Local Commentary

Editorial: Unlike the Mayans?

The truly historic pandemic crisis that is taking so many lives across the globe right now has required an urgent call for action by every citizen to contribute to life-saving methods for stemming the advance of the pestilence, commanding our attention in every aspect of our lives. Our role in this war against the Covid-19 virus has been simple but all-engaging, involving “social distancing,” a lot of hand washing, masks in public places and staying home. It hardly seems that heroic, but in reality, it has required an enormous amount of attentiveness and patience, especially in commandeering populated households that include inlaws and children who need to be commandeered to their iPads or laptops to focus on an online education in the midst of all the distractions unique to home.

So, let’s not underrate what we are up to now, because we are playing an important role in preserving and advancing the cause of the human race on this planet by these things we are doing. As Andrew Cuomo, the governor of the state of New York, has said repeatedly in his daily updates televised on the all-news networks, the good news about this pandemic is that human action determines its extent of spread or containment.

This pandemic rates right up there with the greatest in human history, making more plausible the theory, among other things, that the great Mayan civilization in Central America that mysteriously disappeared around 900 AD was rendered extinct by a virus, leaving us with nothing but their greatest gift to the world, the banana. Maybe there was too much political resistance to perpetuating a social distancing policy in that civilization such that some deadly virus similar to Covid-19 would not be stopped, and its breathtaking (literally) speed of infections swiftly crippled the entire population. It is something we suspect, if not met head-on by resolute human intervention, could happen even now.

It is not easy to grasp the concept of exponentiality. But this is how Covid-19 spreads, and now we are beginning to learn that even for the majority who survive exposure, the virus can remain latent in a human far longer than initially thought. It means that an infected person, while not exhibiting symptoms and even given a clean bill of health after a bout with an illness caused by the virus, can continue to be contagious in the midst of the population, shedding the virus to countless others in non-social distancing settings.

Yes, the eventual production of a vaccine, something the Mayans couldn’t accomplish, could stop this virus in its tracks, at least among privileged populations for now. But consider this: there is still not an effective vaccine against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, not after 40 years since it broke into human society in a major way in 1981.

Our bottom line, society’s survival depends on its subordination to the primacy of science and its benefits, not some presidential ego.