she lives in Galveston County with her husband, Steve, and their dog Nanook.

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(29) comments

Charlotte O'rourke

As community spread of covid 19 continues to increase, I wish more masks were available for both healthcare workers and for non healthcare essential workers and shoppers who must be out and about. Some people shop for more than one household.

It would be calming to know that our government is working on it and has put into place the actions necessary for industry to make increased PPE equipment and ventilators.

Thanks for the reminders.

Bailey Jones

No judgment? No snobbery? No ignorance? What are we, Canadians? [beam]

Here's a Buddhist story -

Many centuries ago, in a monastery in Burma, a young man was practicing meditation. It was the monsoon season. One day the young man's teacher inquired about his progress.

"Master, every day I meditate to find peace, but every day it rains. The sky is gray and gloomy. Everything is soaked and rotting, everything stinks. How can I find peace in such a place?"

His teacher replied - "The problem isn't that it's raining. The problem is that you were expecting sunshine."

Karen Alberstadt

Thank you - I completely agree! My personal experience has been positive - customers and employees in the grocery (pretty much the only place I've been recently) have been polite, even pleasant. Everyone is under stress - I believe maintaining courtesy in this uncertain time is essential to maintaining our sanity.

I'm also tired of hearing criticism of our government. No one had heard of this disease 3 months ago. To criticize our leaders for not being prepared, for not knowing the answers, for not having enough tests or gear is so counterproductive. How in the world were they supposed to prepare for this?

Charlotte O'rourke

Hi Karen, I agree that overall our leaders are doing an exceptional job in trying to keep us safe and calm in very stressful times.

When an issue arises where healthcare workers are begging for intervention, constructive requests and calls for action should be seen not as criticism for criticism sake but seeking solutions to a known problem.

The American Hospital Association (AHA), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the American Nurses Association (ANA) have sent a joint letter asking the President to invoke and implement the DPA for desperately needed medical equipment to fight Covid 19.

Ive been praying every day that President Trump will clearly articulate what he has already implemented and will implement to calm the nations fears and provide the life saving equipment.

In the 3 months leading up to this crisis point, the leadership should have already assessed and addressed this known equipment and testing supply shortage. While pointing fingers is counterproductive, it’s not counterproductive to call for decisive and immediate action from our federal government.

Bailey Jones

We're really much better at planning for things that have already happened. For instance we have the Strategic Petroleum Reserve because of the oil embargo in the 1970s. The government maintains a huge number of chicken farms, just in case we have another flu pandemic (the vaccine is made from eggs). We have strategic stockpiles of wheat, gold, rare earth metals, helium, antibiotics, and yes, even ventilators, just in case we ever need them. We have something like 30 million simple surgical masks and 12 million N95 masks. But in a major pandemic event, you may need 300 million. It's not an unfair question to ask why, 4 weeks ago, when the world's primary manufacturer of masks stopped exporting them and started buying up the world's stock for their own epidemic, we didn't ask US companies to begin making them here, for us. Just in case.

Charlotte O'rourke

[thumbup]

George Caros

Because it's a hoax remember.

Lucille Rees

Less passing of judgement is always welcome. Nice article. Thank you.

Wayne D Holt

It's called a free press for a reason. Too many Americans want to lock down diversity of opinion and plausible views that happen not to coincide with their own. This polarizing along quarantine lines is coming at a time we are already deeply divided along political lines; it just is more of that frame of mind.

I am firmly in the corner of one who were alarmed by the healthcare aspects of this epidemic early on but now feel we are wading into uncharted waters and doing serious damage to ourselves. There is no "economy." There are men and women who need to work to be able to support their families and buy the necessities of life. We are making that impossible and creating entire new healthcare issues we'll have to deal with from our overreaction at this point.

Using an abundance of caution in a response that is solely healthcare related is appropriate. When it begins to do significant damage to other vital parts of our social structure it becomes inappropriate. The standard now should be risk management and a considered risk/reward balance. No one can claim not to see what is happening across America. The incidence of fatalities as a percentage of cases is dropping fast as more people are tested. Meanwhile, out on Main Street USA, the carnage is apparent and the fear is real. We need leadership that is clear-eyed about our choices going forward. If we get to the point of supply side interruptions of the food distribution system it will be too late.

