Everything we are learning indicates that Americans are a week or two behind some European countries unless we flatten the curve with the COVID-19 pandemic. That means we have a small — very small — window of time to learn, both from their mistakes and from what they are doing that works.
The first thing we might learn is the consequence of not listening to experts.
In France, which has now confirmed more than 4,500 cases since January, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe shut down all restaurants, cafes, cinemas and nonessential retail shops last weekend. France had already shut down its schools, banned gatherings of more than 100 people and advised people to limit their social life. Still, people weren’t paying attention
Philippe said the measures were “not well implemented” and told his country: “We must show all together more discipline.”
In Italy, which reported its biggest day-to-day jump in cases over the weekend — 3,497 new cases in 24 hours — the problem is much the same. Authorities have said that increase is due in part to residents’ failure to follow guidelines and restrictions put in place as part of their national lockdown. Among the reckless behaviors, some Italians were still going to beaches and ski resorts and hanging out together in town squares and piazzas.
The degree to which this pandemic hits us depends on us, our willingness to make responsible choices and sacrifices for the common good. That’s not what we saw over the weekend around the country, with crowds from Bourbon Street to Nashville to St. Patrick’s Day pub crawls in Chicago to Disney World, although the latter has since closed.
Over the weekend, U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., foolishly encouraged people to visit their local restaurants and bars.
“But I will just say one of the things you can do if you’re healthy, you and your family, it’s a great time to just go out, go to a local restaurant. … Let’s not hurt the working people in this country that are relying on wages and tips to keep their small business going.”
This despite warnings to the contrary from countless infectious disease specialists.
Some by now have probably seen comparisons between Philadelphia and St. Louis and their handling of the Spanish flu more than a century ago.
Philadelphia continued with a parade that drew 200,000 people, and just days later every hospital bed was full and many of those patients died.
St. Louis did a hard shutdown — schools, courtrooms, churches, the works. Public gatherings of more than 20 people were banned. St. Louis recorded half as many deaths as Philadelphia, according to a paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Common sense for the common good is needed now.