Category Archives: Coronavirus

When we become inured to death

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Petrarch's Triumph of Death.

In 2017 and 2018, when all eyes were on several horrific incidents of mass gun violence, the United States was averaging just under one incident of mass gun violence per day (defined by the excellent Gun Violence Archive as four or more people killed or injured in one reported incident). During the pandemic year of 2020, that number rose to… Read more »

The self-destructive bravado of the Covid snake-handlers

Snake handler

“And these signs will accompany those who believe…they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them.” — Mark 16:17-18, NRSV During my years living in Cincinnati, across the Ohio River from Kentucky, we would regularly see a news story from south of the river with a headline like this:… Read more »

The Covid math of “us” versus “me”

Smallpox vaccination

I wrote a few weeks ago about how the Covid crisis has exacerbated the need for America to move from a very self-centered “me” culture into the more compassionate and action-oriented “us” culture required to combat the virus. Listening to the voices raised in protest to such collective action as mandated vaccinations and masking, I have noted that there are… Read more »

The capricious God of Covid

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Dice icon

“At the first glance, the only ‘law’ … seems to be that of Caprice — caprice in inheriting, caprice in transmitting, caprice everywhere, in turn.” — Philosopher William James (1842– 1910) One of the classic examples in an introductory statistics class is the drawing of billiard balls from an opaque sack containing an unknown mix of various colored balls, and… Read more »

When your pain becomes our pain

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Empathy-Sympathy-Compassion

Odds are…you personally will not suffer any ill effects from the coronavirus. But over 600,000 U.S. families have watched loved ones die, often without the hugs of family who had to say goodbye via FaceTime. Odds are…you personally will not be killed in a grocery store by a domestic terrorist wielding an AR-style high-lethality weapon. But over 40,000 families lost… Read more »

When public health gets political

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Iron lung

Note: This post was published earlier at the Iowa blog BleedingHeartland.com Despite a strong start at vaccinating its populace against Covid-19, my former home state of Iowa has begun to slip in the national rankings in its percentage of vaccinated residents. In Texas, some hospital workers have taken their management to court to fight suspensions for refusing the vaccine, despite… Read more »

Talking in three languages about Covid vaccines

religion-science-politics

I had long thought that the phrase “to babble” had its origins in the Genesis story of the Tower of Babel. Instead, you can find linguists arguing for Western European or Latin roots with the meaning of “to prattle” or to imitate baby talk (“ba-ba-ba”). By any definition, there is a lot of mutually-incomprehensible babbling going around that is as… Read more »

Betting against the house on the Covid vaccines

Slot machines

“You have a greater chance of being in a car accident on the way to getting this vaccine than you have of having a problem from this vaccine. But that’s not how people view risk.” — Paul Offit, vaccine expert at Philadelphia Children’s Hospital. Maybe it is because I do not seem to have a gambling gene in my body…. Read more »

Choosing your “Covid restaurant”

Cafe Risky

Imagine that there are just two cafés in your town at which you can dine. At Café Safe the menu is limited and rather bland, your parent’s music is playing over the PA system, and people are friendly but stand-offish. However, the place is clean, and they follow all health protocols. Business is good at Café Safe and it is… Read more »

Beware the modern-day Gnostics

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Irenaeus

Most people know what an agnostic is, but fewer know much about the people at the root of that word, the Gnostics (without the ‘a’). Gnostics caused one of the first great doctrinal splits in early Christianity, but their intellectual descendants remain today, not just in churches, but also throughout the business and political worlds. And they want to sell… Read more »