The Community Connection

Don’t put away umbrella while raining

- Will Wood is a small business owner, former Naval Intelligen­ce Officer, and a halfdecent runner. He lives, works, and writes in West Chester, Pennsylvan­ia

It has been a year since the Governor issued the stay-athome order, and while we all agree that we would very much like to get back to normal we seem unprepared to agree how to do so.

Mistakes were made at the outset in preparing the country for this disease, but once it arrived on our shores and the ease with which it spreads and kills was fully revealed, what should have been a wakeup call became instead the ground over which a culture has been fought.

Just in case we were unsure about what does and does not work, though, the world supplied us with examples of many different approaches. Take the two modern, advanced, relatively wealthy democracie­s of Sweden and New Zealand.

Sweden took a relatively relaxed approach last March, banning gatherings of over 500, restrictin­g travel, having some employees work from home, and recommendi­ng social distancing for people over 70 years old. In mid-March Sweden had 1,063 cases, just one month later the case count was 12 times as high, spiraling to 70 times the March caseload by July. After a summer of slower months, the curve started to steepen again peaking in late December.

New Zealand took the other approach, entering a very restrictiv­e lock-down (nicknamed, “go hard, go early”). After seven weeks, New Zealand reported their first day with no new cases. Zero. Daily case counts have remained flat with occasional, very small outbreaks. With the disease well under control, they resumed their lives with kids in school and people back at their jobs. This was in May of last year. When a spike emerges, they lock down the area where the spike is and aggressive­ly trace and isolate, but the rest of the country remains open, free from the tyranny of this virus.

Both countries wanted to get to normal as fast as they could, one by going on like nothing was wrong, the other by taking extreme measures early on. The results are quite telling: On a per capita basis, Swedes are 140 times as likely to get COVID as New Zealanders, and 241 times as likely to die from it.

Not to be outdone, America ran its own experiment. Our patchwork mixture of seriousnes­s and denialism has made Americans 183 times as likely to get infected as New Zealanders and 308 times as likely to die. In all, over 530,000 Americans have died, many more will have lingering health problems, millions of jobs were lost, a year has been taken from us, and we are not out of the woods yet.

Our hodge-podge approach and refusal to take the hard measures necessary have put us in a place where, one year later, daily new cases are double what they were at the beginning of the pandemic, having come down from a peak of 308,000 new daily cases in January.

New Zealand may have called what they did “go hard,” but truly what we have been doing is much, much harder.

We all want to be free to not wear a mask, to go back to work, to have our kids in school, to eat at our favorite restaurant­s. We all want to be free of COVID-19. But we have proven that the fastest way to get there is not to avoid tough measures. Yet those that clamor the loudest about getting back to normal are usually those least willing to take the serious measures necessary to beat this virus. It has almost seemed as though we have been banking on a vaccine to save us, but quite confoundin­gly the same people that want to open the country right away are also more likely to deny that a hastily produced vaccine could be safe.

Meanwhile the vaccines have been injected into 41 million Americans and only in extremely rare cases have there been severe reactions. On the other hand, COVID-19 has infected 29 million Americans resulting in over 530,000 deaths.

There is no vaccine in the world more dangerous than this virus.

Now that the vaccine is here, now that we are slowly bringing the curve down through forced and voluntary measures, now that the finish line has just come into sight, this is not the time to let down our guard. Only a fool puts away the umbrella before the storm has passed.

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Will Wood

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