As of my writing this, there are over 800,000 positive cases and 150,000 people in the hospital daily due to COVID in the U.S. These are the highest numbers, by far, of the pandemic in this country, up 309% and 112% from last year’s peak, respectively. Two thousand people are dying every day.
And this week, millions of students will go to classes held in person, employees in every industry will clock into the office and two years after COVID arrived in the U.S., we are still struggling to contain it. Perhaps that term is even a little generous, given that one has to be trying to be struggling; instead, we have had one year of active support for COVID spread under one administration and another year of inadequate preparation and reaction under another.
Doesn’t this feel strange to anyone? Hundreds of thousands have died, hundreds of thousands more have suffered and will suffer effects for years, students have had years taken from their growth and development and horror stories emerge every day of hospitals, nursing homes and schools overwhelmed with sickness. New York City schools were the most recent example of this: students and teachers coming to school with symptoms and testing positive in class while dozens others simply did not come due to the risk. Yet life is largely continuing as it did before the pandemic.
Hospital systems are again overwhelmed with massive case numbers. The federal government has deployed the military to assist in treating COVID patients and invoked a wartime law, the Defense Production Act, to accelerate vaccine production while opening more test and vaccine centers. But as Yascha Mounk notes in an article published in “The Atlantic,” these measures “are predominantly in the realm of adaptation: The goal is to help us cope with a surge of cases, not to prevent one from happening in the first place.” The U.S. has so neglected this concept.
The one time that I have experienced an effort for prevention against COVID enforced by an institution is when Concordia sent us home in March 2020. But next semester, when cases were exponentially higher, we were back in the classroom. There has been very little willingness in the U.S. for serious preventative measures that were seen in other countries like China and New Zealand. Instead, we let COVID roll over us in the name of “individual choice” and “freedom.” As a result, two years later, 850,000 Americans are dead.
At this point in time, I don’t know what the answer is. If there was no appetite for serious preventative action in March 2020 or January 2021, there is certainly none in January 2022. Maybe there’s something to be said for how people adapt to new situations and ways of life. But it’s just unsettling to act like everything is normal when, clearly, everything has changed so much, significantly for the worse.