The upsizing of the local Spirit Halloween store made me come to a haunting realization.
This looks like a fun day at the water park, right? It’s a picture from this year’s Memorial Day celebration at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. People are celebrating the holiday weekend without a care in the world. There are plenty of photos like this circulating online, but the “PLEASE PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING” banner proudly displayed over a tightly-packed crowd makes this one my favorite. That’s one for the history books, folks.
The pandemic isn’t over. Not even close. The spike of people gathering in crowds like this over the holiday weekend will inevitably trigger a second wave of infections and deaths.
Why is this happening? Why are people gathering in large crowds when the virus may still be spreading at epidemic rates in 24 states, and a second wave was starting in the Midwest and South even before people started abandoning distancing over the holiday weekend?
For better or worse, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world.
As I’m writing this, the COVID-19 Dashboard reports that over 3 million people have been infected, with over 230,000 cases resulting in death. The U.S. has by far the most infections, with over a million infected and over 60,000 dead.
The effects of the pandemic extend far beyond those infections and deaths. Four billion people have been placed under various shelter-in-place and lockdown orders. This has created dramatic social, economic, and political disruptions, effectively shutting down “business as usual” in much of the world.
Just how long this pandemic will last, and how devastating its toll will be, remains to be seen. However, some U.S. states are now lifting their lockdown orders prematurely, without following World Health Organization guidelines for doing so. This reckless approach to pandemic recovery will likely lead to additional spikes in infections and deaths in the US. That places those of us living in the U.S. in the bizarre and unjust position of having to grapple with major questions about how to recover from this pandemic while we’re still in lockdown, still wanting to stay in lockdown, and still not through the worst of the pandemic yet.
Whether we’re ready or not, though, it’s time for all of us who live in the U.S. to start talking about what pandemic recovery here should look like. People in positions of economic and political power are already talking about it and making plans within plans about it. If any of us want to have input into that recovery process, the time to act is now.
As the saying goes, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu