What it takes
The coronavirus is on a rampage, setting daily records for numbers of cases reported in some states and surging back in others where its predations had been somewhat checked.
A Bloomberg story reported a couple of days ago: “The disease is raging — Florida reported 15,300 cases Sunday, the biggest single-day increase of the U.S. pandemic — and experts say the resurgence in the original battlegrounds has common causes. They include a population no longer willing to stay inside, Republicans who refuse face masks as a political statement, street protests over police violence and young people convinced the virus won’t seriously hurt them.” (Although it’s not fair to pin it all on Republicans.)
On Sunday, Washington state health officials reported a record-high one-day count of diagnoses. You can read daily (in credible news sources) about health systems around the country that are overwhelmed to the breaking point.
This should be terrifying to all of us, because there is no coherent strategy for keeping the pandemic from claiming hundreds of thousands of more lives in this country. The reckless insistence on fully re-opening too soon is not restoring “normal,” but rather increasing the likelihood of a catastrophe. This disease, about which we are learning more every day, can come for any one of us, especially if we let our guard down under the dangerous assumption that the worst of it has passed.
Millions of Americans continue to wonder how the country we regard as the most capable on the planet could be so inept about confronting COVID-19 and mobilizing the citizenry in common cause against the pandemic.
Our failure started at the top. The biggest threat to your health and safety right now, and that of your loved ones, is the President of the United States. He continues to lie daily about the pandemic, and gave up on seriously dealing with it when he could not bully the outbreak into submission with his usual volcanic bluster and tweeted disinformation. COVID-19 can’t be shouted out of existence or wished away, it seems. When his short attention span moved on to other topics, he adopted a “live with it” strategy.
The president’s deliberate divisiveness has made it harder for the nation to rally around a response. Worse, the White House was working to undermine and discredit Dr. Anthony Fauci, the most consistently reliable source of information about the coronavirus and what to expect from it. The administration has tried to walk that back a bit, because Dr. Fauci is believable and the president is not.
The president’s push to open schools this fall is a political ploy, intended to gin up votes in November. He has no concern for the welfare of children, teachers, staff or parents, which must be considered paramount before schools can safely open.
The second-most dangerous threat to your health and safety? The willful ignorance of deniers and hoaxers who resist wearing a mask because it somehow impedes their freedom. It’s bad enough that they have no regard for their own well-being. But to threaten the well-being of all the rest of us? That’s just selfish and irresponsible.
The Bloomberg story goes on to note: “And even though some of the states led by Democratic governors delayed restarting their economies until weeks after more eager peers like Georgia, they still jumped too soon, critics say.”
We’re fortunate to have one of those Democratic governors who took the stewardship of his constituents’ health seriously.
The state’s handling of the coronavirus crisis has at times seemed a bit herky-jerky and hard to sort out, with to-be-expected frustration from many quarters. Gov. Jay Inslee has endured criticism, attacks and resistance. But he has stayed the course, rather than buckle to political pressure like so many other governors did (and now we’re seeing how that’s working out for those states). Inslee’s goal has always been clear and constantly reinforced: to reduce the pandemic’s grip on Washington so we can realistically implement a re-opening plan that will be lasting. He has asked us to put citizenship over partisanship, and emphasized cooperation over enforcement.
During a press conference on Monday, Dr. Robert Redfield, director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that if everyone complied with wearing a mask, “over the next six weeks we could drive [the virus] into the ground.” Our short experience with COVID-19 (barely half a year, though it seems longer) has made it clear that the most effective strategies are to stay home, avoid congregating, and wear masks if you do. Absent the shared willpower to do those things, the results will be devastating.