Toll Plied

(Author’s note:  while I am a rabid college football fan, I’m not a Bama fan.  I am Florida Gator, and we haven’t beaten Alabama since 2008, so I have my agenda.)

“The University of Alabama on Monday reported more than 500 cases of COVID-19 since classes resumed last week.”  Earlier in the summer the university had announced plans to test the entire student body starting in August, and proceed until all were tested.  That in itself was a pointless, arguably stupid plan which would yield flimsy results upon which no effective plan could possibly be based. In short, like the rest of society, Alabama is playing CYA.  The state’s pearl-clutching governor followed the velvet authoritarian model of mandating masks throughout the state, and threatening any non-compliant businesses.  Drive through the southern part of the state (I do frequently) and the number of closed retail businesses is a testament to state compassion.  In fairness, our regional ICU’s have stayed pretty full – as they have during successive flu seasons over the past several years, when I have had to keep patients in the ER for over 6 hours before being able to transfer to an available bed. 

So spare me the “saving lives, we have to sacrifice” reflex bleating.  I never said this was a hoax, it has been deadly serious, and our panicky lockdown & mask response has only done the virus’ work for it, and made things worse. 

I keep trying to get away from these beyond-tiresome COVID stories, so why repeat my ire?  Because word from the University of Alabama is that their president is already making noises about suspending the fall semester if the infection rate continues to arrive.  Last week was “bid” week, when the newly arrived students packed the bars, and spread the virus around in doubtless hilarious and recreational ways.  Now the cowardly mayor of Tuscaloosa, Walt Maddox, “said bars will be closed for two weeks and bar service at restaurants would be suspended.”  Following the lead of the governor, this petty tyrant will take the CYA line to punish the innocent. 

What hasn’t been publicized, is the number of students who even needed treatment for this apparently near-fatal diagnosis.  How many were hospitalized, or even had to go to the ER?  Obviously, some students with Type 1 diabetes or other immunosuppressive diagnoses SHOULD take precautions; but why are they even on campus?  Why should the vast majority of a college town be punished to protect a few, either on-campus, or theoretically in the home towns of the infected students when they return over the weekend or on holidays?

If this squirmy university president shuts down the fall semester, it is a fait accompli that the school will not play football.  If the Crimson Tide does not take the field, then the Southeastern Conference will fold and that will kill college football for the year, which would be another needless, terrible tragedy.  And if you think I’m trivializing this issue, you obviously aren’t from the South. 

This is a microcosm of the current foolishness-without-end that is causing damage that will reverberate for years, if not decades.  Mass testing proves very little, and at this point isn’t protecting anyone.  We don’t have a plan for handling low(no)-acuity “positives” other than self-quarantining and flailing around to harm others, to show that we are doing …something.  I respect that physicians are on all sides of this issue, and so here is my side:  We should encourage quality of life as indispensable to life itself.  I’m sorry for those living in the cowed footprints of the Big-10 and PAC-12, but society worth saving will find a way to save the college football season.  It’s 31 days till toe-meets leather…hopefully.

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