Like strong armor that will protect you as long as you aren’t stabbed in between the plates, this pandemic is revealing some gaping vulnerabilities in our society.

Ideally, our federal government should have taken notice in early January when a novel coronavirus was detected in China and started killing people over there. We needed containment measures then.

They should have started the process of mass-producing test kits to quickly diagnose it at the first signs of illness rather than waiting until the outbreak arrived on our shores. We could have “nipped this in the bud” early, as the saying goes.

We could have avoided widespread fear and imposing of “social distancing” policies that are ruining basketball season and canceling that concert you’ve been looking forward to since you bought the tickets in October. Tom Hanks wouldn’t be self-quarantined in his hotel room.

And the stock market wouldn’t be in a free-fall if markets felt confident that we were ahead of the curve, proactive instead of reactive.

Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.

Instead, we acted with the arrogance of the guy who boasted that even God couldn’t sink the Titanic. Our ability to contain and control past outbreaks led us to underfund the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Two years ago, to save money, the Trump Administration gutted the entire pandemic response chain of command that successfully contained Ebola when it broke out in West Africa in 2014.

Associated Press Reporter Jonathan Lemire summed up the response by the Trump Administration to this crisis…

“The virus does not have a Twitter account and, unlike so many previous Trump foes, is resistant to political bullying or Party solidarity. It has preyed on his lack of curiosity and fears of germs while exposing divides and inadequacies within senior levels of his administration. It has taken away Trump’s favorite political tool, his rallies, from which he draws energy and coveted voter information. Trump has played down the virus, lashing into officials for talking up the possible severity of the threat. He urged other aides to go on television and preach confidence. Trump believed that through his force of will and ability to dominate a news cycle, he could alleviate the crisis. The markets, unlike traditional political foes, have not listened.”

You’d have to be blind or completely in denial not to recognize that Donald Trump’s priority was keeping the stock market from declining. The public health impacts seemed like a secondary consideration until it was too late. This was on naked display when he expressed a desire to keep a cruise ship with infected passengers at sea so it did not increase the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. and impact his polling.

Now we’re hearing reports that the president discouraged aggressive testing because the number of documented cases in the country would dramatically jump. He created the environment where his advisors felt as if they couldn’t share news he didn’t want to hear.

Seriously, studies will be done for decades examining all of the ways the president failed as a crisis communicator. It was inevitable that the president would eventually have to face a crisis not of his own making.

Look, this blog post is not meant to bash Trump. There’s blame to go around, but the point is, we were ill-prepared for a pandemic even as one was looming on the horizon.

Today, we don’t even have assurances that when a test or vaccine arrives, it will be affordable and widely available. Unacceptable!

Stoke up mass panic with misinformation shared via social media, toss in some political wrangling and conspiracy theories, put leaders on TV sharing conflicting information and making promises they can’t possibly keep and you end up with the recipe for a real toxic stew of confusion and chaos.

That Escalated Quickly

I love watching “The Walking Dead.” Underlying the zombies and suspense is the question of how we would survive if society collapsed and we were forced to return to agrarian or hunter-gather lifestyles. As I work on my taxes, it almost seems like it would be refreshing, but the truth is, every day would become a fight for survival.

We take it for granted that we can just go to the corner supermarket and get whatever we need without having to kill someone else who also needs it. We’ve got it made – at least until we run out of money.

We aren’t quite to the point of looking for Sophia in Hershel’s barn yet, but in a matter of a couple of weeks, we’ve gone from dismissing a pathogen as “a hoax” to hoarding six months’ worth of toilet paper. Experience tells me to be skeptical, but it’s alarming when governments around the world take such drastic measures.

Closures We Know about so far

Cancelled:
🎶SXSW, Stagecoach
🏀NCAABB tournament 🇺🇸
🏀 SEC Tournaments
🎓NCAA all spring sports
🎶 Indigo Girls March Tour 😞

Closed:
🎶 Broadway
🎢 Disneyland

suspended / Delayed
🏀 NBA 🇺🇸 🇨🇦
⚽️ NISA. (Chattanooga FC)
⚽️ USLd2 and USLd3
⚽️MLS 🇺🇸🇨🇦 Eriedivisie 🇳🇱
⚽️ Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League
🏒NHL 🇺🇸🇨🇦
⚾️ MLB 🇺🇸🇨🇦 (reports)
📚 Hamilton County and Catoosa County Schools
Limited attendance or remote;
Serie A ⚽️ 🇮🇹
🏀NCAABB 🇺🇸 (update: cancelled)
Universities 🎓 UT system; Auburn University also Georgia University system (beginning Monday)
New York based talk shows 📺
* United States Congress and Capital Building

Postponed:
Coachella 🎶
European Championships ⚽️
*🎥 A Quiet Place II , No Time To Die
* 📺 Survivor, Riverdale, Amazing Race

Still Open:
🧼 Public sinks where you can wash your $&@) hands
📖 Your local bookstore
Disney World (until Sunday)

Catching up to the rest of the world

I remember the first news account I read about the situation in China, essentially suggesting that the coronavirus had become so serious that authorities there were struggling to keep up with the corpses piling up in the streets.

