Early last week, in a column published in this paper, I compared the current scare over the coronavirus to other sicknesses like the SARS, Avian, Swine and MERS flu, and the Ebola and Zika viruses.
“It’s my experience most of the things I’ve spent time worrying about never lived up to their billing. The hype over those potential pandemics never panned out. Let’s hope the same happens with the coronavirus. Especially now that it’s made its way to Louisiana,” I wrote on March 10.
Many readers took great offense at my playing down the potential dangers of the coronavirus.
“This fat frog like man seems as ignorant and out of touch as the man he possibly worships. The most incompetent president of all time,” wrote Scott Mathews.
“Little fat Fagan writes about past virus scares and hype? He should be dropped as a columnist for such disgraceful stupidity,” wrote G.M. King.
I’ll admit my typical default position when it comes to stories the media wants us to panic about is skepticism. But that cynicism did not serve me well when writing about the coronavirus. I was wrong to downplay the coronavirus and I regret doing it.
I subsequently wrote a follow-up column on Sunday comparing the foolishness of ignoring the dangers of Hurricane Katrina to ignoring the dangers of the coronavirus. But I wanted to reiterate once more, the coronavirus obviously is nothing to take lightly and we should take the precautions recommended by experts to contain the spreading of the virus.
Gov. John Bel Edwards is showing great leadership in trying to contain the spread of the coronavirus. U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, R-Louisiana, disagrees. The congressman posted an emotional YouTube video on Monday criticizing Edwards for closing bars, casinos, and prohibiting restaurants from hosting customers.
“It’s really difficult for some of us to comprehend that you’re doing what you’re doing,” Higgins said, speaking directly to Edwards on video.
Higgins understands how devastating Edwards’ coronavirus containment measures will be for some businesses.
“This is serious economic impact, man! Higgins said angrily raising his voice. “You hurting the citizens that we serve. These people that own these businesses, they can make up their own mind. They not stupid.”
Higgins went on to downplay the threat of the coronavirus.
“It’s a virus, man! We not being invaded by the Chinese army. We have been impacted by a Chinese virus.”
Higgins then accused Edwards of being an elitist.
“Well, that’s fine for you sitting in Baton Rouge in your ivory tower. Man, where’s your code? You out of line! You out of line!”
Higgins' skepticism is probably anchored in the fact that Edwards has been no friend of the private sector as governor. But this is not the time to think the worst of each other. It’s not the time for personal, political attacks. We all have a common enemy now and it’s the coronavirus.
Another example of rebelling against common-sense measures to contain the coronavirus came this week with Rev. Tony Spell, pastor of the Life Tabernacle Church in Central. Spell held church this week with 300 parishioners in defiance of the governor’s order banning meetings larger than 50 people. President Donald Trump has also called for avoiding such meetings. Central police say they will break up any future meetings at the church, but Spell says his congregation will meet again on Sunday.
“We want to encourage other religious leaders in churches like us, do not let fear of persecution of any government official, any dictator law, prevent you from worshipping God, which our First Amendment states you are not allowed to do in any form,” said Spell.
Many Christians, often for good reason, are skeptical of the government when it comes to religious liberty. But requiring churches to suspend large meetings for a season is not a threat to religious liberty. It’s necessary to prevent the spreading of the coronavirus. Common sense would dictate ignoring the measures taken by our governor to contain the coronavirus will lead to the death of some, especially the elderly, who would have otherwise survived.