In the past 125 years, this country has faced any number of crisis situations. With the possible exception of the Vietnam War, Americans have always banded together and rallied behind the effort to defeat whatever challenges confronted us.
Something has changed with the response to the pandemic and it goes beyond the need for a paycheck. Inexplicably, we are seeing political expediency and a lack of personal responsibility, acting as a friend to the virus.
The overwhelming consensus of credible scientists and infectious disease professionals has been this: the quicker and tighter you lock down society, the sooner you will gain control over the virus. The sooner you control the virus, the smaller the impact on human life and the economy. Pretty simple, right?
A president whose priority was protecting his re-election prospects by focusing on the Dow put us months behind in getting ahead of the virus. Now we are stumbling again on two critical counts. States, in particular red states, are attempting to accelerate reopening without meeting federal guidelines of experiencing two consecutive weeks of decreasing cases of coronavirus. But the wildcard which has become one of the biggest roadblocks in controlling the virus and successfully reopening the economy has been the public itself.
Many state governors (look no further than North and South Dakota) and a frightening number of individuals have made a media splash with rhetoric touting personal freedoms, with many exerting their “God-given Constitutional civil rights” in protest of closures and safety guidelines. Firearm-carrying protesters have shown up in federal buildings, and retail employees have been threatened over mask-wearing requirements. Social distancing? Just a suggestion, apparently, in many places. The cruel irony of our choices is we are now facing the prospect of a deeper and more protracted economic recovery, as well as escalating death projections. Can you say counterintuitive?
Are we really doing any better here in eastern North Dakota? Are we smarter, more responsible, for ourselves and others? Are we pulling together to do what’s necessary to end this nightmare? Because it turns out government, this government, is willing to quantify the value of a human life, and we find we have been put on the discount self. Until an effective vaccine arrives, it’s up to us. Wear a mask and learn from our mistakes.