I’m ashamed I joined the chorus and lectured my friend from Japan that he had nothing to worry about. Now I realize he was way ahead of us.

I have a Chattanooga friend living in Italy right now who is confined to her apartment in Ascoli Piceno until at least April 3rd, completely alone without food or money coming in as that country has restricted citizens’ movement and activities.

She doesn’t have the virus, but officials there are trying to essentially starve the virus by preventing the further spread of it to new hosts intermingling in public places. Only supermarkets and pharmacies remain open.

It’s easy for us to joke that if we were in the same situation, we would simply binge Netflix and drink lots of wine until the coast is clear, but my friend is understandably terrified.

I can still have income even if I’m working online in bed in my PJs. The UPS guy can leave whatever I need from Amazon on my doorstep.

The bigger question is how I’d take care of my bills if my employer refused to pay me unless I was physically in an office building punching a timeclock.

If we are told to self-quarantine at home, I predict a bunch o’ babies in hospitals in late December. I mean, what are you supposed to do with all of that time and no sports on TV?

The limitations of capitalism

I don’t know a lot of people who could shelter in place for long without income.

Some 40 percent of Americans can’t even afford a $400 emergency, so a large number of infected people will be forced to choose between paying their rent vs getting co-workers sick. They can’t afford to stay home and miss work, and with no test, they can’t really distinguish between seasonal allergies or the beginning of something far worse. By the same logic, without a test to confirm suspicions, they might be staying home when they don’t really need to.

An article this week in The Atlantic succinctly described the big vulnerability:

“Many don’t have health insurance, or fear the costs of being hospitalized. There is a strong financial incentive to conceal symptoms, to try to keep working and caring for children, and by consequence spreading the virus.”

We don’t even know if Americans would cooperate with a quarantine protocol. Tell someone they can’t go to church and see their reaction. We tend to get stubborn when someone tries to tell us what we can’t do, especially Uncle Sam.

Our government is playing catch-up and doing a shit poor job of it. At this rate, we may get a preview of Medicare for All AND a Universal Basic Income out of necessity.

Drastic Times Call for Drastic Measures

It is staggering the damage this is causing to our economy. My heart goes out to all of the people who are going to lose their jobs as we avoid going to public spaces like bars and restaurants.

For those looking for a way to support local businesses while also choosing to avoid public spaces and large groups of people in an effort to combat the coronavirus outbreak, BUYING GIFT CARDS is a decent solution.

Some people rely on a packed room to make a living. eGift cards aren’t that hard to set up (Square offers one of the better electronic gift card platforms at no extra cost, aside from its flat processing fee) and promote on a website or Facebook page.

A gift card or gift certificate can serve as something to look forward to once everything settles down and give business owners something to work with in the interim.

The prognosis becomes clear

The public just sees what seems like an over-reaction to what the president early dismissed as a hoax or nothing to worry about. People are going to die because of that rhetoric stopping them from taking sufficient precautions and the time wasted debating this vs aggressively testing people who can take up to 14 days after exposure to show symptoms.

Social media, IMHO, is making things incredibly worse. If we were dealing with that virus from the movie 28 Days Later, some folks would surely be on Facebook saying that it “just makes you a little cranky.”

It’s not how many people will eventually catch this bug that ultimately matters, but rather, how many people will catch it at the same time.

As soon as the hospital runs out of beds, they will potentially have to double- or triple-up, possibly even decide in triage which patients get treated vs who gets dismissed as older and less save-able. That’s what is happening in Italy right now and it’s heartbreaking.

The more I learn about this bug, the more justified all of these major event cancellations feel.

New York Times reporter Donald G. McNeil told Rachel Maddow he regrets having used the word “mild” to describe most cases of COVID-19. Widely cited to downplay the risks, he said this term was meant to describe anyone who did not require being put on a ventilator in a hospital, including cases with walking pneumonia.

This virus is not only far more contagious than the seasonal flu but also more damaging to the human body. Hence, the ferocity of the response.

I just joined the boards of Landmarks of DeKalb, Inc. and the Little River Arts Council. At my first LRAC meeting, we voted to go ahead with a social event planned for this Saturday. Today, I was notified that the board had decided after more thought to cancel it.

Probably a smart move. Why take chances?

My daughter is finishing her senior year at Fort Payne High School. The local superintendent said they have the capability of providing instruction online using the school system’s Chromebook tablets.

I asked her teachers if she could skip tomorrow since she’s still got a cough. Tomorrow is her 9 weeks test, and it will be available online in Google Classroom during class time.

The Difficult Days Ahead

Public officials in my county are planning a meeting this coming Monday to go over the local response and actions. I fully expect her school to announce a prolonged break from in-person classes. A lot of colleges have already dismissed for the rest of the term.

What a mess…!

We must come to terms with the short-term economic damage and social disruption.

Then, as we regain our footing, we need to recognize the need to prevent even more disastrous consequences in the longer-term if our country’s hospitals become overwhelmed and people afraid of accumulating debt in our for-profit health-care system are never tested and walk around untreated, spreading the virus to everyone else.