Let’s talk. We’re at a crossroads. Not a politician-speak “crossroads” used to pretty up a speech but meaning precious little in real life. We’re at a serious fork in the road.
Do we want to be a country that gets its ass kicked by coronavirus?
Or do we want to be a country that met the moment, that rose to the challenge, that looked the possibility of true American carnage in the face, and won.
Because right now we’re getting our ass kicked.
While some countries in Asia and Europe got hit with the pandemic a little before us and are now emerging well from a 1st Wave, we collectively decided to act like bunch of morons, throwing gasoline on a fire that was not yet extinguished.
You’ve probably seen some media coverage of the recent spike in new COVID-19 cases. That’s true, cases are trending upward:
Maybe you’re hearing, “oh, it’s just because we’re testing more…which means we’re catching more asymptomatic cases.” We are testing more, which is a good thing, no matter what the author of the Emptysburg Address, Cheetoh Jesus of House Small Hands, says about it. But more testing doesn’t explain this spike.
Getting to why that’s happening goes deeper than just our experience here in the United States. Let’s discuss some context first.
Among the countries who took on coronavirus most successfully so far, there is a clear trend in their curves, including driving down active cases after an initial burst. Some examples:
- Germany was in the heart of some of the worst outbreaks in Europe, next to Italy, France, Belguim, et. al. With aggressive, early, and widespread testing to find cases early and limit community spread (thus lowering their death rate) they bent their curve down:
2) In nearby Austria, bordering northern Italy where the explosion of the pandemic first jarred the world’s consciousnesses, they acted quickly and are one of the best national responses in hard hit Western & Central Europe:
3) Speaking of Italy, let’s see how they did after taking it on the chin thanks to China’s delay in telling the truth to the world:
Impressive given how horrifically the outbreak raged for weeks there.
4) Now let’s talk about one of the best coronavirus responses in the world, Vietnam, on the border with China:
The graph almost understates the scope of their success. As of June 24, they had a mere 352 cases and a stunning *zero* deaths from COVID-19.
Before we explore how these countries succeeded, let’s check on our own efforts to bend the curve compared to these success stories:
Worried about a 2nd Wave, as is common in such global pandemics? Don’t worry. We’re still fanning the flames of the first one.
How? People not taking coronavirus seriously, especially younger people in states not previously hard it. Among the mostly southern states spiking sharply now:
Ah, well, but young people don’t really get serious cases so things must be ok still, right?
Nope. Behold, one of the largest hospital clusters in American health care, in our nation’s 4th largest city, on the brink:
Circumstances are similar in other parts of Arizona, Florida, and Texas…and growing worse in a host of localities in the South and West previously less impacted by coronavirus (scroll down for state-by-state charts here).
Why? Communal indifference because the pandemic never seemed that real locally before. The younger crowd buying into the myth they don’t need to worry about COVID-19 (they should, including about the long-term health impacts on many who recover). And masks. Masks because in southern climates increasingly hot weather means more congregating indoors with AC.
One of the lessons of both the 1918 Influenza Pandemic that killed 50-100 million (!) people globally and this pandemic thus far is congregate gatherings indoors, without masks, are the highest risk environments. Conversely, outdoor environments with masks are much less problematic:
Remember those countries that handled things well in 2020 so far? Let’s talk about them, and their use of masks:
- Vietnam was one of the first nations to mandate masks in public, on March 16, when the US was still largely gazing at its navel…and people in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, etc. (places that avoided major outbreaks) had already proactively masked up without government directives based on the population’s previous experience with infectious diseases in the Far East
- Austria was one of the first major countries in Europe to mask up, making them mandatory in public spaces on April 6
- Germany came later, requiring it on public transpiration and while shopping as of April 22, which paired with its superior testing regime (2nd only to South Korea) clearly did the job
Meanwhile, months later — and a century after the 1918 pandemic made masking common — we’re having one of the dumbest tribal debates in our political history about masks while coronavirus burns.
Do you want the economy to open up more? Wear a mask.
Do you want sports to come back? Wear a mask.
Do you want your kids to go back to school? Wear a mask.
Do you want to avoid going back into stay-at-home orders? Wear a mask.
That’s the reality of our world until we have a widely available vaccine and/or find a highly effective therapeutic treatment.
Because right now as the flames of the pandemic grow in the South and West they’re likely at the place the DC-Philly-NYC-Boston corridor was in late March/early April: just beginning a weeks-long burn that will be painful in lives lost, economic activity, and our ability to live life with even partial normalcy.
I’m reminded of a poignant moment in one of the great speeches during these troubled times, from the Queen of England:
I hope in the years to come, everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge. And those who come after us will say the Britons of this generation were as strong as any.
“As strong as any”…says the women whose family stood strong in London during the Blitz, refusing to flee to safer ground as England stood alone against Nazi Germany in 1940.
Generations of Americans have faced infinitely tougher challenges than today: the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, and the still long, simmering battle to end slavery and achieve racial equality are but some highlights.
Change is hard. Forced changed is harder. Many that fought in our counties greatest challenges didn’t choose that battle, but they met the moment.
Going to war for your country isn’t easy.
Clawing your way back from economic ruin isn’t easy.
Transforming society isn’t easy.
Wearing a mask is.
Shut up and wear it already. The alternative is a raging, deadly pandemic *and* another Great Depression.
Or as the Queen said: “the pride in who we are is not a part of our past, it defines our present and our future.”
Show some pride in our country. Fight for it.
Take coronavirus seriously…and wear a damn mask.