EDITORIAL: Now is not the time to back off our safety practices amid COVID-19

If we let down now, virus could come back worse and delay return to normalcy even longer
Central Park in Schenectady Sunday afternoon
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Central Park in Schenectady Sunday afternoon

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

It’s just so tempting.

It’s been a month-and-a-half. 

We’ve ordered a lifetime’s worth of takeout, exhausted all the craft projects and puzzles, and binge-watched everything interesting on Netflix, to the point where we’re now resigned to old basketball games from the ‘80s on ESPN.

We miss our jobs, our friends, our family members, our privacy and our freedom.

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But if we truly want this crisis to go away and for us all to return to some sort of economic and social normalcy, we’re going to have to resist the temptation to chuck it all by rebelling against the practices that have helped stem the spread of this outbreak thus far.

Wishing it away by dispensing with stay-at-home measures, or trying to protest it away by marching in the streets (especially without masks or social distancing) isn’t going to get us to our goal any faster.

In fact, medical professionals, including the revered Dr. Anthony Fauci, say that rushing a return to normalcy without enough testing, treatment or a vaccine could result in a “boomerang” effect — the virus will come back, perhaps worse than before.

The truth is, despite what the president falsely claims, we aren’t anywhere near where we need to be to bring this crisis to an end.

Not even close.

The number of cases, deaths and hospitalizations has recently been leveling off and declining here in New York, giving us all hope that an end to this madness is near.

But the numbers of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths in our state are still astoundingly high … and frightening.

Nationally the total number of deaths continues to rise, topping 40,000 over the weekend. Cases and deaths are still rising in some states, and hotspots are cropping up all over the country.

We don’t have nearly enough testing to ensure our safety.

For instance, New York has tested more than 617,500 people so far.  That sounds like a lot until you realize it’s only 3% of the state’s 19.3 million people. Nationally, we’ve only tested about 3.9 million people. or about 1.2% of the nation’s 328.2 million people.

Harvard researchers say nationwide testing will have to nearly triple, from the current 150,000 tests per day to over 500,000 per day, to even think about opening up the country by May 1.

Only now are we beginning ramp up anti-bodies testing, which is designed to identify people who’ve had the disease. Buyt even using that as a sign of progress is suspect, because antibodies may not guarantee immunity and not all who get the virus show antibodies. And to be effective, we’ll need to test millions of people.

Until government makes significant progress in these areas, we’re not ready to send everyone back to work and school — no matter how much we might want it.

It’s true we may be ready to let out some of the slack. Golf courses and marinas were allowed to reopen this weekend in New York.

And some employers, where it’s suitable, may soon be able to bring back workers in shifts or phases.

But we’re not ready to hold large sporting events or parades, or allow people to flood to beaches and concerts. We’re not ready to pack back into churches and restaurants.

If we do that now, before we’re prepared, we’ll be back where we were a month or two ago, dealing with an unmanageable medical crisis and watching the number of illnesses and deaths spike again.

That will mean more stresses on our heroic medical personnel, more demands for ventilators and personal protection equipment, and more pain and suffering.

And any hopes of quickly returning to “normal” will be extended another few months or longer.

So we have to continue to be patient. We have to keep sacrificing. We have to keep our distance. 

If we ever want this to be over, now is not the time to step back.

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The Daily Gazette is committed to keeping our community safe and informed and is offering our COVID-19 coverage to you free.
Our subscribers help us bring this information to you. Please consider a subscription at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe to help support these efforts.
Thank You

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