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Togetherness: Enemy And Solution

As human beings, we like being together. This is our strength and, right now, our weakness. The coronavirus knows this and that is how it attacks.

I remember, as a kid on the farm, that one of the things my Dad feared most was Brucellosis, a bovine disease that could wipe out a whole herd. We tested and vaccinated for it every year. If one cow was infected, it was expected that we would have to destroy that cow and perhaps the whole herd in order to stop potential spread to other dairy farms. (We never had an infected cow, and today this very contagious disease has been mostly eliminated in the dairy industry).

What this experience taught me though is that sometimes “togetherness” can be bad. From what I have read, I think this is what contributed to the demise of the brown bat population with the “white nose” fungus. All clustered together in caves, they got infected.

We human beings are a distinct species, and usually aren’t vulnerable to the same viruses as animals. (For example, I never feared getting sick from dairy cows growing up). However, in COVID-19 we have a virus that has mutated somehow from animals to humans. This is what makes it especially dangerous for us.

As I understand it, there is some thinking in the medical community that if enough of us get infected, like over 50%, then we may become resistant to the disease — sort of a self-immunization effect called “herd immunity.” Nevertheless, I would prefer to be able to take a vaccine to beat the virus rather than rely on the law of averages.

All of this new knowledge about the predicament we are in, is what also makes us so uncomfortable. We look askance at each other through our masks almost, as if to say, “do you have it?” This is not something that we, especially as Americans, are used to. Our hearts want us to be together like it was in the old days, but our heads tell us that we had better be careful.

The experience also makes us feel vulnerable. As individualists we have been brought up to believe that through individual effort we can rise above every adversity. But, now, we realize that we are just one more life in the continuum called “common humanity.”

We can crawl back within our borders and retreat behind our parochial fences. But, in a counter-intuitive way, it will be all countries working together and learning from each other which will be the fastest and most effective way to beat this pandemic. It knows no national, ethnic or religious borders. Whether we like it or not, the whole world is in this together. Working together on the problem is going to be the best way of finding a solution to it.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.

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