EDITORIAL: Shiloh Water Co. and the war on fact

The Dispatch Editorial Board
Medical workers in protective gear talk with a woman suspected of being ill with a coronavirus at a community health station in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. China on Monday expanded sweeping efforts to contain a viral disease by extending the Lunar New Year holiday to keep the public at home and avoid spreading infection. (Chinatopix via AP)

Whether rotten teeth or coronavirus, the war on science and fact is a growing danger to public health. 

And, with the rise of demagoguery, the threat will only increase.

Take, for example, Shiloh Water Co.'s strange crusade to remove fluoride from its water system, which serves about half of West Manchester Township's population.

It's all about removing "chemicals" from the water system, Shiloh officials say. "Drugs" shouldn't be dolled out to the public, said one commenter at Monday's public hearing about the issue.

Judging from the conspiratorial comments flying around Monday's hearing, a weird local production of Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove" has landed in West Manchester.

Paging Gen. Ripper and his precious bodily fluids.

Fact is, the public health benefits to fluoride is well established and grounded in more than a half-century of peer-reviewed scientific research. And it's laughable that just five of the 58 water systems throughout York County provide it.

As a result, children must receive supplemental treatment from physicians and the poor and elderly face an increased risk of dental decay.

Chairman Jim Bentzel, of Shiloh Water Authority speaks during a special meeting with West Manchester Township Board of Supervisors in West Manchester Township, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. The authority submitted an application to the Department of Environmental Protection in November requesting permission to discontinue adding fluoride to water. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Anything to serve a conspiracy theory, especially one that saves a buck or two, right?

Thing is, Shiloh's contempt for fact is just a symptom of a broader problem, one that's shaping bad legislation in statehouses across the U.S. and driven President Donald Trump's gutting of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency.

In 2018 alone, the CDC cut its program aimed at stemming the spread of global infectious diseases by 80% after the Trump administration bled it of cash. That program had operated in 49 countries. Now it's up and running in just 10, reported Business Insider.

This from a president who, just this week, said he hasn't received assistance nor desires any partnerships with foreign governments working to stop the spread of coronavirus before it reaches pandemic levels.

For a man obsessed with the appearance of masculinity, even collective problem solving is a sign of weakness.

Over the past few days, Trump has raged about the plummeting stock markets, reported The Washington Post, a direct result of coronavirus' spread across the globe, which now threatens supply chains for some of America's largest companies.

FILE - In this Feb. 21, 2020 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Las Vegas. A U.S. appeals court has upheld the Trump administration's rules imposing more hurdles for women seeking abortions. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision Monday, Feb. 24 overturns decisions that had been issued by judges in Washington, Oregon and California. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Everything's fine, Trump pledged on Twitter, only to be rebuffed by his own CDC officials' warnings that the disease is likely to cause a global pandemic.

For the U.S. president, coronavirus, and the markets it's affecting, are a personal political threat. That's why it's Trump's economic advisers, not his scientific ones, who are touring the talk show circuit. 

The social and moral implications of a widespread disease — one that's killing 2% of those infected — is but an afterthought.

Even Trump's allies in the U.S. Senate have noticed the lack of seriousness with which the Trump administration is approaching coronavirus. Earlier this week, U.S. Homeland Security chief Chad Wolf showed up to a Senate hearing utterly unprepared to answer the most basic questions about the disease. Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana ripped him for it.

The EPA has proposed cuts to environmental review for massive construction projects. The phrase "climate change" has been scrubbed from federal websites. State legislatures propose abortion bills that physicians and scientists say have no foundation in reality and will ultimately injure patients. 

And, in West Manchester Township, the very base governmental role of ensuring public health faces a ritual sacrifice on the altar of ignorance and conspiracy.

MAGA, indeed.