Posts Tagged ‘COVID-19’

Nanny State?

April 14, 2020

This NYTimes column from Ross Douthat got me up on my hobby horse regarding overly officious coronavirus lockdowns. A week ago I wrote the following letter to my local newspaper, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat:

We grant our health authorities extraordinary powers, to close businesses, for example. In exchange the health authorities owe us clear explanations of their decisions.

Item: the authorities have closed the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery. For many years I have run in the cemetery daily. It is not a place where people congregate, picnic or play. Visitors walk their dogs or stroll. By closing the cemetery, the authorities force them onto local sidewalks, which are consistently narrower than the cemetery paths. Could the authorities explain what they hope to gain by this closure?

You will be surprised to learn I have not heard a response.

I understand that the authorities want to make clear rules without a million exceptions. I understand that they want to err on the side of safety. I even understand that they might want to shock the public into a realization that this really is a crisis. (By the way, if you’re still wondering if coronavirus really is more dangerous than the flu, read this.)

The health authorities’ effectiveness depends, however, on a compliant public. So far, they’ve had it, at least where I live. However, if they want to undermine that compliance, they should give the public a prolonged dose of the nanny state—officious, unaccountable, petty. I’m not suggesting we’ve had that so far, but I know how easily bureaucrats slip into it. Please don’t. Lives may be at stake.

Prophecy

March 30, 2020

At the suggestion of a friend, Popie and I watched “Unseen Enemy,” a documentary made in 2017 about epidemics and pandemics. It blitzes through the scourges of recent years: AIDS, SARS, MERS, Zika, swine flu, Ebola, influenza—and more!–and gives a good, simple explanation of how outbreaks (which are inevitable) occur, how they become epidemics and then global pandemics.

It’s a competent and interesting documentary, but what makes it eerie is its prophetic description of what’s coming next. Quoting epidemiologists, the film says that we are virtually certain to suffer a deadly pandemic within the next ten to twenty years. It details the responses that will be necessary: testing, tracing, massive early response, search for a vaccine. And, again quoting epidemiologists, it predicts that our response will be inadequate, because of a lack of preparation fed by public mistrust of government and the consequent underfunding of the forces meant to respond. It predicts exactly what we are living through.

If the test of a true prophet is whether their predictions come true, the epidemiologists are true prophets.

In Italy

March 17, 2020

I don’t generally listen to podcasts, but I found this one compelling. It’s a doctor in the town of Bergamo, Italy,  who has come home to his family for the first time in three weeks. He describes what he has done and seen. It’s not graphic, but deeply emotional.

Here in the Bay Area we are all locked down, legally compelled to stay away from other people except for legitimately necessary excursions (food, medicine, necessary services). I realize that for most of the country,  that still seems strange and exotic. This podcast will help you understand why it’s happening.

The Invisible

March 13, 2020

These are weird times. My church voted to cancel worship services for the rest of the month. My daughter’s college (Lafayette) and my son’s K-12 schools (LA Unified School District) are closed. March madness is out. Baseball’s opening day(s), cancelled. All because of something that hasn’t happened and that we can’t see.

It feels like the moment in the alien-invasion movie when the spaceships appear on the horizon. It feels like the anticipation after a tsunami warning, scanning the ocean for big waves that may or may not appear. We believe in the threat, but we can’t see anything.

That’s the upside-down version of Christian faith. We look for something wonderful, on its way but not fully arrived. We can’t see it, but that doesn’t mean it’s unreal. We’re waiting and hoping to be ready—as with COVID-19.