Coronavirus is a wake-up call

Frank CagleFrank Talk

I was just a little boy so mostly what I remember was a large room with windows on all sides. I would learn later it was a solarium. It was the 1950s and we went to visit a family member at the Tuberculosis Sanitorium in Decatur, Ala. The solarium was built when the only treatment for TB, sometimes called consumption, was fresh air and sunshine. There was no medicine and the disease was usually fatal. People died for decades from destroyed lungs.

Streptomycin was developed in the late 1940s and became a standard treatment in 1952. During the 1950s when I was a child the TB sanitoriums were phased out and shifted to other uses. But until drugs were developed to treat the illness, the usual method of stopping the spread of the disease was to isolate the patients. TB is transmitted through the air from an infected person.

Frank Cagle

We are now faced with a public health crisis with a disease for which there is no medicine. There have been efforts to quarantine the victims – from sealing off the entire Chinese city of Wuhan to having a cruise ship off the coast of California featuring the vacation from hell. But the prospect of containing the coronavirus with quarantine faces long odds. In an era of global business travel, global tourism and the sheer growth of the world’s population a virus that starts in an open market in China can go around the world while public health officials are trying to discover what happened.

In this day and age would the American public stand for rounding up the sick and putting them in quarantine? Or would people start yelling about concentration camps? We need to think long and hard about this issue because it’s unlikely this is the last time we will be faced with some deadly virus that jumps from some jungle to major cities around the world.

There is also a danger of existing maladies breaking out into a pandemic, spurred by the growing number of people not vaccinating their children.

In the case of the coronavirus the risk is mainly to certain susceptible populations. Like an old guy who is a cancer survivor with a bad heart. But after what I’ve been through, I’ve decided I’m going to live forever.

The Center for Disease Control needs to be fully funded, it needs to be free of politics and public health agencies in general need public support. If you hear of some politician (and you know who he is) who calls for laying off employees and cutting the CDC budget you need to tell your representative they had better not.

The coronavirus is a public health crisis. But it’s also a wake-up call.

God’s wrath? They had a committee hearing at the legislature last week on a bill that would set up parental censorship boards to override the existing library boards appointed by local government. The impetus for the bill was a group using a public meeting room at the Putnam County Library for Drag Queen Story Hour, where Drag Queens read to children. The stupidity of the Putnam County Library Board and its librarian in deciding they couldn’t say no to such a request because they might get sued has prompted an overreaction.

Testifying at the hearing was a fellow named Rich Penkoski who calls himself, on his sweatshirt, a Warrior for Christ. Not sure how much of a “warrior” he is since he was afraid to reveal his hometown. His testimony wasn’t all that coherent but he seemed to offer a link between Drag Queens reading books in Putnam County with the tornado last week in Putnam County that killed two dozen people. I don’t know if the tornado killed any Drag Queens.

Just a conversation: A conversation with my 4-year-old granddaughter.

“Granddaddy, I want a sandwich.”

“Let me think. I bet you would like a ham and lettuce sandwich with mayonnaise.”

“How did you know?”

“Just a guess.”

“You are a good guesser.”

“And you are a funny, funny girl.”

“No. I’m an adorable girl.”

“You, my dear, are the whole package.”

“No. I didn’t come in a package. I came from Mommy’s stomach.”

Frank Cagle is a former managing editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel.


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