Unless we act now, the US could be in for a long, hard, deadly winter.
Covid-19 cases have ticked up in 21 states. In New York City, positive Covid-19 tests have increased so significantly that they ve driven the city s positive rate above 3% -- lower than in other parts of the US, but still the highest daily rate New York has seen since June.
And Europe is already in its second wave, with the UK and France recording the most cases since the beginning of the pandemic and sobering signs from other countries such as the Czech Republic and Spain, where the health minister said Friday his government has recommended a total lockdown in Madrid.A perfect storm for a major Covid-19 resurgence looms in many parts of the world. With rates down and life returning to something resembling normal, a false sense of security seems to have taken hold, especially in the United States.
Masks are coming off. Gatherings are getting bigger and personal safety protocols looser. Schools, gyms, salons and indoor restaurants are reopening. Many students have returned to college campuses, where they are already socializing in groups and spreading the virus.
Temperatures outdoors are dropping, which will inevitably push many more people inside to dine, exercise, celebrate and socialize. Cases in some parts of Brooklyn and Queens "continue to grow at an alarming rate," said the New York City health department Monday. Part-time in-person learning just began Tuesday for New York City schools, which as of a week ago had already seen Covid-19 cases in 100 buildings, according to The New York Times.
Infections are particularly high in some Orthodox Jewish communities in New York City and in the suburbs, where, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo seemed to acknowledge in a Tuesday briefing (with his repeated insistence that his appeal for stricter anti-Covid-19 measures was about public health and not religion), resistance to government intervention can be strong. But the most worrying part is that some of these communities just gathered for the recent religious holidays -- and that s just one example of what s coming in other communities across the city if Americans are planning to get together inside for Thanksgiving and any other upcoming autumn and winter holidays and events.The question, experts say, isn t whether a second wave is coming; it s how devastating a second wave will be.
The timing for that question couldn t be more somber, as the world has passed the grim mark of 1 million deaths from Covid-19. Which is why we need to act now. Unfortunately, our feckless President has made clear he has little interest in listening to scientists, epidemiologists and experts -- or seriously supporting the fight to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The White House pressured Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials to downplay the risks of school reopening.
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield is concerned that one of President Donald Trump s hand-picked coronavirus task force members, frequent Fox News talking head Dr. Scott Atlas, is giving the President false and dangerous information -- which is exactly what the President, who recently said the virus "affects virtually nobody," has sought out.
Trump has been resistant to basic safety measures such as masks, and gathered more than 1,500 supporters to his RNC speech, where few people wore masks and social distancing rules were unenforced.In the absence of genuine presidential leadership, Americans desperately need state and local leaders (who aren t desperately seeking reelection, like Trump) to step up beyond the same half-measures taken in the spring and implement full common-sense preventative measures. Mandate mask-wearing. Ban large gatherings, including indoor gatherings of people who do not live together -- and be prepared to equitably mete out aggressive fines to those who break the rules and put all of our lives at risk.
Order colleges to go remote, with accommodations only for students who need to live on campus (international students, those with unstable home lives, those without internet at home). Prioritize in-person education for special education students who need it and the small children who are unlikely to contract Covid-19, have the hardest time with online learning and cannot be safely left alone.
Move older middle and high school students online and focus immediately on getting them the equipment they need to succeed -- laptops or tablets and reliable Wi-Fi. Instead of dedicating resources to, say, ensuring that restaurants are serving food with drinks, perform public health inspections (and shutdowns) where they re most urgently needed, including in the under-regulated private schools, community organizations and event spaces that have opened illegally or without proper protocols. Absolutely ensure that law enforcement wear masks at all times when on the job -- something that, according to the New York Times, many members of the NYPD still, shockingly, refuse to do.All of this is preferable to a full shutdown, which, let s be honest, isn t even feasible in the US -- a short but truly total shutdown could, experts have told us, actually get this thing under control, but would have to be implemented as a nationwide effort (with big spending to match) in order to work. The current leader of our nation will never allow that. Our Congress can t even pass stimulus measures for millions of Americans who desperately need them.
In an ideal world, everyone would follow basic precautions that reflect what we know about how this disease is spread. Avoid large groups; wear a mask whenever you re outside of your own home and especially if you re indoors; to the extent possible, limit indoor time (aside from in your own home) to essential errands like grocery shopping.
But we also know that people are not all rational, that conspiracy theories have taken hold the world over, that a whole lot of people are low-information or don t have the time and ability to sort through all of the noise for best practices, and that even among those who believe in science and expertise, no one makes the best choices 100% of the time.That s why we need our government -- at whatever level is most willing, which in the age of Trump, let s face it, is local or state at best -- to step in with clear guidelines and rational enforcement.
It s already too late to prevent a second wave. But if we take action now, we could see a manageable swell instead of a tsunami.