WASHINGTON: Usually, when a nation is under attack, people come together to battle a common enemy. This was true during World War ll and after 9/11. Now we are under attack by the coronavirus, which has already killed more than 40,000 Americans and infected at least a million more.
To slow the spread of the virus, a number of steps have been taken by the states. Including social distancing and the closing of non-essential businesses. As a result, the number of new cases in some states has shown a decline.
Similar measures have seen a decline in new cases in other countries such as Germany and South Korea. Medical experts warn that bringing such measures to an end prematurely will lead to a second wave of the virus and a mounting death rate.
The call to open America up again
Some Americans now seem to be launching a campaign to eliminate stay-at-home and social distancing measures, as if they were demanding a right to get the virus if they want to. Groups rallied in at least six states in Mid-April and protests are planned throughout the country.
Ironically, President Trump, who has told us that he is “at war” with the virus, hailed demonstrators who, in his words, sought to “liberate” Minnesota, Michigan, and Virginia. Stephen Moore, an economist and member of the White House Council to reopen the country, declared:
“I call these people the modern-day Rosa Parks—-they are protesting against injustice and a loss of liberties.”
An unusual coalition of groups and individuals has embraced this movement. That one might expect have been particularly vocal— Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh among them. One of the groups which launched a protest in Michigan, the Michigan Freedom Fund, received more than $500,000 from the family of Secretary of Education Betsy De Vos.
Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist and host of “Infowars,” spoke at a “You Can’t Close America” rally at the state capital in Austin, Texas.
Among Jones’s crusades has been a campaign arguing that the mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut was a hoax and that the Oklahoma City bombing and the attack on 9/11 were actually conducted by the U.S. Government.
Public health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have said that premature easing of stay-at-home orders could lead to a second wave of the pandemic. Thus eturning the population to quarantine, deepening the economic turmoil and resulting in more lives lost.
The U.S. response to this pandemic has been confused and confusing.
For several months, our leaders downplayed the danger. Some other countries did not, taking appropriate actions for their population. (Sweden’s Outlier Response To COVID-19, And Its Results So Far)
Consider South Korea. The U.S. and South Korea reported their first coronavirus cases on the same day, January 20, 2020. At the present time, South Korea has 10,683 cases and 237 deaths. The U.S. has more than 800,000 cases and more than 40,000 deaths—-and the number continues to grow.
The difference between South Korea and the U.S., health experts say, is the response. And population. The U.S. has a population of 328.2 million (2019) while South Korea’s population 51.64 (2018).
South Korea saw a spike in cases in late February, which peaked with 909 new cases on Feb. 19. After that, South Korean officials immediately took action, testing hundreds of thousands of people, the highest testing rate in the world.
South Korea quickly isolated those who tested positive.
As of mid-March, the U.S. managed to test only 135,000 people.**
U. S. Officials do not know how many Americans are infected. In projections compiled by the American Hospital Association, as many as 96 million Americans could be infected in the coming months. The Live Tracker report, complied by CDC, shows that as of April 21, 778,406 infections have been reported.
While our state leaders were slow to recognize the danger of the Coronavirus and slow to call for social distancing and the closing of non-essential businesses and activities, some are now quick to bring these necessary steps to an end. Despite the fact that the number of people infected continues to grow and deaths mount daily.
In the case of Georgia, for example, the governor, Brian Kemp, is opening all salons, massage therapists, bowling alleys and, a few days later, restaurants and movie theaters.
This is not because the number of deaths and new cases has declined for two weeks, as guidelines issued by the White House urges, but in spite of the fact that they have not. Health experts warn of a deadly new wave on infections.
The governor conceded that “We’re probably going to have to see our cases continue to go up.”
What is in the mind of Gov. Kemp, or the governors of South Carolina and Tennessee, who plan a similar end to restrictions, is difficult to understand.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says, “As I look at the data and talk with our public health officials I don’t see that it’s based on anything that’s logical.” Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said he was “beyond disturbed” by the governor’s action.
“In my mind, this is reckless. It blows our minds that here in Georgia we would have these types of rules being lifted at a time when people are suffering.”
Writing in The Atlantic, George Packer notes that,
“The crisis demanded a response that was swift, rational and collective. The U.S. reacted instead like Pakistan or Belarus—-like a Country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government…Americans woke up to find themselves citizens of a failed state. With no national plan—-The virus should have united Americans against a common threat. With different leadership it might have.”
And now we have a political movement declaring that it is “fascistic” to protect society against a deadly virus, and governors prepared to open beaches, as in Florida, despite rising death rates. The crusade to allow people to catch the virus seems to be growing. If it succeeds, all of us will be the losers. It is a further sign that our political life and its narrow partisanship makes us unable to respond to a real crisis.
Common sense is clearly taking a back seat in a large segment of our society.
The above opinions are those of the writer.
** April 21 reports show over 4 million tests have been administered. (Live tracker: How many coronavirus cases have been reported in each U.S. state?)