So, Gov. Holcomb announced that Indiana is starting to re-open on Monday. Restaurants will be allowed to open at 50% capacity, non-essential retail as well. Remote work is recommended at offices but not required. Religious services won’t have any particular restrictions, and social gatherings are to be limited to 25 and fewer. Old people (65 and older) are to remain sheltered and hope they can somehow stay away from all of the newly infected people in their community. The roll out is very muddled and abrupt. Announced on a Friday afternoon to begin on Monday morning. Social distancing requirements are still supposed to be observed, but that’s somewhat lost in the mix. If the idea is that — for example social gatherings of 25 people or office work is permitted but only if a distance of 6 feet apart is maintained, that message was absolutely lost.
It feels a little like we’re giving up on the war against COVID-19. We closed down, hoping we could beat it, but our will is weak, so we’re giving up. The metrics look quite a bit worse than when we shut down. With lock down precautions in place, 600 Hoosiers per day are being reported infected and 50 – 60 per day are dying. Opening up, the rate of spread will get worse. About the only metric I heard the Governor mention is that we’ll probably have enough hospital beds for the sick and dying. Best of luck paying your hospital bill. What did we gain by the lock down? If this was the plan, seems like we could’ve just gone ahead and gotten sick 6 weeks ago.
That’s how it feels anyway. Maybe — hopefully — I’m completely wrong. There are definitely plenty of people who sincerely want to do the right thing but are hurting economically. Their anxiety is only increased by the lack of a clear mission and lack of a clear strategy. Nationally, the message is bipolar at best. The federal government pushed it down to the states. At the state level, it felt like Gov. Holcomb was doing his best; but now he’s punting.
Maybe he doesn’t see any way to hold out politically or financially while we get mass testing and contact tracing infrastructure in place, let alone develop a vaccine or medical treatments. It’s that much harder to hold out without support from the national government. One day, President Sundowner is agreeing that this is a big problem; the next he’s urging insurrection. We’re all in the same pool, so citizens can be excused if they wonder what good it does for them to be in the no-peeing section when their neighbors a few states over are in the I.P. Freely section. The pressure to cut and run will become even worse as this turns into a locality-by-locality patchwork. I don’t have any military training, but I’m enough of a student of history to know that the mass fatalities usually happen when an army breaks. Every-man-for-himself is a recipe for slaughter. The force that remains cohesive even when the battle looks futile is probably going to fare better.
As for the mutton-heads (or virus sympathizers, if you prefer) who don’t care about any of the nerdy, scientific mumbo jumbo about rates of transmission, case fatality rates, incident fatality rates, etc. — they just want to get back to free refills and professional haircuts — these are your fellow citizens who would sell you out to the enemy in a war. “I don’t care if an air raid does come, who are you to tell me to turn out my lights? Black out orders violate my rights! Enemy bombers probably won’t hit *my* house – I’m willing to take the chance, never mind the increased risk to my neighbors. Besides, the Germans aren’t so bad. Actually, some of the houses they’re bombing were a little rickety anyway.”
And, finally, a note about that J.D. Salinger quote I like to dredge up from time to time: “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.” It seems to me that the sorts of people who like to talk a lot about toughness, maybe dying heroically for a cause, standing up to their oppressors aren’t willing to do the less glorious, emotionally difficult work of living humbly in a way that helps us ultimately in this struggle that is claiming more lives than most of our wars. At 67,000 American lives lost in the last two months, the body count is already past what we lost in Vietnam, Korea, the Spanish American War, the Mexican American War, the War of 1812, and the American Revolution. We’re approaching 50% of the U.S. Army combat deaths in the Civil War and have surpassed that number for World War 1. We’re averaging a 9/11 every two days. So, this struggle is every bit as costly as our other fights in terms of lives lost. Are war deaths more valuable than other deaths?
Like I said, I’d love to be wrong. But, at the moment, it feels like surrender.