Dr. James Goydos - Board Certified physician and surgical oncologist with a MD from Rutgers and 20+ years in academics and healthcare.
“When do we get our freedom back?” It is the question that plagues many in the United States, as they have misconstrued the concept of freedom, diverting it from its intended meaning.
There is nothing political or sinister about the steps needed to contain this pandemic. There are a rich history of containment measures to help prevent and/or slow the spread of deadly diseases that can be traced throughout the centuries. They are not meant to restrict personal freedom, but are carried out in the interest of preserving public health.
What Does Tuberculosis Have To Do With It?
In the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries tuberculosis was one of the most prevalent and deadly diseases worldwide. It is an airborne infection with a long latency period — the time from infection until symptoms start when the person can spread the disease. Prior to the arrival of vaccines and the development of antibiotics, improvements in sanitation, contact tracing, isolation, and other public health measures helped to reduce the rates of TB.
These public health measures helped to virtually eliminate TB in developed countries; however, there are now recent antibiotic-resistant strains, requiring new measures to help contain the spread of the new strains. As strains develop, so too must our measures to combat them.
But why is the history of TB relevant to the current pandemic? Many of the same measures which helped to contain TB and other infectious diseases lead to the formation of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States.
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A History of the CDC and Public Health Measures
The CDC helped to pioneer public health measures such as disease monitoring, early outbreak detection, vector tracing, containment measures, and contract tracing. These measures have since been exported around the world, and have helped to contain several infectious disease such as SARS, Ebola, swine flu, and many others. Without these containment measures, each of these had the potential to evolve into global pandemics. Left unchecked, they still might.
The public health measures which have been introduced throughout history—and which are currently being carried out to help curb the spread of the pandemic—are not mean to impinge on one’s ‘freedom’. They are enacted to help mitigate the risk of the spread of the virus.
The concept that these measures are perceived as threats to America’s First Amendment freedoms is illustrated in this encounter between Dr. Anthony Fauci and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) in April of this year. In numerous past encounters, Rep. Jordan has hounded Dr. Fauci about everything from social distancing, mass protests, mask-wearing, restricting social gatherings, and many other topics.
Dr. Anthony Fauci and Rep. Jordan Debate 'Freedom' and Public Health
In the video clip, Jordan quotes Fauci, referring to his statement that, Now is not the time to pull back on masking, physical distancing, and avoiding congregant settings”. Jordan then asks, “When is the time? When do Americans get their freedom back?” Fauci then answers, “When we get the level of infection in this country low enough that it isn’t really a high threat”.
It is important to note that Fauci’s response is not based on opinion, but rather scientific evidence. There is an abundance of validated data to support continuing public health measures to contain the coronavirus. Rep. Jordan’s rebuttal, where he laments, “We had 15 days to slow the spread turned into one year of lost liberty,” points to a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of freedom.
Containment measures were never about restricting freedoms. They were, and will remain, measures taken in the interest of preserving public health. When will we get our freedom back? When we all follow the right course of action to help curb the spread. When we understand freedom really means.