In 1992, the year after NBA legend Magic Johnson announced he had HIV and Queen frontman Freddie Mercury died of AIDS-related pneumonia, Congress passed legislation that changed the name of the Centers for Disease Control to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What a difference two words make.
HIV/AIDS, so labeled in the prior decade, had ravaged America and threatened human bodies and souls around the globe, regardless of gender and sexual orientation. Contaminated blood transfusions even claimed the lives of tennis great Arthur Ashe and young Ryan White, a hemophiliac. No more “gay men’s” disease.
Which brings us back to the 1992 name change of the CDC. Adding the words “and Prevention” keeps in the forefront of scientific America’s axiom that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
So, here we are amid the fight against another virus, COVID-19.
Here we are, amending our liberties and those of our children, while others put us at risk by trashing parking lots and sidewalks with disposable gloves and face covering.
We’ve even added three new words to our daily lexicon to go along with our new fashion statements, personal protection equipment, which we’ve dubbed PPE for short.
It’s protocol, too, for the politicos who deliver the daily news briefings and, on occasion, to simply use CDC or the Centers for Disease Control.
Granted, Congress deliberately added the words “and Prevention,” fully understanding during the height of the HIV/AIDS pandemic that the first line of defense against viral and communicable diseases is in fact prevention. Again, regardless of sexual orientation or gender. And so it is with the coronavirus.
Equipment crucial to warding off the virus include, clean hands, clean hands that stay away from our eyes, nose and mouth, and goggles, respirators, ventilators and such. Some of them are mandated and recommended any way by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Another tool in our beat coronavirus bucket is social distancing, which some folks can’t seem to adhere to. It’s fairly easy to comply with the 6-foot line of demarcation, whether that line is marked with blue painter’s tape, as Costco has employed, or imagined by the length of conveyor belt at a grocery store.
And if you can’t imagine that, imagine you or a loved one waiting in line to share a respirator or ventilator at a clinic or hospital.
Words also matter when federal lawmakers prefer to think President Trump is the enemy instead of COVID-19.
Prevention is in so many ways better than a cure. (Read: measles, mumps and rubella; chickenpox; polio; diphtheria).
A vaccine for the COVID-19 is coming. Research and development will see to that, and when it does we must be prepared to be on the receiving end of the breakthrough. (And prayerful the entire time.)
Now it’s time for all of us to remember we’re fighting a two-fisted battle and that, if we prevent COVID-19 from spreading, we’ve won half the battle.
• Deborah Simmons can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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