Bailey Jones

"The incidence of fatalities as a percentage of cases is dropping fast as more people are tested." I haven't seen data that supports that. The worldwide numbers today, as near as I can find them, are 14,356 deaths / 330000 cases, which is over 4%. The US numbers are 414 / 32000, which is 1.3%. That's about the same spread we've seen before. In the US, the number of cases is still doubling every 2-3 days. It was just 4 or 5 days ago that the number of cases was 8500. Four or five days from now the number of cases will likely be 128000. 1,000,000+ cases by the end of March. That's 13,000 deaths at the lowest rate. We're 7 days into the "15 days to stop the virus" timeline. I see no evidence that it's stopping, or even slowing. The good news - it may be peaking in China and Italy. I think this will take more than 15 days. Hopefully not more than 30. I don't see how we can relax the isolation measures while the numbers are still rising exponentially. Right now, it's up to Congress to give the economy a cash transfusion to keep it alive a few more weeks.

Wayne D Holt

I'll see if I can relocate the data on fatalities, Bailey. On another post, someone responded that the rate of growth was more germane than absolute number of cases. I agree. Again, the information I saw was that the rate of growth was relatively stable as an R0 of 1.1. Cumulative case totals include the 80-85% who experience no exceptional medical issues and are better. The remaining 15-20% seem to be more vulnerable due to pre-existing conditions which the virus takes advantage of with lowered immune responses, or related complications.

The 2003-2004 flu season resulted in nearly 49,000 flu related deaths and the CDC says flu deaths are probably underreported. Does anyone remember modified martial law in cities in 2003-2004 due to the flu? How about a Federal Reserve president talking 30% unemployment? Help me here, because I don't have a recollection of any of that. If not, why not? And more importantly, why now?

Bailey Jones

Here's the difference. According to the CDC, the US might expect between 9 and 45M flu cases in a year (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/index.html) with a hospitalization rate of between 1-2%, and a death rate of about 0.13%. (And then there's the whole issue of "flu death" vs "flu associated death" - https://aspe.hhs.gov/cdc-%E2%80%94-influenza-deaths-request-correction-rfc)

COVID seems to have a hospitalization rate in the 10-15% range, and a death rate in 1-5% range. Worst case numbers, assuming 45M infections, is over 6M hospitalizations and 2,000,000 deaths. A note on hospitalizations - we have less than 1,000,000 hospital beds in the US. The absolute BEST case scenario is 900,000 hospitalizations and 90,000 dead.

People like to refer back to the H1N1 outbreak - 12,000 deaths out of 60M cases. With a moderate death estimate, 2%, a similar outbreak of COVID kills 1.2M Americans. That's a population death rate of 0.36%. Apply that worldwide and you get 27 million dead. And if it gets established in the human microbiome, it will come back in a new mutation every year, just like the flu. Millions dead, year after year after year.

The way to keep the worst case from happening is to slow the virus by eliminating it's ability to jump hosts - social isolation. It will absolutely wreck the economy in the short term.

One way to judge the seriousness of this pandemic is to look at China. China wouldn't blink at losing 50,000 or 100,000 people. But they shut the whole country down to stop the spread of COVIC - because they know that letting it spread would result in potentially 3 or 4 million dead.

Keep an eye on the numbers. I believe that we are seeing a doubling of cases every 2-3 days. If I'm right, expect over 1700 US dead by the end of this week, breaking 50,000 by the middle of April. If that doesn't happen, then I imagine that the crisis will be declared over, and we'll have suffered a very bad month economically, but we will quickly recover. If those numbers hold, then we are looking at a very bad time indeed.

Jim Forsythe

It boils down to if you let it go unchecked, the estimated 70% that will contract it will cause our hospital system to be overwhelmed. We will not be able to handle the 15% of the 70% that require being in a hospital. Some countries have had to decide which people will not get treatment. Without treatment for these individuals, many will not survive because the places that had to do this choose the people over 70 that would not receive treatment.

At this time we can continue to do what we are doing, or choose to end up like Italy. I'm in the group that would be selected to receive no treatment, are you?

This is from March 11, 2020. Things are getting worse in Italy. Keep in mind that the population of Italy is about 60,482,000.

