Abstinence-Only Messaging

This morning I was reading through a variety of news sources as I don’t like to trust only one source. No matter how much a source tries to give only the facts, there will be at least some spin. In the nations where news agencies are for profit businesses there is an incentive to hurry too quickly to get stories out so even those careful to keep spin out can fall into not having the facts quite correct. With the things going on with the virus and attempts to limit its spread we really need good information.


With the difficulties built into our information system it can really be a challenge to understand what to do during something like a global pandemic. I keep trying to remember the H1N1 pandemic when I was teaching. I kept hearing reports of leaders saying this Covid-19 would be about the same. This has been much worse. In the articles under the comments those leaders were making, at least on a number of the sources I was reading, were comments from health care professionals saying there wasn’t enough information to say this wouldn’t be worse, or the same, or even less of a danger. They were saying start following individual plans to lessen your chances of contracting the disease, as what was known then was it could be very dangerous.


They weren’t calling for everything to be shut down, but they weren’t saying “all is well.” Eventually most places needed some form of lockdown. This has been different from place to place. Just as I’ve been writing against a one size fits all type of approach to sexuality, I think most absolute solutions won’t work. The more dangerous the situation, the quicker the needed response. If those providing the response have been planning and practicing for similar situations they will already know at least part of what needs to happen.


There were a couple of dams fail recently in Michigan. The information I’ve been able to get so far says everyone was evacuated so the damage will be to property, but at least no deaths. If they had waited until things were certain, the dams were overflowing, to start preparing they would have been in a world of hurt. Can you imagine telling someone hanging onto the top of their house, “we’ll come help you as soon as we can build a boat.” Thankfully the people of Michigan, were better prepared than that.


A week ago I had some surgery and I’m watching more YouTube than before. For some reason their algorithm suggested a video about a Sheriff in New Mexico being served a search warrant by a local city police department. I wonder if YouTube is running out of videos that I would like? As near as I can make out from looking at a number of sources, the Sheriff has stuck his nose into the functioning of a local police department. This wasn’t an investigation into something illegal going on with the police, just he didn’t like the way they were dealing with a certain case. Since not all the information is made public, he may have a valid reason, but now it will have to go through the criminal court system as he has been charged with crimes that need to go that route.


Had he not thought of himself as an absolute power in his county he may have chosen a little more wisely as to how to deal with the situation. The different levels of government have different responsibilities. They really should be working together on disaster relief, not working to get their person kept in office. The places where state and local officials have been working together have had better results fighting Covid-19 than those where mayors and governors have been having fights in the news media rather than fighting the problem.


One of the clashes caused by this kind of fighting happened here in my home town. The local county boards of health in three counties ordered social distancing, no groups larger than a certain size, and few other of the beginnings of the shutdown. The county I live in was one of the three. The Governor claimed only he had that authority and they were ordered to lift the restrictions. Two days later he ordered the same restrictions and the laws had been reviewed. It turns out those counties did have that authority. The two days between had seen many more cases so the other two counties used their authority and made the restrictions in their boundaries even tighter. My county didn’t, they just went with what the Governor ordered. My county has been the second highest hotspot in the state since. I’m not sure if we needed the stricter measures to prevent that or just two days earlier. One of the sources of spread was an employee who was showing minor symptoms being forced to work for those two days. Now the county is protecting the employer from being outed to the community. It could be the tracing was accomplished and they don’t feel more problems for the employer would help, but I can’t help feeling they are protecting the company at the risk of the employee and community. I am convinced contact tracing is a major part of getting things going again.


So do I think we need to stay inside all the time? To me, that is abstinence-only thinking. There is much to be said for the health benefits of exercise in open air. The research is saying the virus is less likely to spread in the open. But just as I advocate for responsible sexual activity, I advocate for responsible pandemic activity. Ways need to be found to help people to be out and about while maintaining social distancing. I couldn’t believe it when I heard city parks were closed, then I saw the crowds that descended on a state park in southern Utah when it opened a couple of weeks ago. I don’t care if it is in the open, that many people in that small of a space is just asking the virus to spread. The thing is that no matter how careful we are, there could be those in the group that have been exposed without knowing it. I now understand why some areas felt a need to close city parks.


As I think knowledge to base sexual decisions on it essential, I think knowledge is essential to base our decisions on about dealing with the virus. That knowledge is needed for government decisions as well as our personal decisions. Just as abstinence-only sex education is resulting in more problems, an abstinence-only way of thinking could easily cause more problems in combating the virus. We need to be putting pressure on government to make sure research into a cure as well as a vaccine is going on. We need to be putting pressure on government to make sure good valid testing is available. We need to be putting pressure on government to make sure when someone is identified as having the virus they are isolated until they are no longer a threat and all their contacts are tested. We need to support businesses that require and enforce measures to protect us as customers. As responsible customers, we need to follow a given business’s measures to protect the others in their place of business.


I think there is a new normal coming. It could be a normal of everyone fighting everyone else. It could be a normal of people working together for our common good while letting others choose what they want in other issues. We can get through this with a stronger society as long as we don’t take to absolute ways of thinking and instead think of ways to help other people.

©2018 Michael Yocom 

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