Kung Flu? Why Now?

Over the past several days, there has been a lot of speculation and news coverage, in both major publications and social media, on new efforts to find out once and for all whether the coronavirus really leaked from a Chinese laboratory. Despite the heartache caused by a pandemic that killed and sickened countless people globally and brought economic ruin and heartache to countless more, the origin of the virus remains unclear.

Did it jump from animal to person, possibly at a food market in Wuhan, China in late 2019? Many scientists believe that is the most likely explanation. Other scientists think there is another possibility – the virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Researchers at that facility do modify viruses to understand and treat them. Everyone makes mistakes. “It is most likely that this is a virus that arose naturally, but we cannot exclude the possibility of some kind of lab accident.” Those words come from Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health.

Why should we care now when the death toll from Covid-19 is down, or when the number of people sickened each day is declining? More and more Americans are getting vaccinated – except for some, who, along with Donald Trump, always viewed the pandemic as a hoax, a Kung Flu.

A story in USA Today suggested that if we know where it started, we could prevent another pandemic. Could we? The Chinese insisted the virus jumped from animal to person at an outdoor market. They refused to allow an independent investigation. So, would lab practices change if the Chinese were nailed – assuming the virus did start in their lab? Another argument made by the New York Times concerns China’s reputation. If the Chinese were viewed poorly, perhaps they could be pressured to bear the burden of vaccinating the world. Right!

Turning back to our own government, which rarely seems to respond to pressure calling for sensible action, why are we going after the Chinese when we are still vulnerable? Not all of us are vaccinated. The pandemic exposed horrific weaknesses in our health care system. Why aren’t we addressing those issues? Or another epidemic on the horizon – the epidemic of violence?

As for vaccines and masks, the policies are up to individual states and businesses. Take Texas, for example, their governor is going to fine public entities, like schools, for requiring masks. That state also recently passed legislation that allows citizens to carry a handgun without a permit, background check or instruction on how to use it. Texans can now shoot the virus and each other, which seems to be happening with greater frequency.

Just this past week, an angry rail worker with an alcohol problem killed nine co-workers at a rail center in San Jose, California. I suppose the governor of Texas would argue that armed Texans might have plugged the Californian before he killed more co-workers. (The shooter ended up taking his own life.)

According to the New York Times, gun sales have spiked since the pandemic. It is not just white men buying the handguns. Women, Hispanics, and Blacks are buying guns, too, in record numbers, many for the first time. Why is there such an increase in mass shootings?

Gun violence is not the only evidence of increased rage. I saw a video this week of fighting that broke out in one of our airports. A flight attendant was punched by a passenger. The “Stu” lost two teeth. Two airlines will not sell alcohol on board this summer because of passenger anger.

Why are we so angry? And scared? Is it because we have been locked up for a year? I do not have any answers. But I am certain that allowing more Americans to bear arms will only add to a rising death toll. In my opinion, this is a public health issue not a Second Amendment issue.

Back to the original Kung Flu, if we had united, in other words, come together, to fight a common foe – the virus – could we have saved lives in the beginning and in the days ahead? Why aren’t we addressing the rage that so divides us? That might save more lives than looking for the origins of Kung Flu.

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