COVID-19 is firmly established in the United States, and Wednesday night’s announcement of extremely limited travel restrictions between Europe and the United States – it doesn’t apply to Americans whatsoever, nor to the United Kingdom and Ireland – was akin to announcing a bold new plan to bolt the barn doors now that the horses are out. The focus in the U.S. must now be on mitigating the spread of the deadly, pneumonia like virus, which kills anywhere between 0.7 and 3 percent of those who get it. It is particularly vicious on the old, the sick, and smokers.
COVID-19 is wickedly dastardly and difficult to contain for a couple of reasons. For one, its incubation period appears to be longer – up to 24 days – than other viruses. That means people can walk around asymptomatically for more than three weeks, in the meantime spreading the virus to others unknowingly. That’s a big reason that German chancellor Angela Merkel is projecting that up to 70 percent of her countrymen could come down with it, and that the attending physician of the United States Congress has warned that between 70 and 150 million Americans could contract it.
That there are so many unknowing carriers is compounded by the pathetic rate of testing here in the United States. The CDC has done an abominable job getting testing up and running, though that appears to finally be improving. The result, though, is that thousands are probably walking around with COVID-19 unawares. Unfortunately, there are no glasses akin to those in the ‘80s classic “They Live,” that can tell us who has the virus, and who doesn’t.
The upshot? You should probably stay home if you can, even if you’re feeling fine and even if you’re not in a particularly at-risk group. Healthy, thirty-something males – a demographic I happen to feel a particular affinity for – probably won’t die if they contract COVID-19, but they can certainly transmit it to someone who will. President Trump’s former FDA chairman, the physician Scott Gottlieb, has suggested that “shutting down NBA games is not enough. [Social distancing] must be practiced in places large and small. Small gatherings, parties, all should be postponed for the next month or two.”
America is a country that worships the young – part of the reason, I suspect, that so many have been complacent for so long while countries that tend to venerate the elderly, like Italy and China, have moved so firmly to clamp down on the spread of COVID-19. It may be inconvenient for the seemingly healthy, but we should stay home and avoid gatherings while we can, if only to save the lives of others rather than our own.
Ethan Epstein is editorial editor of The Washington Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ethanepstiiiine.
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