"Those who are too now old to have a high likelihood of recovery, or who have too low a number of “life-years” left even if they should survive, would be left to die. This sounds cruel, but the alternative, the document argues, is no better. “In case of a total saturation of resources, maintaining the criterion of ‘first come, first served’ would amount to a decision to exclude late-arriving patients from access to intensive care.”

Not a nice way to die.:"Italy has 10,149 cases of the coronavirus. There are now simply too many patients for each one of them to receive adequate care. Doctors and nurses are unable to tend to everybody. They lack machines to ventilate all those gasping for air."

Carlos Ponce

When President Donald Trump and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced travel restrictions on China, the mayor of Florence Dario Nardella labeled this racist, hate and insult. Mayor Nardella tweeted "#AbbracciaUnCinese" - in English #HugAChinese. This politically correct move led to many to be infected.

Jim Forsythe

What does the mayor of Florence Dario Nardella have to do with the official policies of Italy? The fate of the Italian government now rests in the hands of President Sergio Mattarella.

Carlos Ponce

"What does the mayor of Florence Dario Nardella have to do with the official policies of Italy?" He's a Left wing influential.

Carlos Ponce

Think about it this way, Jim. What does the mayor of New York City Andrew Cuomo have to do with the official policies of the United States? or What does the mayor of South Bend Pete Buttigieg have to do with the official policies of the United States? Many Lefties in this country listen to them.

Jim Forsythe

Carlos, if the mayor of a USA city had said something like that, would Trump care? Would Trump change what he wanted to do? Would Trump change if AOC said this?

President Sergio Mattarella is now in charge, and not Dario Nardella.

Carlos Ponce

Trump would not care what a mayor of a US city says. But then again Jim Forsythe and many Democrats don't care what Trump says.

Mayor Dario Nardella has a huge following and is a member of the Italian Democrat Party. Sergio Mattarella is an Independent. Do some Italians pay more attention to the politics of a person rather than the person in charge? That's true in this country also.

Jim Forsythe

Since Mayor Nardella tweeted "#AbbracciaUnCinese" he owns this and no one else. Just as Trump owns his Tweets.

Carlos Ponce

"he owns this and no one else" and the people who took his PC advice don't own it? Oh, that's right.... may they Rest In Peace.

Jim Forsythe

When a leader makes a statement, they own what outcomes happens. Mayor Nardella tweeted "#AbbracciaUnCinese", he owns this statement.

A leader leads, and if they are wrong they own it. If a leader tries to blame others for his misinformation and mistakes, they are not a leader.

Carlos Ponce

And the people who died or got ill for following his lead?

Jim Forsythe

If someone follows a leader that gives bad advice they must understand what is wrong with it or they will pay the price of following the wrong leader.

When one is an adult, you are responsible for your actions. If you follow the wrong leader, it's on you.

Carlos Ponce

Jim posts,"A leader leads, and if they are wrong they own it." And "If you follow the wrong leader, it's on you." Uh-huh. Looks like back tracking.

Jim Forsythe

What's your point? I have stated that a leader leads and if a person follows they are followers. A person in life chooses what part they play. Which part the choose, they own. If you choose to follow Trump, you own whatever the outcome for you is. Trump owns whatever the outcome is from his action.

A true leader makes no excuses if what they say goes wrong.

Carlos Ponce

Changing topics again? I was responding to your post about Mayor Nardella. Now you change it to President Trump. SHEESH!

Jim Forsythe

We were talking about leaders. If you do not think Trumps a leader, I understand why you would not want him included.

If you follow Trump's lead, you are the follower and Trump is the leader. If he is wrong about whatever he tweets or does he owns it. If you follow Trump and he is wrong, you own it because you as an adult could have chosen not to follow the wrong information. Leaders do not make excuses but own what they have done wrong.

This is when you opened it up.

Carlos Ponce Mar 24, 2020 5:42am

Think about it this way, Jim. What does the mayor of New York City Andrew Cuomo have to do with the official policies of the United States? or What does the mayor of South Bend Pete Buttigieg have to do with the official policies of the United States? Many Lefties in this country listen to them.

Carlos Ponce

"This is when you opened it up."

Did I bring up Trump? No, just the mayor of Florence, Italy. I mentioned other mayors. Was Trump ever a mayor? No.

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