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Column: Ignorance isn't always bliss. Sometimes it's deadly
Shannon Casas high res
Shannon Casas

Knowledge is power, or so they say. Then again ignorance is bliss.

These days, it seems many are blissfully unaware of their own ignorance. 

Some say they’ve done their “research” or encourage you to question the information coming from mainstream sources. 

Some say they won’t pay for local information, content instead to find their “answers” on social media or otherwise from an uninformed friend.

Exactly who has the answers seems a serious point of contention, but it can’t be the scientists who have literally done the research. No, there’s something fishy about those scientists and the medical community and the government. Lots of folks seem to have a feeling they’re all plotting destruction or at least trying to grab up as much money as they can. Forgive my sarcasm — I’m just over this harmful misinformation. I don’t have all the answers, but I do have an idea of where to look for them.

It’s kind of like we’ve all been diagnosed with a rare disease and Googled it against the doctor’s advice. Googling something like that can lead you to some legitimate scientific information that’s difficult to understand and some blogs from people who don’t know what they’re talking about, and none of that is a good basis for making sound medical decisions. Now we have an entire medical community trying to counteract misperceptions based on misunderstanding and misinformation.

So, where do we get the information we can trust? Your doctor is the best answer here.

I’m frustrated with the difficulty of figuring out the truth amid the swirl of actual information that changes as scientists learn more. I’m trained to parse through some of this and am daily pushing reporters at The Times to get answers to things we don’t understand about this virus. We ask leaders in our community who know what they’re talking about and we use data that’s public to all of us from sources like the Department of Public Health. It can still be confusing. Answers are sometimes more complicated than we’d like. 

Sometimes what we report sounds scary. As local health leaders have said, our goal is not to scare you. It’s to provide you with accurate information so you can make decisions. 

It’s still true that most who contract COVID-19 don’t require hospitalization. It’s also true that vaccines have shown significant protection against severe cases of COVID.

I certainly don’t have all the answers; no one does as this virus mutates and seems to stay one step ahead of even the informed. 

Here’s a few things I do know: 

  • Our health system was treating 236 patients as of Friday. The previous peak was 355 in January, according to Northeast Georgia Health System’s data, which is made public on their website.

  • Of those who contract COVID, outcomes appear to be worse in the unvaccinated. Of those being treated at NGHS, 86% were unvaccinated. And of those in critical care, 96% were unvaccinated. The percentage of Hall County residents who have been fully vaccinated was 37%, according to the Department of Public Health.

  • The COVID-19 positivity rate in Hall County over the past two weeks was 16.5% as of Thursday. 

  • More than 600,000 have died nationally of COVID-19 out of more than 37 million cases in a population of 328 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In Hall County, 483 have died out of 27,512 cases, according to DPH. That’s in a population of 203,136. Meanwhile, 2,671 of Hall County residents with COVID cases required hospitalization, according to DPH. Keep in mind that NGHS treats residents from throughout Northeast Georgia.

  • There is a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System that accepts reports of any adverse event following any vaccination. From Dec. 14 to Aug. 16, VAERS received 6,789 reports of death among those who got the COVID-19 vaccine. In that same time frame, 357 million doses of the vaccine were administered. That’s 0.0019% reported deaths, and of those deaths that were reported, very few have been determined to actually be directly linked to the vaccine. Health care providers report any death following vaccination to that system whether it’s clear vaccination was the cause or not. According to the CDC, “A review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records, has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines.” Reports have indicated “a plausible causal relationship” between the J&J/Janssen vaccine and blood clotting issues. Of those, 18 died. You can read about all of this at the CDC’s website. Because they’re not hiding as much as some people think they are.

So, we have 600,000 COVID deaths and maybe 18 from vaccines. I’ll take my chances with the vaccine. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s also deadly.

Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a North Hall resident.