While listening to a podcast, I heard the journalist talking about March, “When we were at the height of the pandemic.” I startled and realized that I have had a growing awareness that, for the majority of Americans, the pandemic is over. Never you mind, Janie, that we have the highest fatality rate in the world, about a thousand a day, and the highest contagion rate. Indian is inching up on our record, but we can still be proud. We are number one still.
Why, then, does the newscaster believe that March was the height of the pandemic? Is the New York Times drinking Republican Koolaid? What is happening here?
We, Americans, are over it. We are tired of living with a constant threat to life and finances, a continual unknown, and a very uncertain future. So, we are consciously disappearing the virus. No one has notified the virus, but we Americans are in ignore mode. Hundreds of Americans gather in large, dense crowds at the beaches, on the College Quad, in parties in the hills of Los Angeles. We will not be bullied by a virus or mask suggestions. We will not be controlled by the government.
Does this all begin to sound like a fifteen-year-old in denial? Oh, my, yes, it does. I wonder, what is with Americans that they do not have the discipline to stay home, the good sense to follow basic health guidelines? Or the foresight to realize that we don’t have any manner of controlling the fatality rate and contagion rate unless we grow up? Why are we so darned immature? But, this is only part of what it boils down to.
There are plenty of other countries and even some states in the United States that behave more reasonably. Their contagion and fatality rates are down, and they can return to a slightly more normal life. Their kids are back in school, not gambling on the possibility that no one will become ill, but they are opening the schools with a contagion rate of less than 1%. There is almost nowhere in the U.S. where the schools can open safely according to these requirements. There are areas where teachers are protesting and striking any return to school without appropriate plans and PPE. Still, much of the States is merely putting their heads down and returning to classrooms that may be Petri dishes.
What causes this? Pretty simple: money. If we stay closed or close for a second time, many people will lose their businesses, and many others will lose housing, food, and medical care. Many people have already lost these necessities. American can’t afford to stay closed. It is a sad fact that most Americans rely on their jobs for health insurance, no job, no health insurance. In a pandemic having no health insurance is a very frightening scenario. What is also frightening is having no housing, no food, and no way to survive day to day. While we have gained a few jobs back in the last weeks, we are at a level of unemployment not seen for decades. I am sure you have heard this.
Americans live hand to mouth, and the pandemic, a tiny little virus, presents us with this fact. One of the world’s wealthiest countries will not pay people to stay home to prevent contagion, not pay the schools adequately to have safe schools, and will not pay for basics that would allow the pandemic to end sooner, such as PPE and contract tracing. If the Federal government had issued positive messages about wearing masks, somewhat like planting Victory Gardens in WW II, we would be at a contagion rate more like Europe and Asia. If the Federal Government had issued unemployment or rescue money to the average working American, people would not have to be in denial, or worse, not in denial and working outside the home even in terror of catching and spreading Covid-19.
So, why are Americans in denial? Because to stay sane, denial is the easiest tool, along with wine, drugs, Netflix, or whatever other escape can be engineered. I understand this. I have snuck out of my house to get eyelash extensions and a massage, hoping that with a mask, I am safe. I have seen good friends who I know are doing what they can to play it safe. I still wear a mask, but I do wonder if I am playing Russian Roulette. It is incredibly lonely not to have any interaction with friends and neighbors. No one likes this, but it would be easier if there were a Federal Government level discussion of how we all can best bring the numbers down, or/ and economic relief.
I work at home. I am a therapist and see people online. In the last couple of weeks, the insurance companies are getting restive and prohibiting telehealth. Must be that too many people are accessing therapy from their living room couch. The insurance companies are attempting to drive people back into therapy offices that can’t be adequately disinfected, that may be dangerous to the elderly or immunocompromised. The people who are afraid of catching the virus will stay home. Therefore the insurance companies save money. How very sad. What is supposed to help you get healthy doesn’t give a rip whether you live or die.
We had a very notable suicide in my community recently. The situation is a sad one. The person shot his wife and was going to shoot himself, but he could not find the gun. He is 88 years old and can only see through a small area of his eye. There was just too much blood to find the gun and shoot himself. In a more civilized society, would there have been a better option for a man who was desperate that he would not be able to care for himself and his wife? Would there have been the mercy of doctor-assisted suicide if this is what the couple and their family decided? What other options might be available other than a gun and all the violence and trauma that implies? The man was medically educated, and he understood that he was becoming incapacitated. He was not wrong. He knew time was short for him to act. It was. In a society that appears to value money more than care, his options were limited. This is the brutal reality.
People can’t face a loss of income that will cause the loss of everything. There is no robust, accessible health care or long-term care system available to all in the United States, so if you are ill or elderly and losing your fight to stay competent, is a bullet the only option? For some, it may be. It was for him.
Meanwhile, the kids are back in school. The citizens are back at work, often with no safety protocols other than a hand sanitizer bottle, but the opening up has occurred. America goes on attempting to cope with the absence of a plan, the lack of a way out of the pandemic by denying the pandemic is a problem. The lives we will lose and the time it will take to get back to normal are indefinitely extended. South Korea spent the money on contract tracing, PPE, and health care, they are still fighting the bush fires of this epidemic, but the forest fires are out. The population wears masks.
I don’t know where this will end, but my country is suffering badly. I am incredibly sad and frustrated by this. I wish we had chosen another direction, that we have called forth the valor and discipline we displayed in World War II. We didn’t. Is it too late?
In any case, the pandemic is not over. Someone notify the New York Times. We may be beginning a new phase. Let’s hope we do this phase better.