The word “quarantine” originates from “quarantena,” from Venetian meaning “40 days.” This is due to the 40-day isolation of ships and people to prevent the plague - yes, that plague - from spreading. Current estimates say the bubonic plague takes 37-days to go from infection to death. That number also suggests there is a time limit that human beings can be kept apart.
To slow the spread of the virus and not overwhelm the hospital system, we were put under a state of emergency both at the county and state level, and we are still under that declaration today. It hasn’t started yet, but I expect people to soon ask, “Why?”
There are reasons to have a state of emergency when it comes to federal funding, but as COVID-19 cases dwindle, the question will be asked, “where is the emergency?”
The funding is no small hurdle, but for most, the virus is the emergency, not the dire financial situation of our cities and states. That may change as services are cut back, but as they are, will people equate that to a hurricane or tornado?
Citizens will pull together in times of emergency. They do so not by request or order, but because of an innate code to help other people. It does not bode well for the government to tread heavily on that sense of goodwill.
People do not like to be treated unfairly. We condemn people who blindly follow orders; it’s unwise for the government to get to a point with COVID-19 where people are asked to follow orders with no clear objective or purpose in mind.
There are others suggesting a wholesale reopening, but living in Tompkins County, I see fewer of these folks. I see no one with guns in Albany, but I do see more and more people, especially in New York City, beginning to disregard government orders.
Most New Yorkers seem to have accepted a phased reopening, but many are asking why the phases are stretching now into July, particularly outside of NYC.
A challenge we are starting to face is the reestablishment of relationships. There’s a level of distrust that I’ve not seen before. People I know report their neighbors for gatherings or unmasked people they pass by to authorities. Some consider not wearing a mask an assault.
I find this hard to reconcile in a country where 43 states have no law requiring those with human immunodeficiency virus or HIV to wear prevention measures when having sex. Is it now assault for those who have a small chance of having COVID-19 to not wear a mask? I wear a mask when I can’t keep six feet of distance from people and I find most people do that. Will that ever end? I hope so.
It’s hard to see now how we’ll reconnect with others. We’d like to believe Zoom is just as good as in-person meetings or that our children receive a similar education to face-to-face school, but I think most of us know that’s not true.
Distance meetings and learning have their place, but particularly for children, it’s a challenge even in supportive homes. Working to set the county budget, I can assure you many homes face barriers they cannot overcome alone even in good times.
We can say they’re not alone during this pandemic, but that doesn’t explain the rise in suicides or domestic violence that we’ve seen. The problems we faced before the pandemic are still there, only now, you don’t see them as much because we are less connected.
Most say Gov. Andrew Cuomo has done an outstanding job communicating the state of COVID-19 in New York state. With that applause, though, it seems to be forgotten that his, and NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s, inaction helped lead to NYC being the number one hotspot in America.
Cuomo’s order to send COVID-19 positive patients to nursing homes was devastating. It’s suggested that was done to not overwhelm hospitals, but hospitals outside New York City were not overwhelmed.
It really was an inexplicable decision not only by him, but by governors in Pennsylvania and Michigan. Even early in the pandemic, when little was known, we were sure that seniors and those with underlying conditions fared the worst when exposed to the virus.
The goal of the lockdown was not to stop the spread of COVID-19. It was to not overwhelm the healthcare system. Until there is a vaccine, this disease will spread.
The good news is we’ve slowed the spread, and the healthcare system is now prepared for a recurrence or even a new pathogen. There are some who seem to believe this disease could have been kept off our shores.
America is a globally connected society that brings in people from, and sends its people to, every corner of the globe. I don’t believe in the end, we want to see that change.
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