Editorial: COVID-19 pandemic shows freedom is not affirmation of selfish entitlement

Posted October 21, 2020 5:00 a.m. EDT

CBC Editorial: Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020; Editorial #8600
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company.

Here’s what President Donald Trump has been saying about the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. First, a trigger warning. Believe it at the risk of your life or the life of a loved-one.  “The light at the end of the tunnel is near. We are rounding the turn,” Trump told supporters last week at an event in Fort Myers, Florida. “Don’t listen to the cynics and angry partisans and pessimists.” The president’s proclaiming at his cheek-to-jowl-packed campaign rallies: “We’re a winner on the excess mortality. … We have the vaccines coming and we have the therapies coming. … We have done an amazing job.”

Here’s the ominous warning Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota offered on Sunday:
“The next six to 12 weeks are going to be the darkest of the entire pandemic.” Vaccines and treatments maybe “coming down the pike" but not soon enough to slow the impending jump in cases. “When I was on this show last on Sept. 13, we had 33,000 cases reported that day. You may recall I warned that we were going to see a very dark fall. Friday, we had 70,000 cases, matching the largest number we had seen back during the really serious peak in July. That number, we’re going to blow right through that. And between now and the holidays, we will see numbers much, much larger than even the 67,000 to 75,000 cases.”

Dr. Osterholm has nothing to gain with his dire outlook – other than the hope that people will heed the warning and take appropriate action.

That failure by the Trump administration has taken its toll. Only three nations – Mexico, Spain and Brazil -- have a higher death rate (deaths per 100,000 population) than the United States. Death rates are lower in India, Poland, Iran and Romania.

Even those, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, who have in calm and respectful ways, sought to get the president to adopt a more cautious approach to the pandemic, have been on the receiving end of Trump’s petty scorn and unearned insults. “People are tired of hearing Fauci and these idiots, all these idiots who got it wrong,” Trump said Monday.

That same day the number of U.S. COVID-19 cases increased to 59,269 per day, a 34% increase from the average two weeks earlier. More than 8.8 million Americans have been infected and more than 220,000 have died. In North Carolina, the number of cases has exceeded 247,000 and deaths surpassed 4,000. New cases per day are averaging 2,080 – close to the highest rates of this summer.

In North Carolina, somewhat fortunately, Gov. Roy Cooper has been taking his cues from medical and scientific experts like Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state Secretary of Health and Human Services. In the face of misguided notions of freedom and partisanship, misinformed carping from politicians like Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and Senate leader Phil Berger, they’ve ignored Trump’s dangerous notions and lack of leadership.

While the numbers in North Carolina are serious, the state’s approach has demonstrated more effectiveness than the lack of caution in South Carolina and Georgia. North Carolina has the lowest COVID-19 death rate of any of its neighbors as well as a significantly lower case rate – with the exception of Virginia.

Even as some of our institutions, including schools, seek to phase back to in-person activities it is coming in fits-and-starts as the deadly spread of COVID-19 remains unpredictable and difficult to contain.

Callous and frivolous notions of acceptable casualties, particularly among the old and infirmed ignore the obvious. None of those who die of COVID-19 have been fated to it. Each is loved by someone – as a parent, child, sibling, spouse relative or friend.

The ways to deal with controlling the spread are not about limiting freedom, but rather affirm the notions of freedom that inspired our nation’s founders.

Freedom is “doing as we like, subject to such consequences as may follow, without impediment from our fellow creatures, as long as what we do does not harm them even though they should think our conduct foolish, perverse or wrong,” said John Stuart Mill in “On Liberty.”

It is selfish entitlement that gives anyone license to, by choice or purposeful neglect, ignore and put at risk the liberty and life of others.

No society that values freedom can survive on these terms.

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