Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Amish And Coronavirus: Anecdotes On The Efficacy Of Masks And Social Distancing

While I am not a trained epidemiologist, I do have some basic skills in observation. 

On the one hand there are daily, seemingly hourly, updates and doom and gloom from the media about the Chinese coronavirus. Anytime there is an "outbreak" anywhere in the country, it makes the news in northeast Indiana. There are daily boxscores for coronavirus like it is a sport. The media and government and corporate America are uniform in demanding compliance with social distancing and mask wearing.

On the other hand, I don't personally know a single person who has had coronavirus and none that died of the disease. I have heard about people dying of it and I know people who know people but given that this is a "pandemic", it seems like not many people are actually impacted by it.

Something seems off.

However, I have an advantage that a lot of people don't. I have first hand, daily interaction with a group of people who are not following any of the demands for mask wearing or social distancing: the Amish community in Allen County, Indiana. Our local Amish community is the tenth largest in the country with close to 4,000 people in one county with a little overlap into Dekalb County where I live.

Since the Amish don't practice any of the guidelines, you would expect that coronavirus has been ravaging the community. Is that the case?

Here is how a normal week goes for an Amish family.

They start the week off of Sunday at church. They don't wear masks or socially distance and are packed in like sardines in a "shed" since they don't have "church houses". They sing and sing and sing, shoulder to shoulder. Then they have lunch afterward, also packed together. After lunch the women stand together to clean up and the men gather in groups to talk. The kids play. 

During the week, they go about their lives. No one wears masks in Amish stores except for random weirdo English people. Women often get together with other women, friends or family, to clean together or pick produce to can or whatever. I often tease them that it seems like they most spend their time getting ready to eat, eating, cleaning up from eating and then talking about what they are going to eat later. Amish women can get a lot done while talking non-stop and balancing a baby on their hip.

Most of them have a gaggle of children. They don't wear masks anywhere except for the 10-20 minute school bus ride. They don't wear them in school. They don't "socially distance" at school. They still sit together to eat lunch, sit in class like they always have and play at recess like they always do.

Total number of Amish kids dying from coronavirus? 

Zero.

It is important to point out that elderly Amish are mostly attending church like they were before the pandemic and are exposed to hundreds of kids and adults.

Meanwhile during the week, the men work in Amish businesses or on work crew. No one wears a mask or worries about social distancing. They don't even think about it. 

Then there are weddings and funerals. This time of year there is at least a wedding a week, often multiple weddings, and during the wedding and the meals afterward everyone is in the same "shed" packed together. There are hundreds of people at a wedding and in the evening there are often just as many but different Amish as younger adults and teens who work during the week show up to get some dinner and play volleyball or basketball. Funerals happen on a regular basis. Same situation. Hundreds in close quarters, shoulder to shoulder, singing for hours followed by a meal where they sit right next to one another.

Oh, and they also have potlucks and smaller get-togethers all during the week, maybe 50-75 or so per gathering. Their schedule is exhausting, often leaving 3-4 nights per week (not counting church) to gather with other families.

The young adults and older teens who are rumspringa ("running around") have some kind of event several times a week separate from the rest of the family. They also play volleyball and basketball and of course eat and sing. Turns out they like singing. 

Also of note: the average Amish is exposed to a lot of English people and other Amish over the course of a week. It is not a closed environment at all. Most Amish are pretty close with someone non-Amish, whether a driver or someone on a work crew or whatever.

Our local community has probably close to 4000 Amish and it is not an exaggeration to say that the entire community is cross-contaminated at least every couple weeks.

To be sure, early on the Amish didn't hold school (at least not in the school buildings) and didn't have church for around a month and a half. Older Amish missed the Easter communion service for the first time in their lives. For the last 3-4 months at least, they have been operating as usual and they never wore masks, social distanced or reduced the number of family get-togethers. 

What has the impact of the coronavirus been on the Allen County, Indiana Amish community? 

Almost none.

They do everything we are told you must not do and don't do anything we are told you must do. There have been a few people who have died from/with coronavirus but they were elderly and had major health issues already. It seems to me that we have actually had fewer funerals in 2020 than in prior years. Other Amish have been ill, but recovered and no one really knows if it was coronavirus or not since they don't get tested. Since Amish send their kids to school when they are sick and never, ever stay home when ill in general unless deathly ill, people tend to get sick anyway. 

So either they are especially hardy or...

First, the measures we are told we must take are not really effective in reducing the spread of coronavirus and...

Second, maybe coronavirus is not the pandemic we have been led to believe it is.

At the store this morning, I saw a young English guy, probably later teens, wearing a mask like he is supposed to. He looked like an athlete, trim and in great shape. He is probably at as close to zero risk as anyone can be but in order to go into a grocery store he has to wear a mask. What possible reason could there be for someone more likely to die slipping on a grape than dying of coronavirus to be required to wear a mask? As we see from the Amish community, not wearing masks or social distancing seems to have zero impact on the likelihood of getting and especially of dying from coronavirus. 

I wonder why epidemiologists aren't studying the Amish communities to figure out why they are relatively unscathed by the coronavirus in spite of taking none of the precautions they were told to? If the goal is to halt the spread of the disease, that would make sense.

Huh, I wonder if that isn't the goal at all?



13 comments:

  1. Arthur, I enjoy your posts very much. Thanks, in particular, for this on-the-ground report.

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  2. I've been looking at our state statistics - utterly unusable. But even though cases are higher, we have the same death toll as three months ago.

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    1. You really can't trust any of the stats being put out by the government, and I imagine that is intentional. Trust us!, as they shut down the state and wreck the economy to undermine Orange Man Bad.

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  3. I have been enthralled with the Amish community for years as they seem to have most everything our consumerist economy lacks. Strong family ties, strong community ties, strong work ethic and overall good health. I wonder if there is anything to their lifestyle...??? Nah, surely there couldn't be.

    Thanks again for another great read/report Arthur!

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    1. In some ways it reminds me of the Shire but there are problems as well, they just keep most of their issues out of sight. The biggest thing is that keeping everyone in line requires a great deal of top down control and it often manifests in gossip and petty backstabbing. You might be surprised by how consumerist they are, at least this community.

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    2. I think you just said it, they keep it out of sight. While your main point may be on point, who's to say how many have died of what since they surely aren't going to announce that to the English *shrug*. If any have, it may not be that many, but who knows as they don't go to hospitals and use modern medicine to even have it tracked.

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    3. That is not at all accurate. Amish go to the hospital all the time for serious illnesses and we are close enough to them to know who died and when. I usually take someone to every funeral in the community and pretty much always know how they died. Heck, I know when a young couple gets married because the girl got knocked up, I certainly know when someone dies of coronavirus.

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  4. It seems the English have gone crazy over a little thing that happens all the time... the Flu.

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