COVID-19 is the disease that won’t go away. Countries that thought they had it under control are learning that hard truth.
An article in The Wall Street Journal earlier this week noted that Australia, Hong Kong and Japan all had made progress in reducing the number of cases of COVID-19, but now they are seeing the number of cases rise. Another article said the number of cases in Spain is increasing to the point that the United Kingdom is requiring travelers from there to quarantine for two weeks. Belgium has seen an increase. North Korea is finally admitting the disease is present there, too.
Several possible reasons were given for the increases. To simplify: young people partying; no longer quarantining travelers; people not self-isolating after showing symptoms.
Long story short: The increase in positive test results of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is not unique to West Virginia or to the United States.
There are some demographic factors that make us more vulnerable to the disease, though. The disease is most dangerous to older people, but it appears to be spreading through younger people. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said some underlying health conditions could make a person more susceptible to contracting the disease. Those include heart disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer. West Virginians are familiar with those conditions.
The increase in COVID-19 cases locally, nationally and worldwide has thrown the rest of this year and the first part of next year into uncertainty. It’s not easy to have confidence in your plans when you can’t be expected to predict the future.
One thing that is hindering our efforts to slow and stop the spread of the virus is that there appears to be no consensus of exactly what the goal is. We cannot agree on the level of risk we are willing to accept and how much we expect others to accept.
Meanwhile, we argue over masks. Cloth or paper masks are the new MAGA hats. A few months ago, seeing a person wearing a “Make America Great Again” ball cap was enough to make one person yell in the face of another. Now it’s a store asking customers to wear a mask inside that triggers anger and confrontation.
In this political and cultural climate where divisiveness sells and snark passes for wisdom, reaching a consensus on how much risk is acceptable and what steps we take to live with that risk may be impossible barring a catastrophe.
Throw in the social media contributions of people who believe the false information they spread and people who knowingly spread lies just to keep the populace stirred up, and finding that consensus becomes more elusive.
Despite what people who are heavily involved in the mask vs. no mask argument say, there are no easy answers. Do we need another lockdown that is stricter than the one we had in the spring? Do we need to greatly restrict nonessential travel? Should we impose quarantines on people arriving from certain areas?
Can the economy withstand any of those measures?
We’ve all made mistakes in this, from the president to governors to local officials to the person on the street.
At this moment, risk assessment is a personal decision. Sooner or later, if the disease doesn’t go away, people at high levels of government will make those decisions for us. It’s important for all of us to let them know now how much risk we are willing to accept both personally and as a state and as a nation.