Battle with COVID at a critical point
Nobody is happy about it, but it's here. Another shutdown to battle the coronavirus.
With infection numbers rocketing, Gov. Kate Brown Friday ordered a two-week partial shutdown, which impacts restaurants and bars, many other businesses and life activities. For added yuck, the COVID update included a stringent reminder that Thanksgiving gatherings should be limited to six people.
Just as the holidays are prepping, we seem to be stepping back into step 1 of fighting this beast. It's beyond disappointing, a neck punch to businesses at the onset of the holiday season, and we're all tired of it.
What's more, two weeks sounds like a short time for a shutdown to have real statistical impact. Would anyone be surprised if it expanded into four weeks, through the end of the year?
But the resurgence of COVID in mid-fall isn't a surprise. And facing such stark statistics, our state — indeed the entire country — needed to take action.
Throughout the summer, when warm weather and expanded mask use helped most states flatted COVID curves and spikes were generally limited to southern states that didn't push masks and had influxes of tourists, nearly all the experts told us that the late fall would bring another wave. It stood to reason for everyone who knew what a flu season was. Dr. Anthony Fauci and nearly every other expert predicted the "dark winter." Well, it's upon us.
Maybe now that the election season is over (if indeed it will ever get over), it's imperative that we "de-politicize" COVID. Millions in this country thought the COVID crisis was overblown just to weaken President Trump, that it was generally a hoax that would disappear after the election. That take is understandable in that it was echoed by right-leaning media and social media communities. People believe what they hear from sources they trust.
But the election is over and COVID is stronger than ever, just as experts predicted it would be. Can't we at least agree on that?
As Americans, we are prone to be skeptical and cringe at the idea of our personal liberties being pinched. Frankly, that has generally served us well. But let's not equate outlier studies and political mantras with the near united stance from infectious disease experts and medical professionals — a group of intelligent people focused on keeping us healthy, not on turning us blue or red.
It's clear our comparative strong statewide COVID prevention efforts, and those of our fellow West Coast states, have served us well. Even though we are spiking, only seven states have a lower case per 100,000 people than Oregon, which as of Sunday was 21.9. Washington is just above Oregon at 22.2. Only four states have fewer per 100,000 cases than California, at 18.6. COVID is raging, meanwhile, throughout the Midwest, especially the Upper Midwest. In North Dakota, the case level is 178.4 per 100,000, South Dakota 165.3, Iowa 145.1 and Wyoming 130.7. These states have taken far less aggressive prevention stances than West Coast states.
Even with our "good number," if the spike continues, our state's hospitals and intensive care units will likely not be able to meet the need.
No doubt the shutdown causes real pain to businesses, to communities, to real people. Hopefully, direct relief can be provided to them specifically. Our business, your community newspaper, has been hit hard by COVID — staff rollbacks and hours reduced as our revenues from advertisers have dropped. Like with many businesses, newspapers may never return to pre-COVID models. Our holiday promotions, designed to have readers get out and visit local businesses, have been scrapped. It's hard to encourage people to get out and go visit businesses when the government is telling people specifically not to.
But while our businesses and personal economies are of vast importance, and have wide consequences, they are not, or shouldn't be, life or death. COVID can be.
Even though it was predicted, the current spike has come at us maybe faster and harder than expected. Thousands will die in its wake every day across the country. This is the worldwide health crisis of our lifetimes. We need to do all we can to limit its spread, and if that means shutting down some key elements of our lives and economy — for what is, in the large scope, a short period — so be it.
It seems that this flu season spike is the key battle in our war with COVID. The big weapon, the vaccine, won't be ready for several weeks or months. That's when we'll truly begin winning this war. Until then, what we do as Americans now, this holiday season, can save tens of thousands of lives. Above all the noise the shutdown causes, that's what important. Saving lives.
Let's suck it up, mask up, wash up, stay distant, stay vigilant against this pandemic. Let's do what we can to help the most so we can live to see better, brighter days.
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