Wednesday morning I was eating an apple with my breakfast, as I just wanted one for a change. But it must have been soft, and part of it broke away, causing me to loose my grip. It got away from me, part of it breaking off as it tumbled onto the floor, wasted.
That is about how a lot of us are beginning to feel. I know that is how I feel.
As for myself, you’ll excuse me for still being numb. To quote Green Day, wake me up when September ends.
The coronavirus pandemic is like nothing we have seen in our time. With 9/11, the impact was in one morning, but here the impact is peeled off a layer at a time, for days on end. We’ve gone from wash your hands and “this will blow over” to no meetings with 50, 25, or 10 people and government, schools and business shut down.
The latest figures I saw as of Wednesday morning says worldwide we’ve seen more than 203,000 cases and 8,231 deaths, or about 9 percent of the closed cases in the world. A total of 112,000 cases were still active, with 6,434 cases, about 6 percent, being critical. The U.S. has had 6,524 cases and 116 deaths, with numbers rising; most of the cases are active and 12 are critical. But in Italy, which is a hotspot, more than 31,000 have been infected with 2,500 dead. And some say our lack of preparation is going to make us an Italy before too long.
Certainly, we’ve appeared to have wasted precious time in preparing for this crisis, with Trump openly dismissing the seriousness of the threat. Fox News also downplayed it for the longest, although Tucker Carlson visited Trump for two hours to convince him it was real, which may have made a difference. Vanity Fair says Fox spinners who were downplaying the virus as a media or political ploy have begun to change their tune to say this is a serious matter.
Supplies for items such as ventilators have not been improved, and we are woefully underprepared in the form of facilities and staffing after cuts to healthcare and even to government agencies. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was forced to cut efforts to prevent global disease outbreak by 80 percent as its funding of the program started running out - forcing it to scale back focus on nations like China. A global health security team and a military officer who would have led U.S. response during a pandemic was cut along with other Obama-era disaster security programs. It is clear also we were totally unprepared to handle tests - even on where to get them, much less distribute them. In fact, governors have taken more responsibility and effort in trying to lead this effort than the federal government.
We have been fortunate that Trump seems to have settled down and now the White House is somewhat more unified in its approach, and Anthony Fauci has done a great job communicating with the public that we need to “overreact” and shut down for two weeks to flatten the curve, allowing more cases to spread out so the healthcare system is not overburdened.
But the possible outlook is still bleak. According to the New York Times, the White House rule on no more than 10 people came after reports surfaced of a British scientific report “warning that, without action by the government and individuals to slow the spread of coronavirus and suppress new cases, 2.2 million people in the United States could die.” A Times report Wednesday morning noted that a previously unreported Department of Health and Human Services report concluded that “pandemic will last 18 months or longer and could include multiple waves of illness.” And reports are it would take that long for a vaccine.
Moreover, those who are older and with certain conditions are at risk. But then again, think of public safety workers, medical professionals and others who have no choice but to go to work. Congress is full of old people, and they have no choice but to meet and pass laws to help.
Beyond our own health concerns, we are isolated from each other and forced to fend for food and supplies after hoarding. The public really didn’t do much better than the government, as we had ample time (as I did) to purchase supplies weeks ago, but waited until the last minute and went bonkers.
And how will society adapt? Who knows. First, the younger people have to quit going out and interacting with each other, because they eventually interact then with the older people, and they are the ones more at risk. We are finding younger people are sometimes not paying attention to that.
The schools are shut - and it maybe for the rest of the semester - how will parents cope in keeping kids? How can the kids learn long distance by computer, if they even have one? How do you grade for graduation?
Businesses are closed, and it is now clear we are in or headed for a recession. Unemployment claims are skyrocketing in some areas and the stock market is taking a tumble like we haven’t seen before. It feels like 1929 frankly, which is why the Trump team - sounding almost like Bernie Sanders suddenly - is advocating giving everyone $1,000 (or even more) a person as part of a $1 trillion - that’s trillion, with a “t” - plan. Bailouts for whole industries are now being discussed.
I hope I am wrong, but I can’t see the virus ending in a month and then the stock market leaps and we’re back to normal. Normal threatens to be over for a while now. I fear most for small businesses, as I think we will see a number go under - and maybe even some big chains that were on the bubble anyway. And don’t even look at your stocks, as many will lose thousands of dollars individually.
People who have leadership should step forward. The common person, you and me, should do more of our part. We are going to have to keep our distance and stay at home. I repeat, if you can - STAY AT HOME! Even church - at least for a short while. (You are no good to God’s work on earth if you are dead.) We should do no unnecessary travel. (If you want to, support local restaurants by going through the drive through or ordering stuff from home.) We should do all the hand washing, of course, and don’t worry, regular soap is OK, maybe even better. We should take time for our children, whether we feel adequate to do that or not. We should look after each other, especially the elderly and vulnerable. And we should certainly pray.
I wish I could be more cheery, but this really is a national and global emergency. This is a war - and we must fight. I’ll admit I’m concerned, overworked, angry - you name it. I guess we all are. I think we’ve all taken quite a punch and we don’t know what is coming. But we must try.
Ed Howell is the Daily Mountain Eagle's news editor.