Tell me the truth. Don’t tell lies to me, or anyone else.

NYT virus photo Screen Shot 2020-02-29 at 4.34.00 PM

The dithery approach by the current administration to the challenge of handling the coronavirus – also called COVID-19 – is not helping.

Things seem to be settling down a bit now that an expert or two are being let into the fold, not just members of the administration who at some levels do not have a clue. Muzzling experts will not work.

This administration needs to consider science and history walking hand in hand, not scoffed. They need to read about history, and how hiding the truth just lets people die when it comes to a problematic virus. Some of that will happen, unfortunately, and we all need to be careful. We are being told to often wash our hands with soap, not touch your mouth or nose or eyes, and be able to perhaps avoid crowds, although that last idea can be difficult.

Every day, more states and countries are reporting people with this virus. Washington State has reported more deaths, and may set up isolation stations.

There have been other virus scares – MERS, SARS, Ebola – but the big scare in our more recent history reaches back to 1918-1919, where 50 million people around the globe died, including 675,000 people who perished in the United States. (These figures come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

There was a war going on in Europe, and the situation in World War I probably was pretty miserable (soggy and filthy trenches, and mustard gas?) and helped contribute to what was incorrectly called it the Spanish flu. Most of Europe already knew about it, but governments tried to keep it zipped up. Spain, which was neutral in World War I, did not do that. They reported it.

So if top officials want to pooh-pooh this, it’s on their heads. The old “keep calm” routine only goes so far.

In a story this past weekend in The Washington Post, the writer started with these  paragraphs:

“The first wave wasn’t that bad. In the spring of 1918, a new strain of influenza hit military camps in Europe on both sides of World War I. Soldiers were affected, but not nearly as severely as they would be later.

“Even so, Britain, France, Germany and other European governments kept it secret. They didn’t want to hand the other side a potential advantage.

“Spain, on the other hand, was a neutral country in the war. When the disease hit there, the government and newspapers reported it accurately. Even the king got sick.

“So months later, when a bigger, deadlier wave swept across the globe, it seemed like it had started in Spain, even though it hadn’t. Simply because the Spanish told the truth, the virus was dubbed the ‘Spanish flu.’

“Now, as fears about the coronavirus spread, at least one historian is worried the Trump administration is failing to heed the lesson of one of the world’s worst pandemics: Don’t hide the truth.”

President Woodrow Wilson caught the flu, and so did the king of Spain. It hit high and low.

In a column in yesterday’s New York Times, writer Maureen Dowd offered some anecdotes about the current President’s fear of germs, so one might think he saw the urgency. After all, germs are germs, and some urgency would be needed.

“For three decades, I talked to Trump about his fear of germs. When I interviewed him at the Trump Tower restaurant during the 2016 race, the famous germophobe had a big hospital-strength bottle of hand sanitizer on the table, next to my salad, ready to squirt.

“He told me about the nightmarish feeling he had when a man emerged from the bathroom in a restaurant with wet hands and shook his hand. He couldn’t eat afterward.”

Concerns and issues will continue. We live in a mobile world. People move around. Some companies are asking people to work from home; schools have been closed; airports shuttered in some places. At least one convention has been canceled in Denver. Time will tell.

The inks below lead to stories in The Washington Post’s recounting of the “Spanish flu” (and one of the historic photos included in that piece, with police in Seattle all wearing face masks), The New York Times stories, The Colorado Sun, and the Scientific American. And for official health information, there are links to Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment (whose report today was dated last week), and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

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