After weeks of plummeting death rates, dwindling hospitalizations and a sharp drop in positive test results for COVID-19, slow-walking Gov. Ralph Northam announced that the commonwealth can enter Phase Three.
But not until next week, on July 1.
Northam made the announcement at yesterday’s press conference.
For months, Northam’s pressers have been characterized by gloom and arbitrary rules that confounded the public.
From the governor’s nonsensical “we’re a commonwealth and we’re going to act like a commonwealth” to his ridiculous no-sitting-or-loud-music-on-the-beach edicts, these bi-weekly broadcasts have been a source of dread for many of us.
Phase Three should have happened weeks ago. Nevertheless, sometimes we must simply be grateful for the crumbs the governor sprinkles in our direction.
Beginning next week, restaurants and retail stores can open at 100% capacity as they attempt to regain a fraction of the money they’ve lost during the interminable shutdowns. Gyms can operate at 75% capacity, which may mean that my favorite elliptical will no longer have a “closed for your safety” sign on it. Public gatherings can have 250 people. And public pools can reopen for recreation, not only for tedious lap swimming. Oh, and hair stylists, who have suffered mightily through the various gubernatorial decrees, can return to business as usual.
But gird your loins, folks. There will almost certainly be an uptick in cases once people are moving about.
Remember, this is Day 104 of 15 Days to Slow The Spread.
Contrary to what some came to believe as the goalposts kept shifting, the shutdowns were never intended to halt the spread of the virus.
That can’t be done. This is a novel infection. Prior to March, no one had immunity to it. Most of us still don’t.
Bad modeling, which bred hysteria, and images from Italy where hospitals were overrun and people were fighting for ventilators, caused a panicked overreaction here in most places in the U.S.
“Slowing the spread” or “flattening the curve” meant slowing the rate of infections to allow hospitals to prepare for the influx of patients. Many of us are still going to catch it. In July, perhaps, instead of March.
Most folks who are infected will be fine. Many will have no symptoms, others will recover at home. For those who become seriously ill, Virginia’s hospitals are in excellent shape. There are more than 8,000 available beds and no hospitals are recording a shortage of PPEs or other equipment.
The lockdowns, which managed to slow the spread, exacted a terrible toll in other areas. Not only did about 840,000 Virginians lose their job, but students lost months of classroom instruction, addicts lost their support group meetings, churchgoers were unable to worship.
In May, The Washington Post reported that the country was experiencing a mental health crisis due to the panic and the shutdowns.
Data shows depression and anxiety already roiling the nation.
Nearly half of Americans report the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. A federal emergency hotline for people in emotional distress registered a more than 1,000 percent increase in April compared with the same time last year. Last month, roughly 20,000 people texted that hotline, run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Online therapy company Talkspace reported a 65 percent jump in clients since mid-February. Text messages and transcribed therapy sessions collected anonymously by the company show coronavirus-related anxiety dominating patients’ concerns.
Beyond that, the civil unrest sweeping our commonwealth and the nation has surely been exacerbated by months of stress, unnatural social isolation and unemployment.
We desperately need to get back to work. And play.
July 1 can’t come soon enough.
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