The mayor of New York City is insisting the entire city go on lockdown.
The governor of New York is refusing.
Manhattan is two hours away. I was just there three months ago, watching “Hadestown” after meeting up with Makhieba in a Danish cafe for the first time in three years.
Only one month later, the Coronavirus had already hit the United States.
Yes. You read that right. The first reported US case of the novel Coronavirus that has curtailed the planet into a world pandemic occurred on January 19th.
The CDC was notified in January.
The administration was notified in January.
The media started asking questions in January.
The director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC stressed to the media that “although this is a serious public health threat, the risk to the American public is low” when a second Coronavirus patient was confirmed in Chicago, Il. in January.
Illinois, who yesterday had a reported case amount of 55 and has today found 128.
You know what other country reported its first Coronavirus case in January?
Yet, somehow, multiple countries around the world only just started to lock down a week ago – in the exact same format.
Assuring each other it’s just the flu, no big deal. Accusing the media of over-hyping (the United Kingdom has only just left this stage.) The schools shutting down. Events shutting down. Social distancing beginning. Panic buying (the UK now; the US last week.) Slowly closing everything – slowly.
Four years ago, I moved to Ireland until the following year.
Ireland is on lockdown.
I wandered the streets of Denmark three years ago.
Denmark is on lockdown.
I visited France five years ago.
France is on lockdown.
I ate gelato in Italy during that same trip.
Italy, whose health care system, routinely ranked one of the best in the world, is now working overtime to piece itself back together.
Today, a Facebook user reported the hospitals of Seattle have also fallen to their knees.
Instead of following in Taiwan’s steps and locking down almost immediately, the officials of country after country after country took the same measures.
Slowly. Over and over and over again.
Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Wash your hands. Why are you panic buying? Wash your hands. Avoid all nonessential contact. Did I mention wash those hands?
There are some exceptions. Norway, for instance, closed its borders to international travelers before a single death.
But in one week, many countries around the world followed the Exact. Same. Pattern.
One week. It’s been one week since Harvard shut its doors.
In 1989, the US and Canada entered into a Free Trade Agreement. By 1994, the North American Free Trade Act went into effect between the US, Canada and Mexico.
Recently, the three countries ratified the United States, Canada Mexico Free Trade agreement (USMCA).
Two days ago, Canada closed its borders to everyone – except the United States.
Today, Canada and the United States closed their borders to each other.
This excludes essential travel.
Several states are now going on lockdown. The governor of Illinois has called in the National Guard, issuing fines and prison time if people break curfew. All nonessential businesses and government offices are closed in Pennsylvania and Nevada. California’s governor has placed San Francisco on lockdown and informed the state that the schools may be cancelled until the end of the school year. UCLA's commencement is cancelled. Kansas’ schools are also cancelled until the end of the school year, with Kansas State in Manhattan cancelling in-person commencement. Another commencement cancelled by the University of Central Florida and Colorado Springs' UCCS. A South Carolina hospital today informed its elective surgery staff that they would take on a new role.
Eight states out of fifty.
Fifty United States that are starting to spin into the past.
Before the Spanish influenza hit St. Louis, Mo. in 1918, the health commissioner alerted officials to the urgent need to avoid crowds. As soon as the flu began to spread to civilians, Dr. Max Starkloff put the entire city on lockdown. He fought pushback from local businesses and saved thousands of lives.
By contrast, Philadelphia in 1918 stubbornly allowed its parade to continue in the height of the influenza. According to the History Channel: “Just 72 hours after the parade, all 31 of Philadelphia’s hospitals were full and 2,600 people were dead by the end of the week.”
San Francisco enforced gauze masks.
This worked – the first time.
And then the second time.
By the third wave of the Spanish influenza in 1919, San Francisco put its faith into the masks once more.
“As a result, San Francisco ended up suffering some of the highest death rates from Spanish flu nationwide. The 2007 analysis found that if San Francisco had kept all of its anti-flu protections in place through the spring of 1919, it could have reduced deaths by 90 percent.”
There’s just no way around it.
We, as a nation, need to go on an entire lockdown – from each other.
Think about it. New York is able to get its high caseload contained. A New Yorker decides to visit Pennsylvania, which hasn’t yet been contained. The New Yorker returns home.
New York is, once more, infected with the Coronavirus.
Colorado is Corona-free. A Coloradoan visits Utah, which hasn't quite managed to contain the situation. The Coloradoan goes home.
Colorado is again fighting Corona.
If we want to make the United States safe again, if we want to avoid hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of deaths, if we want to learn from Iran, Italy, Spain, France – the list goes on – then we need to do what our forefathers fought against.
We need to take away our freedom.
States need to lock down. If necessary, lock down counties. If vital, lock down cities.
Do it soon. Whatever happens, let’s just get it over with.
I have family and friends all over the country. I had plans to visit Makhieba again, in May or June. My sister’s wedding is set for Missouri in December. None of my family live in my state. Do I want to be barred from two hours away? Do I want to be told I can’t leave Pennsylvania?
But we must learn from history. We must take heed of China and Italy, before it’s too late. Before our nurses and doctors become more overwhelmed than they’re about to be. Before our hospitals start overflowing.
Before they all report a situation like the hospitals in Seattle.
Then perhaps we can reclaim our freedom by the Fourth of July and have a celebration the likes of which have never before been seen.
You don't think France likes its freedom? France, whose national motto literally begins with the French word for freedom?
Or Ireland, who spent centuries fighting for its freedom?
If we prolong the inevitable and keep citing our constitutional right to liberty, this entire country may become 1919 San Francisco.
I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be told I can’t visit the people I love than lose them.