Some day we will be able to draw some conclusions, and make some judgments, about the pervasive coronavirus outbreak — how it was handled and what we learned — with the benefit of hindsight and better information.
Right now, this much is certain: Coronavirus is not a hoax, not a “scare,” but a potential pandemic that we are simultaneously learning about and trying to deal with in real time. This is what living through a frightening historic time feels like.
Many of us will eventually be personally affected, either directly or indirectly through friends and relatives. The broader impacts — a plunging stock market, curtailed work and leisure activities, business losses, families inconvenienced by school closures, to cite just a few — will have both immediate and lasting implications for individuals and the country. Most people who contract coronavirus will recover from it. Recovering from its fallout will take the country longer.
One of the most troubling things about the coronavirus challenge is the Trump administration’s erratic handling of a possibly global health crisis, thereby putting untold numbers of lives at risk. Handing off oversight of the federal government’s actions to Vice President Pence shows just how far removed the administration is from understanding the potential crisis the nation faces. Pence — in a seeming effort to reassure us — said that all information about the coronavirus would be filtered through him. Sounds like how they handled it in the place where coronavirus started. But even in China, government attempts to control and qualify information about the virus have floundered.
All of us are dealing with information overload from the real news media, which are doing a stellar job of documenting what is going on in the best tradition of public service. It’s a lot to absorb, and it’s an ever-evolving story that requires time, attention and discrimination about information sources to follow. You’ve got to stick with it and check the sources of information. You can trust that legitimate news outlets are doing their best to help you, even if there are some uncertainties along the way.
Meanwhile, the fake media — with Fox News as usual leading the way — are pushing their disinformation campaign. Shameful, stupid and dangerous things are being said by TV commentators, right wing radio talk show hosts and unhinged conspiracy theorists.
It’s unfortunate for the nation that when Trump is talking about coronavirus, he seems not to have a grasp of the facts. Here’s just one example: He said, “We are rapidly developing a vaccine. … The vaccine is coming along well, and in speaking to the doctors, we think this is something that we can develop very rapidly.”
In fact, there is no vaccine is imminent for the coronavirus, and even if one can be developed it will take at least a year to be approved and distributed (it should be noted that vaccines don’t cure diseases, they are intended to prevent them). So why offer false hope to millions of Americans, unless it’s for political advantage? It’s a failure of leadership the president can’t dodge.
At the same time, our state government is responding with quick and measured actions. As noted in the Seattle Times, “state and local officials are quickly mustering resources to ensure systems, institutions and individuals are braced for a potential surge in diagnoses.” Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency. King County Executive Dow Constantine ordered the purchase of a motel for patient isolation.
“The state Public Health Lab in Shoreline started testing for the virus last week, enabling same-day results,” the Times reported. And, the Legislature is considering transferring money for the state’s rainy day fund to help combat the coronavirus outbreak.
That’s what an appropriate response looks like — addressing the medical reality of the situation as opposed to angling for political gain.
For all that, the question most Americans will want answered first is, “how does this affect me, my family and my community?” In other words, what’s the local impact? We will do our best to “localize” the coronavirus situation at the Methow Valley/Okanogan County level, beginning with coverage this week. We can’t aspire to covering the issue in the same way larger media outlets do, but we’ll reflect our community’s response and let you know about available resources. We don’t have any other motive.