The courage to face difficult times has been the case in many parts of the Northeast since the winter and now in other parts of the country. While the media focuses on COVID-19 hotspots like China, Italy, New York, and Brazil, lives everywhere are impacted. While we offer updates each week about the virus, let’s look to where we stand today in a global context. We are much wiser about the virus’ spread and ways to protect ourselves.
Several southern states opened quickly the past few weeks, and the number of COVID-19 cases is rising. There are newfound fears that protests will cause another wave of infections in the US and other countries. Many protesters lacked face masks and did not social distance; shouting will also contribute to the spread.
From a security perspective we don’t know if mass disturbances, rioting and looting will become part of our lives. After a brief period of looting, most protests have been peaceful but could usher in a second wave of infections.
The spread of virus
As predicted, cooler weather in India and Brazil (the Southern Hemisphere) brought a spread of coronavirus. When news first came out about the virus in China (reports now indicate it was in Wuhan as early as August), health professionals and governments were still learning how the virus behaved. We now have a basic understanding of the virus’ spread, and what policies help stop it. However, the spread has become politicized.
Politics seem to be trumping science and fact as the virus spreads globally. Richer nations are impacted less, so COVID-19 is becoming a poor nation’s disease. As the numbers have decreased in economic centers like New York (now reopening) it is less newsworthy. Some Americans seem to believe that summer’s arrival and a presidential election year may have beaten back the virus.
Even worse, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro chose to go against the knowledge accumulated over the past months and decided to keep the economy open. Politically this has not worked, according to this New York Times article “President Jair Bolsonaro’s inner circle seems to be clamoring for the military to step into the fray. In fact, one of the president’s sons, a congressman who has praised the country’s former military dictatorship, said a similar institutional break was inevitable.” History will judge harshly those who knew the truth about the virus but chose to use this crisis for political gain.
Developed countries in Western Europe and Israel believe we have beaten back the virus and we can jump into a “new normal” which looks like the old normal. This virus is not tamed, even though measures taken by many US states (such as closing parts of the economy) have helped flatten the curve. Should a significant second wave of infections occur, much of what we worked toward earlier may be lost.
As this Atlantic article best summarizes “Americans may wish the virus to be gone, but it is not. While the outbreak has eased in the Northeast, driving down the overall national numbers, cases have only plateaued in the rest of the country, and they appear to be on the rise in recent days in COVID Tracking Project data. Twenty-two states reported 400 or more new cases Friday, and 14 other states and Puerto Rico reported cases in the triple digits.”
There is positive news. Every day we learn more about the virus, including treatment improvements. We’ve learned how important preventative tools like masks are. In former hotspots such as New York we’ve seen progress and how as a nation we are resilient. We have also come together despite a toxic political environment. Science is making great strides, with reports of a possible vaccine on the market sooner than expected. We’re not out of the woods yet, but the future looks brighter.