Our guest opinion column today is provided by Nick Brooke, the principal data scientist at Brooke Insights in Oklahoma City.
OPINION (Free Press) — Late last year at a City Council meeting, I said that this pandemic is a science test and that Oklahoma is failing hard. I regret the error. I’ve since realized that this cannot be true.
Scientists have really showed up for this pandemic. Our local hospitals have formed coalitions to communicate directly with the public; many doctors and professors have taken time away from their work to share their expertise on these issues and advocate for better outcomes, and many public servants are doing commendable work in difficult circumstances.
It’s not a science test that we’re failing. It’s a test of leadership.
Tuesday morning the Oklahoma City Council will consider an emergency ordinance to reinstate the indoor mask mandate. The scientific consensus on mask mandates is clear: the measure must be adopted.
Our ICUs are overfull already. Hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans remain susceptible to COVID. Weekly case counts have been growing exponentially for over eight weeks. Test positivity rates are sky-high. There is no end to the current wave in sight.
Consider what’s happening in Louisiana today.
With lower vaccination rates, their delta wave was steeper than ours. Before delta, their all-time highest caseload was just over 26,000. Two weeks ago, it was 40,000 cases. Now a hurricane is bearing down on the state; these evacuations will squeeze unusual groups of people together, increasing infection rate at a time when the hospitals are already under enormous strain. It will not end well.
We had a similar event here last fall: an ice storm at the end of October. The surge in cases after that event saw our caseload double in less than three weeks. We could not afford such an increase today. We must conserve our scarce hospital resources. If we fail to act responsibly today, we will have only ourselves to blame when we face the consequences down the line.
In the face of overwhelming scientific evidence in favor of a mask mandate, leaders should carefully consider the message that a no vote on this measure sends.
If you publicly rebuke the assessment of science, what do you promote instead?
When leaders reject science, superstition takes its place. If Mayor Holt will substitute his own judgment for that of experts about matters of life and death, why shouldn’t Cletus take the horse gel? What do those nerds know, anyway?
These irresponsible anti-science choices have far-reaching consequences. Consider the example that you set.
In 1995, Carl Sagan wrote, “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark” [Available in our Metropolitan Library System]. It’s an excellent book, still relevant today, where Prof. Sagan explains for a lay audience what science is: not a bunch of facts that you know, but an ordered way of thinking about the unknown. The book begins with a warning that sounds like a prophesy today:
“I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time—when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness…”
The scientists speaking out in favor of mask mandates are not telling you what feels good. We’re telling you what’s true. Get those crystals out of your hands and pay attention to the answers right in front of you.
I have no intention of sliding back into superstition and darkness without putting up a fight.
Last Updated August 30, 2021, 1:14 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor