Editorial: Fighting COVID-19, Bay Area leads where Trump has not

Tribune Content Agency

We are going to be at this for at least another month. Likely longer.

It turns out that the past two weeks were just a warmup, which should come as no surprise to those who were paying attention to how the coronavirus has attacked other countries around the world.

Unfortunately, until this week, that awareness didn’t seem to extend to President Donald Trump, who started this crisis by dismissing it, later finally called for people to stay home and then whipsawed back with scientifically ridiculous claims that life would be back to normal by Easter.

It was a combination of the frightening data from federal health care experts and polling data about rising national concerns that finally brought him around. At least for now. But, even still, Trump can’t stop sniping at governors who are justifiably frustrated with the federal government’s erratic response to the crisis.

As the stress of the continued isolation mounts with the necessary extensions of the ongoing confinement, we need to pull together as a nation. It would help if there were sincere signs of empathy coming from the White House.

And leadership. That means, for example, forcing manufacturers to ramp up production of all critical equipment, like ventilators and personal protective gear such as masks, gloves and gowns. This is just so basic, and the need has been so obvious for weeks now.

The longer the president takes to step up on issues like this, the more people will die, the more health care workers will be infected, the longer it will take to corral the deadly virus — and the longer this crisis will go on.

Meanwhile, over the weekend, the number of hospitalized patients in California doubled and the number in intensive care units tripled. Nationally, the imperfect data we have shows the curve of the United States’ coronavirus infection rate bending upward at a frightening slope: As of Tuesday, more than half of the country’s cases had been confirmed in the prior five days.

Hospitals in some parts of the country, especially in New York City, are already overwhelmed. And, sadly, this is just the beginning.

We in the Bay Area and California must continue to set an example for the nation. While we as a region and state were also slow to react, we’ve been ahead of much of the country and way ahead of the White House.

It would be a tragedy for us to let up now.

That means staying home, unless you are critically needed to keep people healthy and safe. That means maintaining physical distance when you go out. That means washing your hands every chance you get. That means that if you show any signs of COVID-19 that you immediately self-quarantine.

It’s imperfect, but it’s the best we can do individually. Unfortunately, we as a nation are still running blind. In an ideal world, we could detect everyone who has the virus and quarantine them.

Instead, we still have limited data on who has the virus; we’re still recovering from the federal government’s botched testing program. And, shockingly, the president’s comments to governors this week indicate he’s still unaware of the magnitude of the problem.

As a result of the testing shortage, grocery store clerks don’t know if they are infected. Health care workers wonder whether they have COVID-19. For the rest of us, buying groceries or going to the emergency room are gambles. It’s made worse for everyone by the shortage of basic protections like masks and hand sanitizer.

The uncertainty of what lies ahead is scary. We know this is hard. But don’t make it worse. Stay home — for your sake and everyone else’s.


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