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FIRST-PERSON: COVID paranoia

EDITOR’S NOTE: Edwin Leap is an emergency room physician in South Carolina.

WALHALLA, S.C. (BP) — I have physician friends around the country in hospitals large and small, and I would like to say a few things to fellow Christians about COVID-19.

Let me assure you that it isn’t a hoax. This is a very real virus that causes a very real disease. Since it first emerged, clinicians and researchers have learned a lot. However, there is still so much to know. But, this is not a fake, not a trick, not a lie.

Most people who get this coronavirus have minimal symptoms. Research even suggests that a large number get no symptoms. That’s reassuring.
On the other hand, some people become dangerously ill and are hospitalized. Some develop heart inflammation, stroke or blood clots in their lungs. That’s worrisome. While most of these are older individuals with preexisting health issues, some are young and otherwise healthy. We don’t know enough to predict who is most likely to get sick.

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Too many people have died. Most of them in our hospitals died without family at the bedside because of the risk of spreading infection.

Have public health officials and medical personnel been “spot on” about COVID-19? Hardly. Mistakes have been made. Advice has been given, retracted and given again. This leaves the public distrustful of experts. They become especially distrustful when the opinions of experts left them jobless, depressed and fearful at home for months.

But scientists and physicians are human beings, subject to error just like everyone else. I believe in my heart that even though they have been wrong at times, the overwhelming majority have been doing their best to save lives and understand this nasty little bug.

Who else is wrong? Those Christians who stoke fear and suspicion. Who, without any good evidence except social media posts, suggest vast conspiracy theories and tell people that public health guidance about masks and social distancing is part of a ploy to control the masses.

When the dust settles, we’ll know who was ultimately right and who was wrong. Until then, let’s just be as safe as we can and respect those who are doing their best to keep us alive.

I don’t want to see any more shutdowns. But I also don’t want to see any more people die because we, in our paranoia, ignored reasonable guidelines for public health.

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