Editorial: COVID-19: What the facts prove
As all Americans wish fervently for a return to normal times, we are faced with twin crises that have shaken the country to its core: a meteoric rise in COVID cases and an erosion of trust in the truth — a casualty of four years of lies and misinformation spewed by a president and his party for political gain at great cost to the nation.
The most pressing crisis is the rapid spread of the virus. On Wednesday, the nation’s hospitals surpassed 100,000 COVID-19 patients for the first time. That’s nearly double the highest number reached last spring. The jump in hospitalizations follows a surge in new cases, which now number more than one million every week.
Deaths from the virus have surpassed 270,000 and medical experts say the number of American fatalities could reach 450,000 by February — more than the number of Americans who were killed during the four years of WWII.
“The reality is, December and January and February are going to be rough times,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the national Center of Disease Control, in an address to the Chamber of Commerce Foundation. “I actually believe they’re going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation… We’re in that range potentially now, starting to see 1,500 to 2,000 to 2,500 deaths a day from this virus.”
Those numbers are frightening and real. Slowing down the rate of infection, however, is within our control if the public would just embrace policies such as mask wearing, social distancing and avoiding gatherings. “It’s not a fait accompli,” Redfield said. “We’re not defenseless. The truth is that mitigation works. But it’s not going to work if half of us do what we need to do. Probably not even if three-quarters do.”
What works is when everyone does their part. Vermont has largely done that for these past 10 months, but recent spikes have shown breakdowns in that defense. The only answer to the threat is to be vigilant in our collective efforts to stop the spread of the disease. Wear a mask, social-distance, and don’t go to group gatherings or holiday parties no matter how intimate a gathering or how well you know each other. For the next two to three weeks, we all must be on our best behavior.
If we will, as Vermonters, we might be able to keep our schools open; we will be able to keep most businesses open; and most of us will stay virus-free. But if we don’t, with the high rate of contagion all around us, we’re likely to see another version of a business and school lock-down. It’s up to all of us to work together.
So, please, don’t follow Mr. Trump’s disastrous example. Don’t host holiday parties like he intends to do; don’t sign on to lunatic conspiracy theories, like he does almost daily; and don’t be a fool and pretend it’s just a hyped-up version of the flu and you’ll be just fine. The facts — 270,000 Americans dead and a million new cases a week — prove otherwise.
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