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Death knell: the tolling of a bell to mark someone’s death
“…The likelihood that more cases of COVID-19 would mean that more people would die from the disease has always been very high. Even at the low point for deaths in the U.S., roughly 500 people died each day, on average. Now, with the national death numbers rising once again, there’s simply no argument that America can sustain coronavirus outbreaks while somehow escaping fatalities. America’s deadly summer coronavirus surge is undeniable. And it was predictable this whole time by looking honestly at the data.”
– Alexis C. Madrigal, “A Second Coronavirus Death Surge Is Coming,” The Atlantic
Let’s start with an honest admission that by all accounts this summer has denied a great deal of scientific logic. There was a studied assumption that warmer weather would be beneficial in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, as clinical trials showed scientists that simulated sunlight should have been a major factor in making the virus inactive. Of course, this calculation likely considered the vast majority of Americans adhering to social distancing, wearing facial coverings and generally being decent, selfless human beings.
But it is mid-July and none of those factors have really manifested, because Americans were out here being ‘Murican.
So here we are, past the midway point of 2020 with no curve flattening on the horizon for some of the most impacted areas. In fact, since the top of July, several states such as Texas, Arizona, Florida and Oklahoma have seen an astronomical uptick in new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. The governor of Oklahoma even contracted the virus. And it is not based on our lack of access to information about protecting ourselves. Nor is it that we have been starved of PSAs on hand-washing and maintaining six feet of distance. Nor is it that everyone tuned out news reports of fatalities or have not known some of the bodies that have been reported about.
It’s simply that many Americans have been obnoxiously arrogant/willfully ignorant for the greater good of everyone else, thus the summer surge in new cases is the cost we are collectively paying.
As of this writing, an estimated 3.5 million Americans have contracted the coronavirus since the beginning of March and nearly 140,000 U.S. citizens have died. Back in early spring, there appeared to be a measure of seriousness about the pandemic that, unlike the virus itself, has dissipated during the summer months. More than anything, it seems as if too many Americans have become exhausted with the concept of COVID and decided to take their chances gallivanting about mask-less and unbothered.
There has also been much cultural commentary about how many white Americans, upon learning statistics of COVID-19’s disproportionate death toll on Black Americans, found themselves feeling freer to roam. The assumption being that because many of them were not genetically or systemically predisposed to the conditions of the virus that were killing Black folks, they felt no need to sit on their hands to wait the pandemic out. Critics of the Black Lives Matter movement were looking to blame this summer of uprising and protests as the conduit for new cases, but what proved to be more of a causation than masked protesters were bodies frolicking about on non-distant, densely populated beaches, and at “Covid parties” attended by the American majority.
None of this should have played out the way it has, but much of America’s cultural identity is anchored in an invincibility/superiority complex to other nations, therefore America/Americans have been its/their own worst enemy in reducing COVID transmission.
Before the earliest reported cases of COVID-19, the American public, and most importantly American leadership, dismissed the pandemic as a crisis that would bear minimal if any impact on the United States. America was slow to implement social distancing measures and spent much of the critical earlier months of the onslaught of COVID-19 steeped in partisan divide over whether it was real or not. And where several developed nations around the world have gained a solid handle on the spread of the virus, America is currently reporting upwards of 30,000 new cases per day, whereas the European Union, for example, is at roughly ten percent of America’s numbers in new cases.
Of course, much of America’s apathetic approach to proactively mitigating the spread of COVID starts at the top. The American president, Donald J. Trump, spent an extended amount of time either in denial of expert predictions, spewing xenophobic rhetoric about the virus, and generally being loud and wrong. In other words, being himself. The impact of his arrogance/ignorance created a ripple effect among conservative politicians all over the country who took a similar position of inaction.
Battle lines around issues such as mandated face coverings in public became a signifier of where an official’s politics aligned. Rather than adhere to scientific expertise, several Republican politicians were looking to disprove what they believed to be sensationalism by the Anthony Fauci’s of the world, and many Democratic leaders were timid in making protective demands in areas they governed.
Far too many ‘real Americans’ got entangled in the idea of their liberties being trampled on, an asinine rationale largely promoted by their elected officials. Unfortunately, several constituents of COVID deniers have paid the ultimate price for the laissez-faire attitude of the local and federal government. What’s worse is the effect their denial has had on vulnerable members of their community who were infected on account of their social negligence. An innumerable amount of Americans not only supported the indifference of their leaders but felt so emboldened by the delusion of “American strength,” they assumed they could weather a “seasonal” inconvenience that they relegated to nothing more severe than a typical flu.
That conceit has led to a plethora of family-only funeral services.
Perhaps the most ominous thing to consider about this summer’s spike in coronavirus cases is that it does not set America up for a promising fall and winter. Experts reported several months ago that an unmitigated COVID mixed with the seasonal flu of colder months could be a recipe for disaster. The summer season afforded us the opportunity to spend more time outdoors, despite days of record-setting heat. The winter season brings a higher amount of indoor activities which subjects more people to droplets circulating in climate-controlled settings. And with a hasty emphasis on children returning to schools this fall, America could sadly witness scores of students be its next primary demographic of casualties.
None of this is to mention what could be a disastrous impact on the holiday season with respect to travel, commerce and the emotional distress of seeing family members either infirmed or deceased on account of the virus.
So what impact has this grim summer season really had on the American hubris? Will the outcome of this infected summer produce the cautious humility necessary to move this country away from further harming itself? It’s hard to answer in the affirmative as there are still folks out here protesting their rights to sit in dive bars next to each other.
We can mute the death knell if we choose to. I’m just not so sure how exhausted we have grown from its sound.