The United States is on the verge of the Holiday season and is not in a good place. At least, not according to the White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci.
His recent statement is in response to data showing that new US daily cases are on the rise again, for what appears to be the third “wave” since March. New daily cases of COVID-19 are now totaling 40,000, a 9% increase nationwide from just the previous week. This trend mirrors the mid-July wave, which peaked at over 67,000 new cases per day and represented the highest rate we’ve seen since this pandemic began.
At this point, it would be easy to chock this up to just more bad news.
We haven’t really heard anything positive since this all began. People are growing weary and relaxing on precautions that are proven to reduce the transmission of the virus. The mixed signals and contradictory statements made by those who work in an official capacity as authority figures have divided the nation and aided in turning a public health crisis into a political issue, furthering the problem. Unlike many other countries that withstood the virus, the United States does not have it in check.
The above has led us to the current situation. We’re being urged to use caution while simultaneously being led back into “normal” operations through a lack of uniformity and coordination.
Individual states and counties all have the independence to operate differently when it comes to COVID-19 precautions, and it couldn’t be more evident. Driving from one town to another, one can see a huge disparity in how things are handled. Some businesses are still closed while others are in full operation, with mask use being loosely suggested at best. Meanwhile, whole towns are “canceling” trick or treating, while others are encouraging it.
To provide a voice of reason, the CDC has released recommendations surrounding the upcoming holidays. These are only suggestions and meant to be used educationally for developing guidelines and policies to minimize infection. The information isn’t new or revelatory per se’, since it essentially adheres to all previously published CDC guidelines concerning COVID-19 prevention. But it is explicitly worded to the upcoming Holidays, perhaps to bring a precise clarity to a relatively simple subject which has spawned so much confusion already. There is even a ranking of different holiday activities, such as pumpkin carving, and their relative risk.
The most noticeable aspect of the new recommendations is that the CDC has not loosened any of its guidelines surrounding distancing, handwashing, or facial coverings. The emphasis seems to be on the household unit and the inherent safety of keeping your circle close, rather than increasing risk levels through association with others. They are suggesting outdoor gatherings as much as possible because it limits the transmission of airborne particles. And they do not advise door to door trick or treating.
The topics addressed are quite vast and can be easily found from their specialized coronavirus website.
Since every situation cannot be accounted for, the CDC gives us the information and recommendations and then leaves it to us to do our homework and make the best decision. Doing your homework consists of learning about the situation before participating. This means knowing the venue’s size and location, who will be there and where they are coming from, and how long you will stay, among other factors.
All of these, they say, should weigh into your decision about whether or not it is worth the risk of participation.
With more people from many different places, situations indoors are riskier than celebrating at home with your immediate family. And the longer one attends any gathering, the greater their risk for exposure becomes.
One thing that isn’t vague about the new recommendation is the risk of traveling. The CDC states clearly that traveling increases your chance of getting and spreading the virus, and that staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. This is especially true for people with underlying health conditions who are already at increased risk.
Another interesting wrinkle to the situation is the “where” when it comes to the new cases spiking lately. There’s been an inversion in the type of areas where new COVID-19 patients are being reported. Using national data, it was discovered that most cases were occurring in highly populated counties from April to June. Far fewer new cases were occurring in rural counties nationwide. But something interesting began to happen in July, just as sparsely populated counties began producing more and more new cases. The counties that once had higher rates began to show fewer. And as of late September, there are now more new cases nationally among the bottom 1/3rd most populous counties. Conversely, the most populous 1/3rd of counties in the country now have fewer new coronavirus patients.
This inversion has left experts concluding that people in rural areas are laxer and less wary of COVID-19. They may be more prone to disregard precautions such as masks and social distancing. But this supposition, bolstered only by anecdotal evidence, has yet to be proven. It could also be that the natural progression of the virus is only now leading it to areas that couldn’t be thoroughly infected previously thanks to fewer vectors. Maybe people are fleeing outbreaks to vacation in rural communities viewed as “safe,” and with no in-class schooling and the ability to work remotely, they are spreading the virus wherever they go. Or perhaps it is a combination of factors in conjunction with laws of probability at work.
There are only two ways to proceed in a situation like this. The government can enact a nationwide restriction or “shutdown,” where they enforce a uniform adherence to safety guidelines among the different states and counties. Many of these would include business closures, restrictions on traveling, and closure of churches and gatherings. Or, the national government can continue to allow our current structure of individual responses based upon education. But this system is only as good as the information provided to its people and municipalities.
The first example of such a nationwide shutdown is underway in Israel, as their government has chosen to restrict many things, including its synagogues. Mandatory closures of synagogues overlapping the Jewish High Holiday of Rosh Hashanah have led to unrest, protest, and religious censorship claims. The very thing meant to protect can have the opposite effect and lead to people putting themselves at greater risk through public demonstrations and other high-risk situations.
With all the flaws of our system, it at least embraces one human concept.
People do not like to be controlled.
We all wish to make our own decisions and live with the consequences. These decisions have and always will affect others, so we must use logic and rationality to do our very best. Sort through the information to determine what is true for you and make the best decisions you can. No one can quantify the personal value for you of what it means to celebrate a holiday, practice a religion, or see your family. Weigh the risks with the interests of all concerned and turn off the news for a while.
It might be that you aren’t allowed to travel. Perhaps your church will be closed. Or maybe, nothing will change in America. But there’s one thing that no one can control, and that is the mind. Enjoying what we have while we have it is at the core of most Holiday traditions, regardless of culture, age, or race.
GUEST POST WRITTEN BY MARCEL GEMME
Marcel Gemme has dedicated his life to helping others find help. He focuses his attention on helping individuals find long-term Senior Care, he does this through his journalism, community outreach, and his website, ECDOL.org. Excellent Care, Decency, and Optimal Living are what he aims to bring to individuals looking for care options for themselves or their aging loved ones.
The opinions expressed in this piece may or may not align with the website owner.