(March 12, 2020 / JNS) I read in The New York Times this week that German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that two-thirds of the German population could end up infected by the coronavirus.
That would be 55 million people—in one country alone.
Meanwhile, all of Italy is under quarantine. I think that’s worth repeating: All of Italy is under quarantine.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially labeled the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, meaning a disease spreading in multiple countries simultaneously.
A tiny virus is taking on humanity, and so far, it’s winning.
In America, the No. 1 virus in recent years has been politics. It has dominated our consciousness, infected our culture and divided us into warring tribes.
God must have a great sense of humor because, while we were fighting over politics, he sent us… a real virus. A virus with real power—the power to kill us.
This virus passes every purity test—it is 100 percent bipartisan, attacks everyone regardless of race, color, ethnicity, class or legal status. It doesn’t care who you vote for, where you come from, where you live or how much you make.
That’s why I’m unimpressed by the scattered efforts to politicize this pandemic. This is one of those rare instances in which politics will have to play second fiddle.
When you’re afraid of going to a restaurant or a supermarket or a business meeting or a work site because you might die, your priorities change. Suddenly, your political party matters less.
It’s called being human. The coronavirus has done the impossible and brought us together around a common threat. Now, we all need to hear the same advice and learn to take the same precautions.
You can already see how both parties are starting to unite to combat this pandemic for the sake of the nation.
“We would like the country to realize that as a nation, we can’t be doing the kinds of things we were doing a few months ago. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a state that has no cases or one case,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned during a White House briefing Tuesday.
“If and when the infections will come—and they will come, sorry to say, sad to say—when you’re dealing with an infectious disease … we want to be where the infection is going to be, as well as where it is,” Fauci said, referring us to the new Coronavirus.gov website for details on the best precautions to take.
Eventually, the brutal, unrelenting reality of this disease will concentrate our minds and we will take those precautions. The only policy that matters at the moment is how to protect ourselves from a wildly contagious disease with no cure or vaccine. An insidious aspect of this virus is that you can be infected and contagious before showing any symptoms. In that scary scenario, people can fear both giving it and getting it.
One sacrifice we’ll need to get used to is what’s called “social distancing.” This means not getting too close to other people and generally staying away from crowds. That’s why we’re seeing so many public events being cancelled. They’re even talking of rescheduling this summer’s Olympic Games in Japan.
There’s no playbook for this kind of crisis. We’re not used to having our freedoms curtailed—especially our freedom to go places. But America in the age of coronavirus is a different, more humbled nation.
Should our country have been better prepared? Absolutely. Bill Gates warned us in 2015 to prepare for such a pandemic and even laid out a blueprint. Should we be upset that our leaders didn’t heed that wise advice? Yes, we should.
But even this protesting will run dry in the face of the urgent threat to our physical well-being. Post-mortems and committees can come later. Right now, we’re in the midst of a nasty war against a lethal enemy we can’t see.
In this war, all of humanity is on the same side, whether we like it or not.
David Suissa is editor-in-chief and publisher of Tribe Media Corp and Jewish Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was first published by the Jewish Journal.
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