Dear Readers:

It was a pleasure to read Dr. Hartwick's article in the paper contrasting his opinions with mine. It was encouraging to witness a patriot exercising his constitutional rights of freedom of speech and press. He is a wonderful doctor and person as well as my friend and colleague. I am proud to have partnered with him and others over the last 40 years -- others like Drs. Owen, Robins, Haller, Tenpenny, and Sara Fox to name a few. In the unlikely event that I should retire before I die, it is comforting to know that my patients will be taken care of and even better than I could have done so myself.

For those of you who had not yet become sufficiently bored to read my first article entitled "The Casualties of Statistics," it was meant to be a commentary on freedom. After contemplating Dr. Hartwick's article I fear I may have failed in conveying my intended message. Fortunately, I am a much better physician than writer and so I would like to take another shot at it.

My essay was not really about the pandemic. COVID-19 was merely a vehicle to transport the message of freedom of choice. We all receive plenty of messages from the media and sometimes they are not accurate and impartial in their delivery. They love to tell us the obvious and then expect us to believe everything else they tell us. As if we don't have a mind of our own and can't decide for ourselves.

How many times have you heard from our leaders and the press: "This virus is serious. It kills people."

Well, let's see. Over a hundred thousand people have died with the virus in this country alone. Yes, I would agree that it is a serious illness. Thank you for pointing it out. I might have missed it otherwise.

And this: "The elderly and people with underlying conditions are more at risk."

Really? Who would have guessed? Thanks again! You folks are so smart.

And I’m tired of hearing on every channel, every broadcast, “Together we will get through this.”

OK, is there any other way to get through it? What else could happen? Is everyone else going to leave and Lester Holt will get us through it by himself?

Don't tell us the obvious. Tell us the truth. We can handle it, Jack!

I agree that COVID-19 is serious and can be deadly. What I don't agree with is the way it is being dealt with. The powers that be, that is the government and the media, have taken it upon themselves to decide what is best for us under the auspices of expert opinions and without consulting us, we the people. The media and our leaders have often likened the pandemic to a war. I think that is a fair analogy. The way I see it, we have two options in dealing with it: Hide from it or fight it.

Now I was never in the military but I'd wager that every general has told his troops that in a battle your worst enemy is fear and your greatest ally is courage. (In the event that no commander has ever said that, remember that you heard it here first in the Jackson Herald. (Oops! I meant The Telegram!) So that was our leader's choice -- fear and hiding over courage and fighting. I and many others would have liked to have had the opportunity to fight.

But instead, primary care givers were essentially assigned to kitchen parole instead of being permitted on the front lines with our brave hospital workers and first responders. The experience, education, and training of tons of thousands were furloughed, only to communicate by phone or a fuzzy facetime image with our patients. Unable to listen to their heart and lungs and maybe catch the virus in its early stages when treatment works the best. Unable to sense their fears and look into their eyes and "feel" what they are thinking. It cannot be done with the blinders and handcuffs and social distancing.

But then again, you might say, we are not the experts. Drs. Fauci and Britx are. I don't portend to know more about infectious disease than he and I certainly don't know more about epidemiology than Dr. Britx. They both have probably forgotten more than I ever knew on these subjects. But what I do know more about than both of them put together, is you.

What they have forgotten is that you are not a disease or a statistic. You are a person, an American no less. You should have a say on how you are treated and make no mistake, so should I. When it comes to my own patients, I am the expert. If you want to know about the DNA genetic sequencing (actually I think it's RNA, I really don't care), ask Dr. Fauci. If you want advice on what is best for you, ask us -- me and you, let us decide. Dr. Britx is an expert on epidemiology. Ask her for the latest statistics and advice on PPE. She can tell you better than I. You might not know this about Dr. Britx, but she is also an expert on scarves; you know, the accessories you wear around your neck. They look like a great big handkerchief. If you need advice on the ins and outs of color coordination and accessorization, ask her, not me. Sweater vests and khakis at the office, Levis and flannels on the tractor; that is the sum total of my knowledge on fashion. However, if I had to render an opinion on the subject, I'd go with the white scarf. Kind of hard to keep clean but it goes with anything. Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, epidemiology.

Epidemiology wise, Dr. Britx went with the "duck and cover" approach. She chose the Chinese model. Shut everything down and if you disobey, or disagree, haul your butt out of your shop or out of the water and put you in prison (China) or jail (USA). The good news is, if you murder or rape someone, you can get out easily so you won't catch the virus. Don't forget your mask when they let you out. I've never been a big fan of Communism. But then again, I am no expert on government or society. However, if I had to render an opinion, I would go with Democracy. It has such a nice ring to it. They have even got a bell out in Pennsylvania somewhere named for it.

And as for the tired excuse of staying safe because you might unknowingly infect grandma, well that is true. You might. But you probably won't with the odds being one in three hundred that you might infect her and the odds of one in thirty thousand that you might kill her. I think she is actually pretty safe. Nonetheless, I concede there is that risk.

But try this: Ask grandma, any grandma, which is more important to her – her own well-being and happiness or that of her grandchildren. See what she tells you. And when you go to ask her, don't expect to find her hiding under the bed for that extra layer of protection. She will be out in the kitchen, baking cookies.