While the novel coronavirus claims thousands of lives across the United States, Arkansas officials including Gov. Asa Hutchinson say the number of cases here remains below projections.
The governor attributes that to social distancing. From an anecdotal perspective, I’m not sure I believe that. It seems there are quite a few folks, both across the state and right here in Carroll County, who continue to ignore the situation and refuse to heed the experts’ advice.
Sadly, there are still people who insist that COVID-19 is no more dangerous than the seasonal flu. One Facebook troll noted over the weekend that about 7,000 people had died in the United States, out of a population of roughly 330 million people. He didn’t use the word “only” in front of 7,000 but his implication was clear: Those 7,000 lives, in the broader perspective, were insignificant to him.
“You do the math,” he said.
Well, sure. But we’ll have to keep changing the equation. Before the weekend was out, “only” 7,000 had become “only” more than 10,000. A week from now, I’m afraid it will be “only” 20,000.
Even President Trump, who said on Feb. 26 that the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States would be “close to zero” within a couple of days (about the same time that our state senator said the media was overstating the issue), now says that 100,000 U.S. deaths are likely.
I’ve seen people speculate that the entire pandemic is some sort of government conspiracy to restrict our freedoms. I’ve seen people argue that we have to return to business as normal in order to salvage our national economy — knowing that doing so would inevitably mean thousands more deaths.
I’ve seen people mock those of us who are taking this seriously, pointing to the fact that more than 90 percent of people who contract COVID-19 eventually recover. They blame the media for “exaggerating” the impact of the virus, completely ignoring the fact that health officials across the globe are telling us how dire the situation is. They post idiotic hashtags like “#ChickenLittle” and argue online with medical professionals.
I’ve come to accept the fact that there will always be a certain segment of the population that revels in its willful ignorance. Most of the time, I choose to believe that they’re only harming themselves.
In this case, however, the people who choose not to take this pandemic seriously are endangering all of us.
While the governor points to numbers that are below projections, I worry that we are simply not there yet. The fact is, our behaviors will dictate the outcome to a large degree. I wish there was some comfort in that.