As the total number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. has now passed more than 2 million, with more than 115,000 dead and the death rate averaging 1,000 plus per day, the CDC has revised its COVID numbers, now predicting deaths in the U.S. to reach approximately 130,000 by July 4th.
As coronavirus containment measures continue to be eased across the country, new cases are on the rise, and daily infections are at their highest level ever now in California, Texas, and Florida-the nation’s three most populous states. Even where some states are holding steady or trending downward, as people return to pre-coronavirus behaviors, we can confidently predict the pandemic will continue to spread.
Naysayers, of course, attribute the rise in numbers of new cases to increased testing. But think about this, if more testing was producing an illusion of increased cases, then we should be seeing a declining positive test rate, which we’re not.
It’s also important to realize that there is a time lag between infection and when one presents with symptoms, typically a couple days to two weeks, which means these surges in infections we’re seeing now are due to behaviors that occurred before the protests against police brutality.
And from the earliest beginnings of the pandemic, the Trump administration has done virtually nothing to contain its spread. We don’t have a national test, trace and isolate system in place and we’re not going to get one as long as Trump’s in office. Trump won’t even reinforce simple behaviors that we know work…he and members of his senior staff refuse to wear masks in public nor do they practice physical distancing. Worse yet, he’s politicized the pandemic and continues to fuel the right-wing fringe by attacking lockdowns as a liberal conspiracy.
Masks and physical distancing work! In lieu of a vaccine, and there’s no guarantee we’re going to have an effective vaccine, it’s all we have right now to use against this pandemic. A recent article published in the world’s leading multi-disciplinary science journal Nature revealed that the coronavirus lockdowns prevented 60 million infections, which translates to about 240,000 deaths. As states and businesses continue to open all across the country, now more than ever it’s important for all of us to be careful, especially in confined spaces like places of work, restaurants, theaters, trains, buses, cars, airplanes, schools, churches, salons, gyms, pools, stores and even our homes.
And although rural locations are somewhat less vulnerable than dense-packed cities like New York, they are not remotely immune. It’s not density per se, it’s time and dosage. You don’t want to spend any length of time in close proximity to other people, especially in enclosed spaces. As an example, let’s say you’re sitting in a car or in a church near someone who’s infected; you’ll probably become infected by just breathing their air within 10 minutes. If they’re wearing a mask, then you’ve got maybe 20 minutes, but it doesn’t eliminate it. Now if you’re outdoors and moving around in fresh air, that’s not only good for you, it lessens your risk – you’re not going to get infected by quickly passing someone. But being outdoors with a group of people in close proximity? Think time and dose!
So where do we go from here? We can’t stay locked down forever and we can’t just open up fully like nothing ever happened. Magical thinking and ignoring the pandemic aren’t going to help. And without a vaccine, and again, there’s no guarantee of having one, COVID-19 is expected to infect 60-70% of Americans, that’s around 200 million of us. And from those infections, somewhere between 800,000 and 1.6 million Americans will die in the next year and a half.
Please understand I’m not sharing all of this to put the fear of God into you, actually it’s quite the opposite. Right now, we need straight talk—we need to have as much information in the hands of the public as possible…everyone needs to know what is known and what’s not known about this pandemic. Most importantly, we need real leadership-the type of leadership that won’t minimize what’s before us but will allow us to see how we’re going to get through this…together. And that’s key.
While nearly a “…universal majority of Americans support some changes and reforms to policing,” according to a survey conducted by Huffington Post/You Gov released on Friday, fewer than one-third support defunding the police, as opposed to other reforms like banning chokeholds, which people back by a solid 73 percent.
But just what does it mean to “defund the police?” There seems to be a lack of clarity around what this means. According to the aforementioned study, most respondents agreed it means significantly decreasing the size of police forces and the scope of their work, but others interpret it as completely abolishing police forces—a movement we’re now seeing in Minneapolis, the city where George Floyd was killed.
Some cities are already taking action. Boston’s mayor, on Friday, declared racism a public health crisis and announced an initial $3 million investment to work towards combating racism. Along with that money, another $9 million more will be taken from the Boston Police Department’s overtime budget to be reallocated to community health and business programs. In total, the $12 million will be divided up to support trauma response and counseling, community and small business investments, mental health crisis support, and housing security–aligning with the goals activists have been seeking in “defunding the police.”
In Colorado, Senate Bill 217 easily passed the House on Friday. The bill was introduced in the wake of George Floyd’s death, but lawmakers stressed that the issues are not new and are very much Colorado issues as well. The bill promises to bring historic changes to policing in the state. Among the biggest changes, the bill requires all officers to use body cameras, bans the use of chokeholds and carotid control holds, and limits when police are allowed to shoot at a person who is running away, known as the “fleeing felon” statute. Police would also have to have objective justification to make stops, be required to intervene when seeing other officers using excessive force, and could be sued as individuals for excessive force allegations, removing “qualified immunity” protections. In addition, the bill also restricts the use of force officers can use on protesters. Lawmakers in Colorado spent hours sharing personal experiences they and their loved ones have had with law enforcement, and several stressed that the bill isn’t about good cops but about holding those entrusted with protecting their communities accountable.
As we enter the now 17th day of protests decrying police brutality in the wake of watching a kneeling white police officer nonchalantly crush the life out of George Floyd, we’ve come to a critical moment in America…a reckoning.
The protests that have filled our streets all across America will not end racism, but shame and moral revulsion are powerful tools against oppression. We’ve seen police chiefs taking a knee with Black Lives Matter protesters. Major reform of policing is already occurring in cities across this nation, and a near insurrection has broken out among both current and retired generals after Trump sought to bring active duty troops in to “dominate” protesters, recollect Tiananmen Square. Even Confederate flags and statues are finally coming down.
Change is slow and difficult, but change in coming!
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