As states across the country continue to see troubling increases in the number of COVID-19 cases - and the country as a whole experiences the highest number of daily infection increases since the virus first began spreading at alarming rates this spring
As states across the country continue to see troubling increases in the number of COVID-19 cases – and the country as a whole experiences the highest number of daily infection increases since the virus first began spreading at alarming rates this spring – we’re fortunate enough to live in one of the only states seeing an overall decrease in total cases paired with an ever-increasing capacity for testing.
However, this does not mean that we have earned the right to be complacent in our own efforts to stem the spread of the virus.
Data from across the United States shows that there are no easy answers for why the virus is spreading so fervently despite the comprehensive efforts to flatten the curve that occurred in prior months. Red states and blue states are both experiencing surges, so the political notion that states with more Democratic governors – who have largely prioritized social distancing and mask wearing policies over their Republican counterparts – are less susceptible to viral outbreaks of COVID-19 has been challenged.
This is not to say that the efficacy of social distancing and wearing masks when going out into has been challenged – it remains the best way to prevent spreading the virus – but it does show that the problem is far more nuanced than a simple reduction of political leadership, as our polarized society is so inclined to try to do today.
Rather, we posit that the surge in coronavirus cases in the United States – which far exceeds the infection rates of any other country in the world – stems from a lack of uniform federal leadership and policy, which is exacerbated by having the most polarizing president in United States history.
Having no top-to-bottom protocols from the federal government leaves states to fend for themselves when it comes to enacting policies such as how to re-open their economies safely. Thus, you have states that still don’t mandate wearing masks or preventing large gatherings – creating a recipe where a resurgence of the virus is not only a matter of “if,” but a matter of “when?”
On top of a lack of guidance from on high, the problem increases tenfold when it becomes politicized. Adamant supporters of President Trump do not view the virus as a scientific problem that requires a long-term solution steeped in self-sacrifice – they view it as an overblown political tool utilized by enemies of Donald Trump that seek to torpedo his re-election hopes, and they view means to stem the spread of the virus as government overreach and oppression. They will defiantly reject the steps intended to help them and their neighbors, simply because they’ve been politicized to such a severe degree.
Trump himself has not demonstrated any level of concern over the virus. He continues, to this day, to balk at the idea of wearing a mask. He insists on trying to hold large rallies indoors even as multiple members of his campaign team become sickened. It is abundantly clear to anybody with even a shred of deductive reasoning capability within them that he is the wrong leader for this type of crisis.
Another problematic fact about this type of crisis is that it doesn’t simply go away when we’re tired of dealing with it – as many have become. We don’t get to simply forget about the threat of this virus because we want to go back to normal. All it takes is a handful of infected people to forego health precautions, visit a couple restaurants or crowded public places, and we’re right back in a situation of widespread outbreak necessitating the closing of businesses and public spaces.
The only solution for this problem is to continue taking things slowly and with immense caution. We have seen firsthand – as health experts predicted – that reopening things and jumping back “to normal” too quickly will result in being violently tossed right back to square one. Rhode Island is exercising the right steps to re-open and function safely, but even our concerted efforts rely on the individual citizens to do the right thing for the foreseeable future.
That will take immense patience and understanding and empathy, and for the sake of our loved ones and fellow Rhode Islanders, we hope that our citizens continue to understand that we’re in this for the long haul.