Knowing what to do isnít the problem
Last week, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced he would be ending the stateís public health emergency declaration on May 30.
There are any number of reasons why this could be the right move, but his stated reason for making the decision ó that ďEverybody in Arkansas knows what to doĒ ó doesnít resonate well with me.
On the surface, itís a true statement. Weíve all been bombarded with the four main precautions to avoid infection ó wash your hands, maintain social distance, avoid large gatherings and wear a mask ó for more than a year. If anyone hasnít heard these by now, they must be living under a rock.
Thing is, there are way too many people who donít take them seriously, as evidenced by the increase in positive cases across the state each week. Weíre 14 months in at this point, and weíre still seeing approximately 1,300 new cases every week.
On Monday, the total number of cases in Arkansas had grown to 340,137. The number of deaths linked to the virus also continues to grow. As of Monday, 5,817 people in Arkansas have died from complications related to the novel coronavirus. Thatís more than the population of Berryville.
Right now, there are 2,037 active cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Nearly 200 of those are being treated in a hospital, with 84 in intensive care and 33 on a ventilator.
Now, Iíll be the first to admit, my feelings about this are colored by my own experience. I followed the rules. I stayed away from folks. I washed my hands. I wore a mask in public.
I havenít been inside a Walmart since about December 2019. To be fair, that has less to do with the pandemic than my general dislike of big box stores and the sad, sorry Walmart where I was living at the time, but the pandemic gave me another reason to stay away.
I wasnít particularly scared of the virus. I always figured if I caught it, Iíd probably be dead. Iím almost 50, overweight and I smoke like a backyard barbecue. My biggest concern was avoiding giving it to someone else who died and then living. I donít think I could handle that.
Somehow, through all this, I never contracted the virus. I know many people who did. Some followed the rules, some didnít, and thereís no judgment attached (although, for those who didnít, I feel like they had a greater chance of getting sick).
Most of those people got better. Some didnít, including one of the most important people in my life. My mother, the last bit of immediate family I had left in the world, died from the virus in October. She was 73 and had been for about five weeks. She was a former Red Cross volunteer, 4-H coordinator, and Girl Scout leader. She was active, involved, and arguably healthier than I am.
She also knew what to do. She followed the rules, but she also didnít stay home. Somewhere, she crossed paths with someone who didnít follow the rules, and it killed her.
Or it could have just been bad luck. Iím not sure Iíll ever know.
At any rate, saying itís time to end the emergency because ďEverybody knows what to doĒ is not the best idea. If it was, the number of new cases would reflect it.
Hutchinson did say that ending the emergency didnít mean the pandemic was over, saying, ďEveryone in Arkansas needs to continue to take the virus seriously and to act accordingly.Ē
Hopefully that will be enough. Iím tired of seeing people die.