Modern Life: Sneak Previews
MODERN LIFE

Modern Life: Sneak Previews

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One of our least endearing traits as Americans is our stubborn belief that life’s complex problems are actually simple problems.

Welfare recipients are lazy. Drug addicts lack willpower. The system (pick a system, any system) is rigged. Racism exists only in the mind of the offended. Things went to pieces when women started working. Men are pigs.

I could go on for days, but I don’t have to. Politicians will soon be doing it for me, because everyone’s gearing up for the next presidential election which is only 20 months away. So as a public service, today’s column brings you a sneak preview of the fuzzy thinking from both parties you’ll soon be swimming in.

Most of what we’ll hear is a form of illogical logic called a false dichotomy. That’s when you apply if/then thinking to situations that are actually far more complex. Politicians love this stuff.

Here are some non-political examples:

It’s a fact: One hundred percent of people who drink water will die. Conclusion: Water is killing us all.

It’s a fact: I saw a light in the sky last night I couldn’t identify. Conclusion: Aliens are invading the Earth.

See how much fun this is? Let’s try some more.

Democrats say we’re a nation of immigrants. Therefore, Democrats want completely open borders.

President Trump has had several well documented extra-marital affairs. Therefore, Republicans are all anti-women moral hypocrites.

Well, you get the idea.

So here’s my prediction of the political false dichotomies that will be coming soon to a television commercial, internet ad or Facebook post near you.

Here we go:

Despite objections, President Trump legally ordered that his son-in-law receive a top-secret security clearance. Therefore, he is dangerously reckless with the nation’s secrets. Do you want Russia to have our nuclear codes?

By their growing support for Medicare-for-all, Democrats are now all socialists. Therefore, every flaw in every socialist country on earth can be held up as an example of what Democrats want America to become. Do you want Big Brother in the White House?

Even though immigrants commit crimes at lower rates that American citizens, some will end up committing crimes. Therefore, immigration must be sharply reduced, or stopped. Do you want to die?

Since Trump became president, drug addiction rates are at an all time high in America. Therefore, his defeat in 2020 will save count countless lives. Don’t you want to live?

There is nothing new in this kind of political campaigning. It has been around as long as people have been willing to believe that there are simple answers to complex societal problems.

Gay marriage means the death of the family. Poor people are poor because they’re inferior. Somewhere there’s a shadowy group that is secretly keeping everyone else down. Factory jobs are gone because of greedy business owners.

Okay, enough with the examples.

It seems to me that we have a host of problems facing the country, problems that will require careful thought, and reality-based wisdom to properly address. There will not be simple solutions for any of them.

But our greatest problem isn’t healthcare or immigration or underemployment or the national debt. It is our willingness to be led by people on both sides of the political aisle who serve up only an oversimplified soup of catchy platitudes every four years instead of offering actual, and potentially painful, solutions to our serious problems. Because in the end, the simplistic thinking they offer will fail, but not until well past the election day that put the clowns in power.

So who’s to blame here? The reality is that the politician who attempts to present a nuanced analysis of a complex problem will be laughed off the debate stage by the candidate who comes up with a zippy phrase that sounds so self-evident that no one stops to realize it’s just more gas in the bag.

Make no mistake, this is our fault, not the politicians, because we’ve chosen to believe every problem is easily solved by a 30-second TV ad or a Facebook post.

After all, an election is a war, and the first casualty of war is truth. And apparently, we’re okay with that.

Chris Huston is semi-retired in the Magic Valley following a 35-year career in broadcast journalism. Connect with him on Facebook, and at chrishuston-modernlife.com.

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A small outbreak of coronavirus at a Fry Foods plant in Weiser gives a prime example of the importance of testing for COVID-19. More than that, it represents a warning shot across the bow of potential pitfalls if we don’t reopen our economy the right way.

As we tiptoe through Stage 2 of Gov. Brad Little’s phased reopening plan and approach a more robust Stage 3, it’s going to become even more important that we take the necessary steps to prevent future outbreaks.

And there will be future outbreaks.

