We Georgians are at an important juncture. Our state’s journey towards health and economic survival in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic is in peril. We’re on our heels, backing up against an invisible and seemingly indomitable opponent once again.
“The devil came down to Georgia, lookin’ for a soul to steal,” Charlie Daniels sang. Instead, the devil has stolen Georgia’s fighting spirit, especially our governor’s.
In the very early days of the pandemic, we (the entire country and its leadership) believed we’d pass right over the viral outbreak because it would probably remain in China. Later, we believed it wouldn’t infringe on our shores; we’d bat it away because we believed we had many more resources and better technology than anyone else. Finally, once it hit us once, we Georgians believed the serious virus threat had passed over us as it moved on to other states, and we experienced lower numbers of cases and deaths.
Of course, in all of these ways we were terribly mistaken. As cases and deaths spike all across our nation, as they dangerously intensify again in Georgia, our backs are against the wall. And this is the “important juncture” I speak of. Against the viral threat, we’ve failed at going over it, failed at going around it, failed at going under it. It’s time we meet it head-on. And, it’s the best way. And, by using the simple weapons we already have at our disposal, we can stop it in its tracks.
Here’s why: the weaknesses of our opponent. Our opponent, of course, is the coronavirus.
Unlike bacteria, the coronavirus, like all viruses, is not a living thing. In genetic terms, it is simply “a piece of information,” a small series of genes that has only one purpose: to replicate. In order to do this, however, it must find a host cell for both the energy and the mechanism to reproduce. (This is a key weakness that I’ll come back to.) According to John M. Barry, author of The Great Influenza, once inside a human lung cell, the “genes of the virus spill into the healthy human cell, then capture the cell nucleus. At this point, viral genes or code begin issuing orders,” like a commanding general. The human cell obeys orders from the virus, changes its course, and starts manufacturing “viral proteins instead of its own. Within a few hours, these proteins are packaged with new copies of the viral genes.”
Each viral cell invader can replicate upwards of 100,000 times in one human lung cell, until this host lung cell literally falls apart. When this disintegration occurs, tens of thousands of the virus cells go out into lung tissue to attach themselves to other human cells to replicate again and again and again, Barry writes. Interestingly, this type of virus appears to favor respiratory cells for its replication. That gives it, perhaps, its most potent death-dealing practice amongst us humans, as it shuts down our ability to breathe. Sadly, we’re now finding out that the coronavirus will target other parts of the body as well.
So, looking closely at our opponent’s playbook reveals many of its secrets, affording us a better place to create a weapon against it. But how do we meet our opponent head-on, and with what weapons do we defeat it? We certainly want a vaccine to halt its spread—now! Unfortunately, “now” is not an option. The closest to “now,” realistically, is the beginning of next year. You see, the goal of the federal government’s own Operation Warp Speed project is to have 300 million doses ready by January 2021, for the U.S. alone. We have no guarantees this will happen, however. It could take an entire year to test, approve, manufacture and distribute. And we share the planet with 7 billion others who’ll need a vaccine to produce actual worldwide human herd immunity.
In the absence of stopping the virus with the best defense, we adopt our next best defense: We cut off COVID’s energy supply (our lungs) by wearing simple face masks every time we’re outside our family unit. We do this in order to block the virus’ main means of transportation, and we do it until we have it underfoot. Remember, COVID-19 can’t move on its own. It has no hands, legs, wings, fins, flippers, jet packs, etc. Crudely speaking, we humans provide it with free transport (our breathing, coughing and sneezing), free shelter (our bodies) and free food (our body’s cells).
Until recently, many, if not most, Georgians have been reluctant, averse, embarrassed, too inconvenienced, too uncomfortable or too defiant to don a mask. Many citizens see the mask as a sign of weakness or a badge of an opposing political party. We haven’t seen the face mask for what it really is: a powerful weapon. It’s like having a full contingent of star NFL linemen blocking for you. It’s like having “Star Trek”’s Captain Kirk raise the force field on the USS Enterprise spaceship to repel attacks. It’s a smart weapon, not a sign of a coward hiding under the sheets for fear.
“The devil came down to Georgia, lookin’ for a soul to steal.” Let’s take our fighting spirit back and run the coronavirus devil out! Let’s wear those masks, Georgia!
Like what you just read? Support Flagpole by making a donation today. Every dollar you give helps fund our ongoing mission to provide Athens with quality, independent journalism.