Doug Vilnius: Don’t blame public health, blame yourself

If we had shut down in April, COVID would be under control by now.

(Evan Vucci | AP file photo) In this April 10 photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House. Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, left, and White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, second from left, listen.

How many public health officials have either resigned or been fired across the country for trying to protect you, your family and neighbors from dying?

How many have been threatened and watched protesters, some armed, chanting outside their homes for following public health procedures based on established science?

How many of you attend a job support group because of stress caused by your customers threatening violence?

I have worked with these dedicated public health professionals in another life and wish you the privilege to know them and feel their commitment to making you safe.

There really is no middle ground in public health, contrary to elected officials who claim a false equivalency between commerce and communicable disease prevention. If the country had followed shutdown, shuttered and isolation practices in April for four to six weeks, supported by federal funds, COVID-19 would be under control and we would be very close to normal with many thousands of fewer deaths and long-term injuries. Nope, let’s party!

The selfish, spoiled and ungrateful people who flaunt mask-wearing and social distancing and disregard testing and vaccines in the name of freedom or some political cult deserve to be denied treatment by the health care system, the very people exposed, and in too many cases injured or killed trying to save your life from a hoax.

But, no, they will take care of you because, like public health workers, they are called to serve, something you will never understand.

I watch Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx cringe with the boss’ ignorant hydroxychloroquine, UV and bleach promotions and other gross misstatements. Yes, “herd immunity’ is a real thing, but it is sought by public health through immunization, not by immorally exposing a population randomly to disease and death.

Scott Atlas, Trump’s COVID adviser with no training in infectious diseases, should go back to reading X-rays, MRIs and CAT scans and wait for his medical license to be rescinded for malpractice. I see Dr. Angela Dunn, Utah’s state epidemiologist, grit her teeth in the background as the governor proposes voluntary mask-wearing and on-again, off-again mercurial public gathering policies while insisting that the economy can function during a pandemic.

The stakes are much higher now than when I was threatened by a governor for promoting community legislative support to ban smoking in restaurants. That was a freedom thing then. Is it today? Enjoy your dinner, hopefully soon.

Doug Vilnius

Doug Vilnius, Park City, was director of a division at the Utah Department of Health responsible for communicable disease control.