Dunagin: The law of unintended consequences

By CHARLES DUNAGIN GUEST COLUMNIST,

The law of unintended consequences can come into play from a gasoline can to a hospital  emergency room.

No, I’m not about to report an explosion or a fire.

The gasoline containers in question are those new ones mandated since 2009 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce spills when fueling lawn mowers, weed eaters, leaf blowers, boat motors and such.

They are supposed to help protect the environment by reducing toxic emissions and gasoline spills.

I and others have found we spill more gasoline with the new cans, equipped with a spring-loaded cutoff device, than with the old cans which, unfortunately, I didn’t bring with me when I moved almost five years ago.

Syndicated columnist Tom Purcell, also complaining about the gas containers, recently wrote:

“Grandpa, along with millions of other sensible people, used an old steel funnel to fill his lawnmower’s tank — never spilling a drop.

“Nonetheless, the EPA, determined to create a problem for its solution, mandated in 2009 that new gasoline containers ‘be built with a simple and inexpensive permeation barrier and new spouts that close automatically’.”

Those cans are not simple, inexpensive or automatic. Nor do they stop the permeation of gasoline; that is unless, as another writer opined, you have three hands to operate one.

People can adapt though. The last time I fueled my equipment, I didn’t spill a drop.

Another unintended consequence — and there are many in the coronavirus  pandemic — is the toll on hospitals, and I’m not referring to overcrowding.

You see on the television  interviews with doctors and nurses in New York and other big cities  who are overworked and stressed out. One physician, a beautiful young woman, even committed suicide.

But in some places, like Mississippi, it’s just the opposite.

I talked to an emergency room physician in North Mississippi last week. Asked if he was staying busy, he said it was just the opposite.

“Our emergency room visits are off 50 percent,” he said,

He thinks people, who otherwise would visit the emergency room, are “scared” because of all the publicity about the virus. While he doesn’t wish anyone to get “sick or hurt,” he wouldn’t mind having more, not less, work.

So it is with a number of clinics and hospitals across the country.

Having put elective surgeries on hold and encouraging people not to visit emergency rooms and clinics unless absolutely necessary to make room for COVID-19 patients, many facilities had vacant beds when they resumed some procedures last week.

The Tupelo newspaper reported  that  North Mississippi Health Services, which operates multiple facilities, resumed elective procedures on April 28. The article  quoted NMHS President and CEO Shane Spees as linking financial losses to a decline in the number of total patients, triggered by efforts and mandates to preserve resources needed to treat COVID-19 patients.

Wonder how many patients had conditions worsened by having to postpone an elective procedure such as a cancer biopsy?

President Trump’s current effort to place the blame on China for the spread of the coronavirus, even if it’s valid — and I’m not saying it’s not — could have an unintended consequence if he, as promised, “punishes” China. It could trigger more economic bad news.

If China was doing all the things the president has suggested they may have in either starting the pandemic or covering it up, why didn’t our intelligence agencies find out about it and warn the administration?

Maybe they did.

Trump has a history of dismissing intelligence reports he doesn’t like or with which he disagrees.

That's something else that could result  in unintended consequences.

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