We, too, can bend the trajectory of this pandemic, and we must.
Remember “flatten the curve”? In March, when the nation faced overloaded hospitals, the public responded quickly. The hospital crisis was, for the most part, averted. Today, months of struggle have left people exhausted, and less responsive. But, while covid-19 is relentless and opportunistic, we are not powerless. We must shake off the ennui, break the fatigue.
The emergency is real. On Friday, at least 82,600 new infections were added in the United States, the highest total since the pandemic began. Eight states set single-day case records on Thursday; as of Friday, 12 states had added more cases in the previous week than in any other seven-day period. Hospitals in the upper Midwest and Rocky Mountain states are near the breaking point. Overall, hospitalizations, which lag the case onset, are up 40 percent in the past month. At least 14 states saw more people hospitalized for the virus on a day in the past week than on any other day in the pandemic, and seven more states are nearing peaks. Reported deaths are rising above 1,000 a day once again. Unlike the regional outbreaks earlier, viral hot spots are now springing up all over.
The president offers only denial and complacency, but citizens are not doomed to follow his example. When congregations gathered for religious worship without masks, when politicians gathered in the White House Rose Garden without masks, when motorcycle riders rallied without masks, they were negligent and spread outbreaks. The price we are paying is high — highest of all among children, who so desperately need to return to in-person classroom instruction.
Until vaccines arrive, it will take concerted effort to bend the curve again — but it can be done. Remember that huge spike in Arizona? Sustained mitigation worked: Public events were limited; bars, gyms, movie theaters and water parks were closed temporarily; restaurant dine-in capacity was reduced; and people voluntarily stayed home and wore masks where not mandated. Tough sacrifices, to be sure, for a tough situation. New cases fell by 75 percent in about a month. With Thanksgiving coming, we must take matters into own hands: Avoid large indoor gatherings, wear masks, practice good personal hygiene and keep social distancing. Testing, tracing and isolation are hard, but must be tried again until rampant community spread is tamped down. We can hope for a return of robust, credible national leadership, beginning Jan. 20. But in the meantime, we are not helpless.