While most us think of apocalypse as meaning worldwide disaster or destruction, that is not the original meaning of the word, nor do modern dictionaries list that as the prime definition; you have to scroll down to find the definition on cataclysmic destruction.
In the Greek, apokálypsis was defined as a “revelation... to uncover, reveal,” according to Dictionary.com.
Since we first heard the word coronavirus with early jokes about the beer, we have been given a mighty and still-unfolding revelation on many things: healthcare, pandemics, how viruses spread, social distancing and how to live cooped up together, plus the limits of government suggestions versus orders.
It is far too premature to make definitive statements about what we should have done differently, as we haven’t seen the final score on deaths or financial carnage. Like a coach adjusting to events at halftime, a few points need to be made/reiterated while we continue with our real life, in real-time adjustment to the age of pandemics.
Part of the reason we are offering these points now, is that within weeks of the 9/11 attacks there were websites and conspiracy theorists already claiming what the entire world saw on every television channel wasn’t what happened.
• If COVID-19 turns out to not be as deadly as early estimates, it doesn’t mean the early calls were false alarms. In fact, it could also be cited as a credit that the calls for social distancing did lessen the impact.
• But, if it turns out to be worse than expected, it doesn’t mean that social distancing didn’t work, as it could have been and still may wind up being much, much worse than first thought. Estimates of deaths have ranged from basic yearly flu numbers to truly staggering - in the millions. We are facing an unprecedented modern healthcare emergency the likes of which no one had seen before. We need to cut a little slack to people at all levels for not having a tried and true playbook to pull out. How could they? The scale of this is something no one had seen in modern times?
• It is troubling that hospital officials have expressed fears here and across the nation over the lack of ventilators, adequate space and staff. More federal coordination to plan how to get supplies where they are needed and organize some sort of a stockpile are warranted.
• But, as Pickens County government found with the previous bird flu fears, body bags sent out of precaution don’t last forever. It would be a costly, knee-jerk reaction to start filling warehouses with medical supplies that may not be appropriate to whatever comes next and will eventually go bad. Let’s make sure we encourage more planning but not wanton stockpiling.
• The lack of coordination among different agencies/cities/states on social distancing, closures, quarantines and curfews was/is/and will remain frustrating in the short term and needs to be remedied. On a national level, Kentucky’s governor told their citizens not to go to Tennessee as they weren’t follow proper safeguards. In Georgia, there has been squabbling between state and local officials over open beaches and closed business and whether second-home owners should be allowed to travel freely to them with a shelter-in place ordinances. And what exactly did that shelter-in-place order mean and who is supposed to enforce violations?
• But, while many people called for more direction from the national and state leaders, we’d urge our local officials to prepare themselves for prime decision-making roles for their local community. They may not want this responsibility as it will be hard to pass the buck, but that’s what is leadership is all about, standing up and making the call. By all accounts pandemic-related issues may last for several more months and even now we want to see our local response directed from Jasper City Hall and Pickens government. What’s needed here is not the same as in Fulton County, nor should Jasper tailor a response to look like Atlanta’s. We should follow the broad-based national recommendations and minimum standards set at the state, but we say keep it local.
We still have a ways to go and things are expected to get worse. Sorry, the surge is still projected here, but let’s not lose sight that only a community doing the right thing can defeat this.