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Who Gets To Decide When The Pandemic Is Over?

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One thing the pandemic has proven to me is that there is no substitute for critical thinking. So the answer to the question "Who decides when the pandemic is over" is: you. There's just one difficulty with that. To be able to make a proper decision, you need access to good information. And to make matters harder, many governments, and in particular conservative ones, make the information harder to find. I'll leave it to you to figure that one out for yourself.

I first became aware of the seriousness of Covid-19,upon hearing the replay of the media briefing by Dr. Nancy Messonnier on March 2, 2020. In that briefing, she stated very bluntly that it was not a matter of if there was a pandemic but when and how many would fall seriously ill. Such stark frankness is unusual.

The video was aired on MSNBC a few months later when the death count was a mere 100,000. Oh those were the days. Today the death count, in the US alone, approaches 1 million dead. Stop and think about it. This is more Americans dead than all the wars that the US has ever been involved in its history, combined.

The video below was edited for brevity:

When I heard this briefing by Dr, Massonier, we were visiting the West Coast of Florida. As it turns out, this was also when the first case of Covid was announced in Florida. We cut short our stay, stopped and stocked up at the grocery store, and returned to Orlando to quarantine and watch, listen, and learn. Being officially retired and working at home, we could easily just wait. Why was I concerned? Simply because we are older, and while in good health, we are more vulnerable to disease than we once were.

I have included the article below as an example of the answer to the question of "When is the pandemic over?". After that, you'll find my suggestions for digesting the information.

Who Gets To Decide When The Pandemic Is Over?

Written by: Ruth Ogden, Reader in Experimental Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University and Patricia Kingori, Professor of Global Health Ethics, University of Oxford

Published: March 9, 2022

It’s been two years since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID outbreak a pandemic, and since then, people around the world have been asking the same thing: when will it end? This seems like a simple question, but historical analysis shows that “the end” of a disease is rarely experienced in unison by everyone affected.

For some, the threat is over quickly and a return to normality is eagerly anticipated. But for others, the continued threat from infection – as well as the long-term health, economic and social impacts of the disease – render official announcements of the end premature. This could, for example, include immunocompromised people, some of whom remain vulnerable to COVID despite being vaccinated.

Determining when a disease outbreak has ended is even difficult for global health agencies. The Ebola outbreak that began in 2018 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was declared over by the WHO in 2020, but subsequently flared up again. This revival was then re-declared over in December 2021.

In England, the government recently decided to lift all remaining COVID legal restrictions. But does this push towards “living with” the virus mean that England’s pandemic is over? And if not, who should decide when it is?


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In the 24 hours following the announcement ending COVID restrictions, we conducted a survey to explore whether people in England believed the pandemic was over. We also explored whether they believed it was legitimate to end all COVID restrictions at this point in time, and who they believed should be able to decide when the pandemic is over.

In total, we surveyed just over 1,300 people. We recruited 500 participants who were representative of the population through the surveying company Prolific, while the remaining 800 were recruited via social media and university mailing lists. Blending these two methods meant that, while our sample wasn’t wholly representative of the public, it was diverse. For instance, 35% of participants were under 25 years old, 40% were aged 26-50 and 15% were over 50. It therefore gives us an interesting insight into how opinions may differ among the public.

Has the pandemic ended?

Of the people we surveyed, 57% disagreed that the removal of COVID restrictions indicated the end of the pandemic. In fact, only 28% agreed that the end of restrictions signalled the pandemic’s end. For most people involved in the survey, the end of the pandemic was still somewhere in the future.

We also asked people if they thought it was legitimate to end COVID restrictions. In general, the perceived legitimacy of ending restrictions was low. And while approximately 40% of people agreed that it was pragmatic to have ended restrictions in February, fewer than 25% agreed that it was the moral thing to do.

When we looked at what influenced people’s beliefs, we found that, in general, people were more likely to believe that the pandemic was over and that it was legitimate to end all restrictions if they believed that the physical and mental health threats of COVID were in the past. Additionally, those who felt that the crisis was over were generally younger and male. Many with this belief also felt that the crisis had lasted longer than two years and stated that they had often not complied with restrictions.

