Voices October 26, 2020
Pandemic precautions come from the logic of charity, not from fear
Our precautions are actually motivated by the most basic prophetic activity: charity.
The Catholic intellectual tradition insists on the harmony of reason with faith. From the standpoint of reason, it is my observation many people are not being cautious enough.
They complain about the rules being imposed on us, but how well do they understand the scientific reasoning behind the rules?
For example, when it comes to social distancing, two metres is said to be the minimum safe distance between two people.
But it’s important to understand why. Where does this number come from?
In truth, two metres is now known to be an inadequate rule for prevention of virus transmission. Droplets with the virus can travel seven to eight metres.
But other factors must be considered about the virus: not just droplets, but also aerosols, meaning it could be hanging in the air for hours on end.
That’s why we show we are pro-life by wearing masks.
And then there is transmission by surface contact, which is why we must wash our hands frequently, and sanitize them whenever a tap is not readily available.
When calculating safe distance between people, the two-metre rule of thumb is only a minimum.
It makes a difference whether the two people standing apart are indoors or outdoors. Outdoors has better ventilation, to better dilute and disperse any exhaled virus.
It makes a difference what people are doing, because activity type determines the volume of air being exhaled; for example: talking loudly, breathing heavily from physical activity, or singing.
Thus, all these factors mean that it really makes a difference whether people are wearing masks or not.
It also makes a difference how many people are involved in any situation. In general, two metres is the minimum recommended distance between two people. But should that distance stay the same if more people are involved?
Obviously not, because the more people there are, the greater the volume of potentially virus-laden air that they exhale.
All these factors mean that it is reckless for any person of faith to look for opportunities to interpret the precautions in place as personal slights that somehow are violating their religious rights.
For example, it’s foolish to complain that big retail stores let in thousands at a time, while your parish church only lets in 50 people for Mass. Your parish acts on science by insisting to take note of who is attending, because they can do contact tracing if infection happens.
There’s no religious persecution going on here. The difference between the two situations is obvious to medical professionals who are conscious of the data. The data shows that church services can be super-spreader events (and so too restaurants and casinos).
Other differences between churches and retail outlets are readily discernible. People who are shopping are making a visit much shorter than a church service. And they are not engaged in those activities that are of greater risk.
When you are silently walking through the store, you are not engaged in the loud talking and singing involved in worship.
When you are at the checkout line, you don’t hand over your money and then open your mouth to have the cashier use their fingers to insert the Eucharist in your mouth.
You also pay by credit card. You don’t have multiple sets of hands partaking in a sacramental feast.
It seems there’s an additional infection happening now besides virus transmission. Poisonous ideas are spreading and taking root in people’s minds.
The prime example is the poisonous authoritarian ideology promoted by Donald Trump in the United States.
Trump has taken advantage of all the people who think that nothing matters more than voting based on the single issue of abortion. He’s manipulated the abortion issue into being his political pretext for destroying the rule of law in America and for promoting racism and amorality.
At the time of writing this column, the number of COVID-19 deaths in United States is a shocking illustration of a fundamentally anti-life administration:
The U.S has 225,000 dead, out of a population of 328.2 million.
But compare side-by-side the COVID-19 deaths in other countries:
South Korea: 457
New Zealand: 25
Total deaths: 13,108
Total population: 364.6 million
There’s obviously something politically deadly at work in the U.S., in addition to the virus itself.
But let’s show people how reasonable we Catholics are. We need to lovingly care for others. As a bonus, we can even use science and logic to explain the reasoning behind our Canadian precautions: our works of love.