Whatever horrors the coronavirus has unleashed on the human race, it also highlighted particular strengths and some long-neglected weaknesses.
Our strengths are evident in the frontline caregivers who report to work despite the all too present danger. They are also evident in the often underpaid essential workers in our grocery stores, post offices, gas station/convenience stores, moms and dads homeschooling kids for the first time, and fast food or carry-out restaurants. Unfortunately the pandemic has also exposed our weaknesses.
On a local level, one weakness is the intersection of Route 15 and North Fourth Street ... Dunkin Donuts! The drive-through lane is longer than ever. Almost daily there are cars waiting on Fourth Street unable to turn into the parking lot for all the waiting cars. Now I’m not blaming the business itself, actually I commend Dunkin Donuts for remaining open, limiting contact and providing jobs in a very stressful time. With the advent of our stage yellow in Pa., vehicles long absent have returned to the Susquehanna Valley. That’s good, right? Sure but it also presents some problems.
Just last week I was walking by the Dunkin Donuts and counted two cars waiting to turn right in the Northbound lane of Route 15; four cars waiting to turn left into North Fourth Street; four to five cars waiting on North Fourth Street to turn into the Dunkin Donuts and two cars waiting at the railroad tracks on North Fourth Street waiting to turn right. What a mess. Good for Dunkin Donuts that they are doing such a great business. Not so good for several government agencies who should have seen this coming and planned alternative traffic patterns. Even when things return to normal (and we’re all hoping they will) the intersection of Route 15 and North Fourth Street will be a problem. PennDOT and the Borough of Lewisburg should get together and address this potentially dangerous situation.
On a national level ... we have problems. Despite the heart-warming commercials from all sorts of industries telling “us” we’re in this together, “we” are most definitely not acting in unison. The trouble first started with what I’ll call business-minded Republicans, egged on by certain right-wing media outlets – FOX News – as well as ultra-right wing personalities – Rush Limbaugh – and our president downplaying the pandemic. This in turn stirred up protesters who somehow combined shelter in place orders from state governors with gun rights issues and the 2nd Amendment. Move ahead a week or two and Attorney General William Barr threatens to sue state governments over “restrictive” measures. Then just a week ago the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Tony Evans went beyond his scope in issuing stay at home orders thus rendering all Gov. Evans’ pandemic related orders unenforceable.
The absolute latest and potentially most dangerous wrinkle in our supposed national response to the coronavirus pandemic has been the announcement on May 15 by President Trump that with operation “Warp Speed” he expects the development of a vaccination very soon, maybe even by the end of the year. There are several problems with such an announcement. Most medical researchers and scientists agree that historically vaccines take three to five years until ready for public administration. They also agree that not enough is known about this apparently evolving virus to make a reliable vaccine. The last and longest time period in getting a vaccine ready is testing it “under natural conditions” in thousands of people. Finally, if that last step is not completed correctly the resultant vaccine could be ineffective at least, and dangerous in the worst case.
All of that matters because in the United States we also have a small but loud (as well as divisive) group of anti-vaxers, or people opposed to vaccinating their children. Can you imagine the resultant blowback if a coronavirus vaccine was created that actually hurt recipients? That might cause even more people to doubt the efficacy of all vaccines. In other words a continuing medical disaster of apocalyptic proportions. I understand people believing they have rights under our Constitution, but no one has a right to endanger their fellow citizens. All that to say, if separation or social distancing is the way to end this pandemic, then we all ought to be on the same side and follow shelter in place orders as best we are able.
In the latest effort to divert attention from his obviously ineffective pandemic response, President Trump has accused former President Obama and his administration of a conspiracy to destroy Trump’s presidency and even keep Trump from assuming office in the first place. They cite the “unmasking” of witnesses in the Michael Flynn case. What many of Trump’s base will refuse to acknowledge is the fact that unmasking those witnesses and Flynn himself was necessary and very much legal. So while Americans are dying, and many more are suffering the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, this president is purposefully driving a wedge between various segments of the American populace. And still, he doggedly continues to push, cajole, demean and slander governors and their states for not reopening as fast as he’d like.
What good will re-opening all businesses, theaters, sports arenas, beaches and schools do if there isn’t anyone to attend because they’re all sick or worse, dead? What does this already great democracy need with a leader who colors every criticism as a conspiracy or plot against him? Why are 40 percent of voting age citizens still supporting this president who would rather be king?