Interestingly, however, a number of other factors we looked at didn’t appear to be related to people’s beliefs about the legitimacy of ending restrictions. For instance, we didn’t find a link between people’s thoughts about lifting restrictions and their concerns about the social, economic, educational and employment consequences of COVID, or their engagement with the vaccination programme, or them having a close relative die from COVID.

Who should decide when it ends?

Half of our participants believed that it should be scientists who decide when the pandemic ends. In contrast, fewer than 5% believed that the government should decide. Belief that the government should decide also appears to be falling. When participants were asked to think back to how they would have answered this question 18 months ago, over 10% said that they would have said back then that the government should take the decision.

Critically, beliefs about who should end the pandemic varied between groups of people. Men were more likely than women to believe the decision should rest with the government. Unvaccinated people were more likely to believe that a public vote should be held to decide. And perhaps unsurprisingly, being vaccinated was associated with a greater belief that this decision should be taken by scientists.

Despite a long-held wish for the pandemic to end, our findings suggest many may feel it is far from over, and that the public may disagree over whether the government has the right to make this call. As the UK’s restrictions end, we face the possibility of widening inequality, as some feel they can return to “normalcy”, while others feel the pandemic’s endpoint still lies in the future. One of the newest challenges posed by the pandemic, therefore, is how we reconcile these differences as the country emerges from the pandemic.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

* * * * *

I one day came to realize that one can never always be right.  Sounds simple, I know, but how often is this idea not embraced consciously. I came to believe I would never be more than 80% right. So to counteract that realization, I understood that I have to be open to new information and be willing to change my mind. To try to adopt this idea I began to practice the following:

There's an old joke about digging in the manure because there must be a pony in there somewhere. It's fine to be optimistic, but after digging you might not be fit to ride that pony.

1.  Pick your sources of material carefully. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the horseshit. Social media is full of false information so only use it to begin your journey to find the truth.

2. Find confirming information. I try for an average of ten different sources for the important stuff.

3. Nobody is always right about everything. Ask yourself: is what they propose opinion or fact?

4. Remember you are biased to believe what you think you already know. Be willing to easily change your mind when new information presents itself.

5. Make your choices carefully and mindfully.

This virus is not just a bad case of the flu or a "once you get it you can't get it again" illness.  Evidence is developing that the symptoms for 1 in 10 people can linger as much as a year -- and even for some that had no symptoms at all there can be some permanent damage. New evidence from brain scan studies in the UK even suggest that brains shrink even in mild cases and more so in severe cases.

As I write this governments are signaling the worst is over and a new BA.2 subvariant of Omicron is emerging. It seems even more infectious and the jury is still out, but there are signs it may be more serious than its predecessor BA.1 Omicron.

The decisions are simple yet complicated. What are yoru assumptions? What is the tradeoff? What is the risk level? And what is the consequence of being wrong?

Here are few of my personal conclusions:

1. Conservative governments seem to hide and obfuscate information. They have a basic tendency to not trust the public to make good decisions and not panic.

2. Stay out of enclosed, poorly ventilated crowded areas. If you need to enter, get out quick and wear a high quality N-95 mask that protects you rather than the other fellow.

3. Wear a high quality N-95 mask when needing to come in close contact with strangers.

4. Keep activities with others outside, as much as possible, and at a slight distance without being an asshole.

5. Wearing a mask has also reduced the severity of flu season, so there are other advantages to wearing a mask. My wife found that a good mask also blocks the scent of perfume which to her is a plus since she is very sensitive to chemical fragrances.

Is the pandemic over? Maybe  or maybe never --  but it's up to you. Governments are just there to advise unless they have explicit laws. Remember, we are not arbitrarily free to take away the freedom of others who wish to remain healthy and safe.

About the Author

jenningsRobert Jennings is co-publisher of InnerSelf.com with his wife Marie T Russell. InnerSelf is dedicated to sharing information that allows people to make educated and insightful choices in their personal life, for the good of the commons, and for the well-being of the planet. InnerSelf Magazine is in its 30+year of publication in either print (1984-1995) or online as InnerSelf.com. Please support our work.

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This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License. Attribute the author Robert Jennings, InnerSelf.com. Link back to the article This article originally appeared on InnerSelf.com


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