is it over?

Is the pandemic over? Are we finally witnessing COVID’s imminent demise — at least in the US?

As public and private safety guidelines begin to ease, the answer seems to depend upon who you ask (…noting some descriptions are a little more colorful than others… such as…)…

… The epidemic in America is like a poisoned rat, limping, staggering, crawling, and gasping its last breaths. The poison is the vaccine now jabbed into the arms of most adults. Pandemic, thou art slain…”

“Right now, COVID-19 is still killing people all over the world — the pandemic is still viscerally real. But in the US, it doesn’t have the same sharp bite as it did six months ago. The end feels close…”

So is the pandemic over? … at least for now?

Memorial Day is here. Summer is in sight. Evidenced by traveling now nearing pre-pandemic levels — air travel increasing and car rentals being scant — the nation seems increasingly ready for normal. Whatever “normal” now is.

But before we definitively answer the end, let’s take note of the beginning…

In December of 2019, a new virus surfaced in China. A month later, China reported the first death. Still in January, now of 2020, cases were quickly confirmed in Japan, South Korea and Thailand and soon thereafter in the United States. A young man from Washington State had contracted the virus after returning from Wuhan, China.

In February, the first death was reported outside of China (in the Philippines). At least 360 people had now died. France announced the first death in Europe. The virus was spreading rapidly… Italy, Iran, Latin America, for instance. On Feb. 29th, the first person in the United States was reported to have died from Covid-19.

Still before American life shut down in March, Sen. Tom Cotton began publicly posing the possibility that the virus emerged from a research facility in Wuhan. But leading news sources immediately, staunchly refuted the potential of any likelihood. The Washington Post accused Cotton of spreading a “conspiracy theory that was already debunked.” The New York Times lead with “Senator Tom Cotton Repeats Fringe Theory of Coronavirus Origins.” And proclaimed fact checker, PolitiFact, designated the possibility with their noteworthy, deceit-deserving, “pants on fire” rating… “The claim is inaccurate and ridiculous. We rate it Pants on Fire!”

As of Tuesday of this past week, 3,494,935 people have reportedly died from Covid worldwide, with 604,941 of those deaths occurring in the United States.

What is also now true is that Cotton’s floated possibility is now considered plausible. Maybe likely. PolitiFact has quietly retracted their claim.

Friends, please go easy on WaPo, the Times, and PolitiFact. We all get something wrong sometimes; the point is not blame. The better question is this:

Why could a dissenting possibility not even be entertained by mainstream media? Why did news sources not just disagree with Cotton’s speculation, but also attempt to squelch it and shut it down?

By no means does the Intramuralist have anywhere close to all the answers. But we are well aware of what gets in our way — not just in the discerning of truth, but also of thoughtful examination and the media’s ruinous role. Listen to the recent words of former Times science reporter Donald McNeil, who initially joined in the chorus of squelchers. “We still do not know the source of this awful pandemic. We may never know. But the argument that it could have leaked out of the Wuhan Institute of Virology or a sister lab in Wuhan has become considerably stronger than it was a year ago, when the screaming was so loud that it drowned out serious discussion.” [Emphasis mine.]

Think of how raucous we’ve allowed our conversations to become. Think of how the media has amplified the raucous. They’ve encouraged the screaming of singular perspective. It makes us ask: what other diverse geopolitical and socioeconomic conversations are they attempting to drown out?

So thus when we attempt to determine whether or not the pandemic is now over, admittedly, that’s a bit of a loaded question. Some will say “yes.” Some will say “no.” Some will even create creative metaphors utilizing limping and staggering rats.

But in order to thoroughly, thoughtfully, and accurately answer summer’s biggest current question, the screaming needs to end. It isn’t wise, and it’s impeding serious discussion.