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Fellowship and disease

July 28, 2020

We are social animals. And contagious diseases of wide variety propagate along our social connections. That provides an easy target for moralistic condemnation, damning as sinful or wrong some connection or some group, the proof being the disease they propagated. We should resist that kind of moralism, regardless of what direction it takes. When I read that Covid-19 spread at an Alabama Baptist meet-up, my first reaction is sympathy. Their religion is silly. Their longing for fellowship is not.

I am more critical that the disease tore through a party of anesthesiology residents at the University of Florida. They cannot be excused from ignorance of the underlying biology. And being young physicians, they should be more conscientious than average. But again, I don’t blame them for wanting to party. An epidemic forces each of us to walk a tightrope between the benefits of social interaction and the risk of infection. Each of our choices there is a trade-off. We should be careful of criticizing those who choose to travel to the left or the right of us, except when there is firmer ground for such criticism than merely that difference.

Historians studying hospital and infirmary records recently calculated that as many as one in five Londoners under 35 have syphilis. Ooops — had. This was in the late 18th century. Poor James Boswell may become more famous for having suffered the disease nineteen times, than for writing about his friend the lexicographer. (Cite.) Given the treatments then, and even a century later, I would not be surprised if some didn’t just jump into the Thames rather than face instruments and medicines as shown right. Especially for a second time.

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