The stunning speed of events of the last week as, belatedly, the U.S. has begun to catch up to the unprecedented demands required to stem a horrifying coronavirus pandemic are very likely to escalate further. The requirement of “sheltering in place” for most citizens to avoid contracting and spreading the highly-contagious, airborne pestilence is looming now as the next public policy move to ramp up a full-court press defense.
It is remarkable how, at this stage, the pandemic appears, according to national polls, to follow political fault lines, with over 70 percent of Democrats sharing the alarm that the scientific and medical communities have been sounding, but still less than 50 percent of Republicans yet on board. That will change, probably very quickly, and it is not worth the energy to articulate why it hasn’t weeks or months ago, except to say that the blame falls squarely on the whole disgusting President Trump operation, and its attacks on science, facts and reason that have accelerated so much in the last decade.
But things have changed so fast nonetheless that it takes the breath away, and it is to the credit of almost everyone except the Trump operation that so much has been achieved just in the last week. Actions include the expansion of general awareness, implementing “social distancing” policies almost everywhere, mobilizing a medical treatment response, with testing that now is being set up at drive-through centers around the region and the country, the acceleration of research into a vaccine, which still must remain at least a year off. It brings to bear the full weight of local and regional responses that will increasingly be required to alleviate the pain and suffering of growing legions among us in social and medical ways, and to win levels of intervention by the federal government to alleviate the pain of sudden unemployment, loss of business functioning and related crises with emergency financial and other forms of public relief.
This has been accompanied by, at least at this stage, an uncommon sense of solidarity and camaraderie within the population, including of patience, forbearance and good will even as many of society’s most cherished forms of recreation, stress relief and reflection have been stripped away by bans on everything from sporting events of any kind to general public gatherings and celebrations, even just the relaxing restaurant meal with family or friends. Societally, the evidence is that we’re doing pretty well right now. The question will be how well our patience and good will can hold up over a protracted period, as will probably be required.
Still, when we get through this (and the use of “we” in this case is not only in the sense of the “editorial we” but the down to earth “we” of our shared destiny as humans on this planet) perhaps we will have rethought some cultural priorities to be more generally gracious and generous as a result.