The virus that may never end

It should not take the mind of a scientist or even a reasonable grasp of current events to recognize that we, as Americans, and the rest of the world, are in a fight for this planet's life.

More than 100,000 people have died in the United States from the COVID-19 Coronavirus and this nation must live with realities that are difficult to face.

First, at least 36,000 of those deaths came from a lackluster and negligent response by our nation’s leaders. Delays in getting the word out, use of propaganda instead of facts and a destructive, ego-driven president contributed directly to the unneeded deaths of at least a third.

Second, an emerging reality is arriving from the medical experts who have been ignored too often and for too long.

“This virus is here to stay,” Sarah Cobey, an epidemiologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago, tells The Washington Post. “The question is, how do we live with it safely?”

Writes William Wan and Carolyn Y Johnson on Wednesday:

There’s a good chance the coronavirus will never go away.

Even after a vaccine is discovered and deployed, the coronavirus will likely remain for decades to come, circulating among the world’s population.

Experts call such diseases endemic — stubbornly resisting efforts to stamp them out. Think measles, HIV, chickenpox.

It is a daunting proposition — a coronavirus-tinged world without a foreseeable end. But experts in epidemiology, disaster planning and vaccine development say embracing that reality is crucial to the next phase of America’s pandemic response. The long-term nature of covid-19, they say, should serve as a call to arms for the public, a road map for the trillions of dollars Congress is spending and a fixed navigational point for the nation’s current, chaotic state-by-state patchwork strategy.

Americans have only started to wrap their heads around the idea, polls show. U.S. leaders and residents keep searching for a magic bullet to bring the pandemic to an abrupt end: Drugs that show even a hint of progress in the petri dish have sparked shortages. The White House continues to suggest summer’s heat will smother the virus or that it will mysteriously vanish. A vaccine — while crucial to our response — is not likely to eradicate the disease, experts say. Challenges to vaccination are already becoming clear, including limited supply, anti-vaccine opposition and significant logistical roadblocks.

Meanwhile, some states are rushing headlong into reopening their economies. Even those moving more cautiously haven’t developed tools to measure what’s working and what isn’t — a crucial feature for any prolonged scientific experiment.

William Wan and Carolyn Y Johnson

When most talk about the lackluster response by America’s leadership, they are talking about scandal-ridden president Donald Trump, who initally dismissed the virus as “nothing to worry about,” then reluctantly approved steps that were too little, too late.

“It should have happened yesterday,” Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, chairman of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus, told Politico.

“It is policymakers’ decision to put on our big boy and big girl pants and say it is the lesser of these two evils,” Indiana Rep. Trey Hollandsworth said in a radio interview

E.J. Dionne Jr. says much of the blame lies in the “phony populism” of Donald Trump:

Yes, he loves to sound like a populist. He draws angry lines of division between a nasty, mask-wearing, church-hating, science-worshiping elite and the good, plain folks who support him. But this man who spends a lot of time in a golf cart at his resorts for the ultrarich is about as populist as the people paying his membership dues.

It has been widely and correctly observed that Trump is doing all he can to distract attention from his mishandling of the covid-19 crisis. But much of what he’s up to is consistent with a longer-term effort to mask the truth about his presidency: His policies resolutely favor the wealthy and the connected over the working class whose banner he claims to carry. He wants the media and the public to talk about anything except the main story line.

He would have us argue incessantly about mask-wearing and pay no attention to reports such as Pro Publica’s revelation last month that, even as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration “has been inundated with covid-19-related complaints, the agency has issued a series of guidelines that roll back safety standards and virtually eliminate non-health care workers from government protection.”

“Opening up the economy” sounds good. But in Trump’s hands, it means: “Go back to work, and don’t expect anyone in our administration to worry about your health — or your life.”

E.J. Dionne Jr

It should not take the mind of a scientist or even a reasonable grasp of current events to recognize that we, as Americans, and the rest of the world, are in a fight for this planet’s life.

In Virginia, confirmed cases of the virus have hovered just above or below 1,000 new infections over the last three days. Floyd County did not have any cases for more than a month into the emerging pandemic but now has five and I learned about another case where a man with multiple problems like breathing and fever is finally being tested.

Surrounding counties like Carroll, Montgomery, Franklin and Wythe show increasing cases and deaths.

Party like it’s the last day of your life. It could be.

Yet party-goers flocked together at Smith Mountain Lake over the Memorial Day weekend like there was nothing wrong. They hugged each other, without masks, and partied like the world.

“It’s time to have fun,” said one bikini-clad young woman with a beer in hand. “We might all be dead soon.”

Yes, some of them will. Probably too many of them and for no justifiable reason.

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