To Do Or Not To Do?

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On the whole we humans have been mostly very good during our isolation from life. We’ve generally been up to the challenge of staying home to keep everyone as safe from Covid-19 as possible even when we believe that we ourselves are strong and healthy enough to overcome the dreaded virus.

Our response to the cause has reminded me of the first days of a new school year which always seem to be filled with great enthusiasm and good intentions. Everyone shows up in the beginning with new supplies and clothing and dedication. It’s easy to spot the bad eggs who may eventually be difficult because they seem to have cynical expressions permanently tattooed on their faces. They are few and far between so there is not much worry about them from the start. It’s easy to redirect one person when everyone else is agreeing to the rules and procedures.

It doesn’t take long for the students and teachers to settle into a mutually acceptable routine but invariably a few weeks down the road there are signs of trouble. Many of the homework assignments begin to look as though they have been half-heartedly completed. Those new clothes give way to sloppier versions of themselves. That kid who was worrisome on day one is causally fomenting a bit more unrest within the student body. Teachers have to work much harder to keep the interest and the magic alive. Everyone begins to look tired.

I see this same phenomenon happening in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The novelty of staying home and waiting for the danger to pass is wearing thin. Many are growing more and more anxious to resume their lives and less and less inclined to believe that there is any sort of clear and present danger that requires the stringent measures that have so changed our lives. Many have begun to question whether we ever needed to hide behind closed doors to defeat the virus. As the numbers of sick and dying slow down across the globe the general resolve to do whatever it takes is turning into doubt that there ever was a problem as big as experts predicted. Many are beginning to shift their focus from listening to the public health professionals to paying more attention to politicians, pundits and prognosticators who tell them that the curative measures we have been following may in the end be worse than the virus.

I’ve noticed of late that people have become less and less inclined to want to read detailed scientific articles on the latest research into the pandemic. Instead they are more prone to enjoying jokes and happy photos. I suspect that this is a kind of coping mechanism that helps them, but the growing indifference to analyzing what is actually happening in the situation might lead to abrupt decisions that are not in the best interest of everyone. It’s important for each of us to stay as well informed as possible to protect ourselves and others no matter how painful it may be to learn about the facts.

The problem that we face is all the uncertainty. Nobody is able to predict what this virus is going to do. We don’t know enough about it yet. We have no idea whether it will simply burn itself out or return with a vengeance at a later date. We do not have proof that those who have recovered from Covid-19 are now immune, but we certainly hope they are. We have seen how devastating the virus can be in places like Italy, Spain, New York City but in some parts of the world it almost appears that the virus is absent. In spite of all of the data analysis, genetic mapping, and work to invent a vaccine nobody can speak about this disease with any degree of certitude and therein lies the greatest danger.

“To do or not to do?” has become our most important question. If we guess wrong millions may die from the virus. If we guess wrong millions may die from the ravages of an economic downturn. If we guess wrong both things may happen. It’s like playing a game of Russian Roulette with the entire populations of the world.

At the very moment when the stakes are so high too many have lost all interest in hearing the varying arguments for or against this tactic or that. Many want the freedom to decide for themselves and to hell with all of the experts with their dreary warnings. The shine of patience has worn thin. Getting back to the parks and the parties, the restaurants and the ball games, the jobs and the vacations, the normal way of doing things is screaming a siren call that is hard for many to ignore. After all some believe that our efforts amount to much ado about nothing.

I honestly don’t know what to think, but I keep reading and exploring all of the available information that I can find. For now my intent is to stay inside my home until there is more credible proof that resuming my usual routines will not be lethal to me, my family or my friends. I admittedly have the luxury of waiting this out because I am retired but I fully understand why others who still depend on jobs to maintain their households are anxious to resume their work. Nonetheless, we should proceed with caution.

We don’t need to send all of the children back to school for a few remaining weeks. I side with all of the teachers’ organizations that are urging that we continue the remote learning until the end of May and then give all students pass/fail reports and spend the summer convening via Zoom or other platforms to plan for the fall and a new beginning.

I also believe that those who have been effective working from home should continue to do so for the time being. The fewer people we put back onto the roadways and inside offices, the better. Instead, slowly bring back the people whose jobs require them to be present who have been unable to work for weeks but do so with extreme precautions.

My nephew has ninety five electricians working for him in critical jobs that have not ceased during the lockdown. Each day that they report they must undergo screening that includes checking their temperatures and asking them medical questions before they are allowed to enter the sites. They wear N95 masks while they perform their duties and they must regularly wash their hands at stations that have been set up in multiple locations. They are urged to change out of their work clothes before they enter their homes and wash the articles immediately so that they do not inadvertently bring disease to their families. So far the protocols have worked well. I suggest that we make such routines part of any attempts to get people back to work.

I keep hearing grumbles about rights and freedoms that are supposedly being taken away. To those who believe such things I would remind them that our rights are often curtailed for the good of society as a whole. We can win this war against the pandemic, but only if we remain cautious and willing to sacrifice. This will pass and hopefully we will be able to point with pride to the decisions that we made. In the meantime those that don’t need to leave their homes should stay put.

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