Lessons of The Coronavirus (COVID-19)

“I can’t think of a time since social media graced the world with its large-and-in-charge presence that it would be more important to let the actual experts be the experts.” — Author Beth Moore

It’s been kind of a crazy week here in the United States of America. The coronavirus has gone from something strange happening in China to something that has shut down all major professional sports, schools and pretty much anything one would do with their kids just as Spring Break arrives.

What has made this time in America even crazier is that the average, rational person really has no way of knowing just how bad things might get. The flow of information out of China is always an issue because they are a communist country and there’s really no way to know how much of what they’re telling us we can trust. Similarly, our own media is so caught up in trying to hype everything up and get everyone lathered into a frenzy that it’s hard to know what to trust from them, as well.

Normally we would look to our national leaders, starting with the President of the United States, to give us the state of affairs and to set the tone for our own response, but that’s practically impossible in the age of Donald Trump’s reality TV presidency. Over the last two weeks he’s told us a vast array of contradictory information, first claiming that the virus was a hoax perpetrated by the Democrats, then stating it was not a big deal and that VP Mike Pence had it all under control (presumably because he was going to pray it away, since he doesn’t believe in science), then saying millions would probably die. Kind of makes your head spin.

When the NBA announced they were postponing the season due to several players having tested positive I had the distinct feeling that people were going to start a full-scale panic. I made a late-night trip to the neighborhood grocery store, picked up extra toilet paper, pasta and almond milk, and sure enough, as I was leaving there was a hoard of people heading into the store talking about toilet paper and bottled water. Not sure about bottled water. The bottles are horribly bad for our environment and the water filter on my refrigerator (the same thing they use to filter bottled water) works just fine. I think I barely made it out of the parking lot alive, based on what I’ve since heard from friends and neighbors about the tumbleweeds blowing down the aisles.

So what have we learned from this experience so far?

First, it’s pretty important to have smart, capable people in charge of things. I am well aware that many people voted for Donald Trump in 2016 as a sort of protest vote because the Democratic National Committee sabotaged Bernie Sanders’ campaign to assure Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee. I have friends who did that, some who chose not to vote and some who wrote in Bernie Sanders’ name or voted for the Green Party out of protest. I sympathized with all of those reactions, but I also showed up and voted for the only qualified candidate on the ballot: Hillary Clinton. Sure, she’s for sale to the highest Wall Street bidder, but she would not have taken any of the following actions which Donald Trump has taken:

  1. Clinton would not have diverted $271 million from FEMA to build part of a wall along the Mexico-US border.
  2. Clinton would not have cut $9.5 billion from the the government’s Health and Human Services division, including a $1.5 billion cut to the Centers For Disease Control. Trump’s current budget proposal does just that.
  3. Clinton would not be completely out of touch with where things stand, as Trump was this week when he claimed: “anyone who wants a test can get a test.” Trump said it repeatedly. “Anybody right now and yesterday anybody that needs a test gets a test. They’re there. The tests are there. The tests are beautiful. Anyone who wants a test can get a test.” CDC Director Robert Redfield pointed out in testimony to Congress this week there are 350 million Americans and only about 4 million tests in the pipeline. Clinton would have had that information.
  4. Clinton would not allow people returning to the US from foreign countries with confirmed cases of the coronavirus to simply re-enter the country without being quarantined.

Ok, so it’s pretty important to have intelligent, capable, experienced leaders in positions of leadership, even if they aren’t our top choice on election day. It would also be helpful if the news would focus on unbiased information instead of their usual infotainment style of reporting when lives are on the line. What else have we learned?

Since China essentially closed up shop on their economy and the number of cases of COVID-19 in the US has begun to rise sharply, the stock market has been on a record slide. It turns out that the unhealthy, consumerism-dependent economy is easily toppled if people just stop spending day after day burning fossil fuels and buying more stuff they don’t need. Take a look at the map below:

Cornavirus may be bad for the global economy, but the global economy is not something we can sustain if we plan to keep living on the planet Earth. There has been some confusion about this among the economists and politicians who make a great deal of money from being confused about it, but there is no clearer evidence of what MUST be done to combat climate change than the information provided in the above map. The planet will heal itself if we just stop doing everything we can possibly do to poison it.

What we should be investing in, with the side effect of being virtually recession-proof, is infrastructure. We need to completely revamp our country’s energy grid to transition to sustainable, zero-emission power supplies. Our country’s roads and bridges are crumbling around us. We need to build an entire industry around green energy production, which will significantly reduce unemployment and enable those who currently work in the outdated, inefficient, damaging energy fields (coal, oil) to transition into more proactive jobs. There is already a proposal in place to do these things – for more on The Green New Deal, read here!

The next lesson we’ve learned (hopefully) from this trip down coronavirus lane is that there really is no need to hoard things like toilet paper and hand sanitizer (which doesn’t work on viruses anyway). See, when everyone decides to run out and buy the same things at the same time there will automatically be a shortage of those items. Briefly. No store in the country, not even Sam’s or Costco, stocks enough of any item to sustain that kind of mass hysteria. What you’ll find, however, is that this time next week all of today’s hard-to-find items will be back in their normal supply, leaving us to wonder why we felt the need to rush out and buy so much stuff.

The final lesson (for now) that we’ve been taught by the coronavirus is that the poor will be the hardest hit when things really get bad. When school districts closed down to prevent the spread of the virus, for example, people were quickly reminded that millions of kids across America don’t get much to eat outside of school. The poor also lack the basic health care to combat the common cold, much less a virus of this magnitude. A society is really only as healthy as the poorest members of that society, and we’re about to get another lesson in just how miserably bad we are at caring for the least among us.

It’s hard to say just how bad the coronavirus is going to turn out to be when all is said and done. There are no doubt some big challenges ahead, and we will have to come together as members of our community, our states and our country if we are going to survive this and future threats to our society. It remains to be seen whether or not the ideological divides we face can be broached long enough to do the work that needs to be done.

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