This week’s Zoom meeting with an update on COVID-19 revealed the pressures we’re under as we continue to struggle against this plague.

I appreciate the Fort Payne and Rainsville Chambers of Commerce for coordinating this info session, with Alabama House Majority Leader Sen. Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, and State Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, joined by Carolyn Bern from the Alabama Department of Public Health.

I want to share with you two perspectives from the front lines of this disease, voices that weren’t part of that forum but also need to be heard. The first is a local healthcare provider. The second, a teacher in a county school.

I spoke with the doctor at a time when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent a health advisory warning the public about un-prescribed use of the anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin, leading to calls to poison centers.

This local doctor told me that Ivermectin is approved for use in humans for some parasitic infections but should only be obtained from a medical provider -- NOT from a feed store.

The FDA has not reviewed data to support of it to treat or prevent COVID-19, but research is underway. Meanwhile, we have an FDA-approved vaccine that millions of people have taken that is safer than aspirin, an over-the-counter blood thinner commonly prescribed to millions of Americans for stroke and heart attack prevention.

This doctor told me that seeing so much disinformation shared online makes him feel “alternately sad, angry, exhausted, exasperated, and about a million other emotions.”

Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham have talked extensively about Ivermectin while casting doubt on the vaccines. As a result, hospital ICU beds across Alabama are full, mostly with the unvaccinated.

Throughout this pandemic, I’ve watched the skeptics bark about how asking them to be courteous of their neighbors is a form of persecution. On the other side of a life-threatening experience, some reluctantly admit that they should have just worn the mask and gotten vaccinated. Or they end up like Herman Cain, Marc Bernier, Phil Valentine, Dick Farrel, Tod Tucker, Caleb Wallace, and the growing list of others who’ve died.

Media personality Joe Rogan invited ridicule this week when he shared a YouTube video announcing that he had to cancel his upcoming show in Nashville because he had tested positive for COVID. This is the same Joe Rogan who repeatedly insisted on his podccast that if you are healthy and take vitamins, no worries. I wonder if that had anything to do with him being a paid spokesperson for supplements?

As soon as Rogan got diagnosed, he admitted to throwing everything but the kitchen sink into his body to treat it.

Refusing precautions to protect others becomes a problem when people who have done these things can’t find a hospital bed or a virus is allowed to continue circulating to new hosts and mutates into ever-stronger versions. Patience wears thin when you’ve tried to do the right thing, yet other people seem determined to drag this thing out. If you refuse the vaccine, that’s your principled stand. And if and when you do get sick, you’ll refuse a trip to the ICU, right?

The other voice I heard this week was a DeKalb County teacher who is immuno-compromised because she is recovering from cancer. She’s terrified she will get this disease because so many people around her haven’t vaccinated and refuse to wear masks. When she wears her mask, someone eventually comes along and makes a gratuitous comment about her being a “sheep”.

I don’t want to unfairly portray people hesistant to get vaccinated as uncaring monsters. On some level, I get it. But how much more evidence do you need? That is, actual evidence -- not disinformation you heard on the internet.

The teacher remains silent out of fear she will be further mocked or retaliated against for being concerned about a highly contagious communicable disease that has probably killed someone you know by now. She worries you’ll angrily insist that your rights are more important than her needs. These folks don’t want to make noise or rock the boat, but their voices are no less important and do not need lost in all of the noise.

— Steven Stiefel is the publisher of the Times-Journal. His column appears in Saturday editions. Email:

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