The fact remains that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is still out there. It’s ready to strike again, and without a vaccine, it remains a potentially destructive and fatal disease.

Aggressive and quick testing remains one of the key elements — perhaps the most important element — of controlling outbreaks at this point.

Fry Foods offers an early case study.

The Weiser food processing plant employs 260 people to make onion rings and other food products. It shut down earlier this month when at least seven employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

Fry Foods initially didn’t test all 260 employees at the Weiser facility — only the 50 or 60 who likely came in contact with the employees who tested positive. Other employees were able to get tested on their own.

The Idaho Bureau of Laboratories (state run-laboratories) tested all that they had the capacity to do in one day, according to Kelly Petroff, director of communications for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The state lab can do about has a testing capacity of approximately 200 tests per day.

“We are not prepared to handle this,” Doug Wold, human resources manager for Fry Foods, told the Idaho Statesman, referring to the lack of coordinated response. “If you don’t have an employer who’s willing to be proactive, we’re just going to fail.”

Fortunately, Crush the Curve Idaho, a private, business-led initiative established during the outbreak to increase testing, stepped in and tested every employee at Fry Foods.

By Tuesday of this week, 20 employees — about 8% of the plant’s workforce — had tested positive for the coronavirus, along with at least two of their family members. Nearly all were asymptomatic.

RAPID-RESPONSE TESTING

That’s what needs to happen: rapid-response testing. If you have an outbreak at your workplace, get everyone tested. For those who test positive, keep them home and isolated. For those who test negative, they can keep on working and you’re back in business.

When the outbreak hit Fry Foods, company officials made the decision to shut the plant down.

Without adequate testing, that’s unfortunately the right thing to do. Without testing, you have no idea whether you have seven infected employees, 70 or 270.

We applaud Fry Foods company officials for making the tough call to shut down, even though they were given the green light by the Southwest District Health Department to resume operations.

Coronavirus is stealthy. A person can carry coronavirus longer without symptoms, potentially spreading to others unwittingly. Some people who carry coronavirus have no symptoms at all.

We are encouraged that Crush the Curve Idaho stepped up and stepped in here.

But Idaho needs a more concerted and organized plan to do rapid-response testing.

We are a fragmented health system. Health providers include Saint Alphonsus, St. Luke’s, Primary Health, Saltzer, among others. Then think about all the entities who pay for health care: Blue Cross of Idaho, Regence BlueShield, PacificSource, SelectHealth, etc. Throw in Medicare, Medicaid and those who are uninsured.

Even our own government health management system is fragmented, with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and seven independent health districts not operated by the state.

And, in the case of Fry Foods, situated in a city bordering Oregon, workers were from two states.

NO COORIDINATED EFFORTS

No wonder Fry Foods officials were at a loss for where to turn for help. Without some sort of coordinated effort to test all employees and somehow pay for those tests, shutting down the plant was the best option.

It’s worth noting that the Fry Foods employee who initially had coronavirus was at a family gathering of a larger number than outlined in the governor’s reopening plan and was with visitors from out of state, two violations of the governor’s guidelines. That’s why we have the guidelines, and that’s why it’s important to follow the guidelines. Otherwise, this is what you get: an outbreak that shuts down an entire food manufacturing plant.

Unfortunately, shutting down operations every time there’s an outbreak is not going to get the job done.

And there will be more outbreaks as we reopen our economy, reopen factories and workplaces.

Idaho has a lot to be optimistic about, and we have a golden opportunity to lead the nation in reopening our economy in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. We have had relatively few cases (around 2,300) and few deaths (77). Our early efforts to shut down parts of our social interactions and Little’s quick call to issue a statewide stay-home order clearly have paid off. Idahoans’ adherence to the stay-home order has helped to flatten the curve and control the number of new cases. Residents and businesses, alike, have done their part to make this happen.

Our hope is that Idaho can chug along through the stages of reopening. Our fear is that if we don’t do this the right way, we’ll have a surge and we’ll be back to a statewide stay-home order. Nobody wants that.

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