A disease, or a symptom?
Could the COVID-19 pandemic finally be over?
The numbers certainly look encouraging, especially here in Carroll County. The Arkansas Department of Health is reporting just four active cases of the virus in the county today, the lowest number I can recall in more than two years.
I’m certainly not saying that we are completely out of the woods yet. Another new variant of the virus is apparently spreading quickly in other parts of the world and it likely will show up here at some point.
But even if the pandemic isn’t really over, now seems to be a good time to pause and reflect on the impact it has had across the world, throughout the United States and right here in Carroll County.
In the early days of the pandemic, when skeptics were scoffing at the relatively low mortality rate, I wrote in this space about the potential for some frightening numbers: If 10 percent of Americans eventually contract the virus, I wrote two years ago, that would equal 33 million cases in the United States. And if just 1 percent of those people died, we’d be looking at 330,000 Americans killed by the virus — a number exceeding American combat deaths in World War II.
Fast-forward two years and the actual statistics are much more grim. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 80 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the United States — more than 20 percent of the country’s population. Nearly 1 million American deaths have been attributed to the virus. That includes more than 11,000 people in the state of Arkansas and 99 right here in Carroll County.
Instead of one death for every thousand people, as I had feared, we’ve lost about three times that many.
Somehow, the pandemic became a political issue rather than a medical one. That’s a sad commentary on our society, and the politicians who continued to scoff at scientists and resist any sort of measure aimed at mitigating the dangers ought to be ashamed of themselves.
I’m glad the pandemic seems to be subsiding, if only for a time, but I’m afraid that what it revealed about our society might be even more frightening.
American life has returned to a sort of normalcy in many senses — restaurants are packed, schools are operating in much the same fashion as they did before the pandemic, people are traveling and taking vacations. But this new normal is still different. A country that was already divided over petty partisan politics is now even more so and it seems we’ve all been called on to pick a side on one extreme or the other. It feels as if there’s no such thing in America as a political moderate anymore. Certainly, compromise in government seems to be nothing more than an archaic ideal now.
I worry that the pandemic was merely a symptom of a much more insidious disease, one that threatens to rot our nation from the inside out. I worry that nearly one million Americans have lost their lives only to further divide those of us who were fortunate enough to survive.
As philosopher Will Durant famously said: “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within.”
We’d be wise to heed Mr. Durant’s words.