As of July 1st, Virginia is now in “Phase III” reopening as our state’s COVID cases seem to be almost holding mostly steady despite record daily infections in a few hot spots such as Hampton Roads. Phase III means the reopening of non-essential retail and restaurants (with six-foot table spacing). The complete set of guidelines, found here, covers everything thing from camp grounds and beaches to racetracks and shooting ranges.
According to CNN three days ago, Virginia was one of only 13 states not experiencing a significant surge in COVID cases. The worst hot spot was a bar in East Lansing linked to 152 cases in the last week.
Nationally, the country just broke a record 55,000 new cases in one day; that’s a growth of over 90% within about two weeks. Even with a slew of renewed lockdowns and mask regulations, the trend means it will likely take many weeks to get back to where we were a month ago.
I’m impressed that Virginians seem to be largely acting responsibly and following practical guidelines. There are about 650 new cases a day in Virginia and with a population of about 8.5 million, it’s under the 10 per 100,000 threshold that New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are seeking to use as a standard for requiring travelers to quarantine for 14 days.
But looking around us, the Richmond Times Dispatch on June 25th carried an AP story about vacationers in Myrtle Beach, S.C. cramming into hotel elevators without a single occupant wearing a mask. Around the country we read of similarly shocking stories of thousands of people commemorating the end of government-imposed restrictions by recreating and congregating with wanton disregard for infection control. One group of young people in Alabama had parties with a reward for those who got infected first. (Perhaps Virginia’s relative success containing COVID can be added to our list of business-friendly advantages.)
The hard fact is that nothing has fundamentally changed regarding the pandemic and there is no basis for letting one’s guard down on infection control. A phased opening is merely a chance for us to act responsibly and continue to use the methods established over the last two months.
Unfortunately, from the European Union’s perspective, we will now be excluded (along with countries like Russia) from international travel to the EU. Among the approved EU travel partners are Algeria, Australia, Canada, Japan, Rwanda, and Uruguay, who are all doing a better job at holding down infection rates. This stunning graphic shows how poorly we have done at limiting infections compared to Europe. (“One graphic explains why Americans are facing a EU travel ban.”)
The surge of infections is a multi-trillion-dollar second punch to the economy and will put in chaos such issues such as reopening schools and universities. (Re K-12, even though statistics show very few children get infected or convey the virus, the sheer quantity of interactions gives teachers reasonable concern.) Keep an eye on local government budget and staff cuts and this fall and the impact it will have on unemployment.
The stunning reversal of infection control over the last three weeks was not some random event. Even though the surge is fueled by a minority of reckless individuals, the reversal can be seen as one barometer for the overall leadership and intellectual competence prevailing in the country. We should all be angry at irresponsible individuals but it’s also a wake-up call to examine why so many Americans embrace conspicuously irrational and dangerous behavior.
Verhaal Kenner is the pseudonym of a Richmond-area resident whose career includes several years in consumer and implantable medical device development.There are currently no comments highlighted.