There is a cost/benefit analysis in opening up the country in the midst of a pandemic. Donald Trump (R-now of FL) and Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) both acknowledge it. We’re dealing with a risk assessment. The more people go out, the greater the risk. So the logical person would be engaged in what is known as risk mitigation.
But because the people in the United States seem to live in different realities, this has become very difficult. As an editorial in Axios noted: “Far from being the unifying force other catastrophes have been, the COVID-19 pandemic is tearing a divided America — and world — further apart.”
Former President George W. Bush released a video urging national unity in fighting this coronavirus pandemic. “Let us remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat… We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise.” While I personally applauded the effort of someone I never voted for, it wasn’t universally appreciated. The tweeter-in-chief, for instance, whined that W should have spoken up to defend him during the impeachment event.
Governor Mike DeWine (R-OH) has been a reasonable voice in this discussion. He has recommended masks, but won’t require them because he says it goes too far for his citizenry. Also in Ohio, a lawmaker refuses to wear a mask because God?
Stillwater, OK rescinded its mask requirement because of the pushback. And a restaurant in Texas FORBIDS masks being worn by their employees.
I understand the tension between being safe and going back to normal, between complete lockdown and or doing nothing at all. Perhaps the restrictions have made people crazy. In what civilized society does someone wipe his nose on an employee’s shirt? Or push someone into a fountain? Or shoot someone in the head? The victims’ crimes? Asking people to engage in physical distancing behavior such as wearing a mask! A couple of teenage employees were shot because the McDonald’s dining room was closed. We’re in screwed-up territory. And we’re screwing ourselves.
I had foolishly, it appears, believed that when people went out, they would engage in appropriate social distancing and take reasonable precautions. Pictures of crowded beaches belie that theory. Polling suggests that many people rejected the number of the sick and the dead, including a significant one. They certainly dismiss as untrue projections a month out. Perhaps, as a result, anywhere between a sixth and one-third of the populace are already deciding not to get a vaccine when it becomes available.
Like it’s 2016
The Boston Globe reports that it’s memes, text chains, and online conspiracies that have fueled coronavirus protesters and discord. This is similar to what took place in 2016. “Only this time, the online manipulation campaigns… could be deadly.”
We can have disagreements about what’s the appropriate course of action. My friend David Brickman makes a modest proposal about New York’s reopening. “Where will art museums and galleries fit into this plan?” He thinks they should be among the first businesses to reopen, in part because many small museums or galleries could easily maintain social distancing protocols.
But these are not just differences of opinion I’m seeing in America. It’s nearly civil war at a time when we should have a common enemy, COVID-19. We’ll see very soon how the virus is winning, and we’re all losing.
More COVID Linkage
Read NOTES FROM THE PANDEMIC.