While Covid-19 is definitely a challenge, it shouldn’t be a controversy, but it is. This virus has triggered persistent differences in personal behavior and values and has emerged a study in contrasts.
Currently, the main defensive tool in the public health arsenal to fight Covid-19 and “flatten the curve,” is social distancing. However, whether one practices social distancing to reduce the probability of contact between persons carrying the Covid-19 infection is a matter of personal attitude. Despite many news reports of death and increasing numbers of the ill, there are those who don’t grasp the severity of the situation, and still others who regard the pandemic as a “hoax.” Contrast the irresponsible, ignorant behavior of spring breakers in Florida with the cautionary action of the NBA who, early on, suspended their 2020 season due to the virus. Closer to home, a New Monmouth bride and groom were recently married at St. Mary Mother of God Church without invited family and friends in attendance. Compare their vigilance with the reckless attitude of a Lakewood couple who held court before 2500 wedding guests despite Governor Murphy’s restriction on large crowds. Upon exiting St. Mary’s, the newly married couple were greeted by cheering family and friends who were safely waiting in their cars to see the couple. The host of the Lakewood event was met by police. (Karma?)
Apparently, Covid-19, like all catastrophic events, brings out the best and worst in people. Amid reports of shoppers hoarding toilet paper (I have no idea why; Montezuma’s Revenge is not a symptom of the virus!) and emptying the supermarket shelves of paper products, bread, and more, there are stories of strangers aiding one another. I have seen several Facebook posts from people who don’t have enough food or can’t find toilet paper; strangers answer the need and freely share their own provisions. While fashion designer Christian Siriano and his staff are making face masks for New York hospital workers, and Matt Simonds, the owner of Broken Trail Distillery and Brewery in New Mexico is using his facilities and materials to produce hand sanitizer for first responders, other more greedy souls are practicing price gouging and fraud. A Tennessee man purchased 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer to resell at inflated prices on ebay (authorities forced him to donate every bottle). A 7-Eleven owner in River Vale mixed and sold his own spray hand sanitizer which subsequently burned the skin of a young customer. Clearly, motivation during this time is a matter of community concern or self-profit. You can’t have it both ways.
Nor can you practice social distancing and reopen the country for business to revive the economy, despite the claims of certain politicians. Contrast President Trump’s projected April 12th “reopening the economy” date with the bleak predictions of Governor Cuomo of New York and Governor Murphy of New Jersey. Both governors foresee Covid-19 persisting far beyond April 12th and continue to promote self distancing.
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The most despicable element of coronavirus is the notion that some segments of the U.S. population are expendable. Dan Patrick, lieutenant governor of Texas, has argued he and “lots of grandparents” across the country would rather die from Covid-19 than allow public health measures, like social distancing, to damage the country’s economy. Contrast this devaluing of human life with the words of Governor Cuomo, “My mother is not expendable, and your mother is not expendable, and our brothers and sisters are not expendable, and we’re not going to accept a premise that human life is disposable, and we’re not going to put a dollar figure on human life.” Trade-offs are inevitable, but human lives should never be sacrificed for the almighty dollar.
Martin Luther King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” These are most definitely challenging times, but our efforts to combat the coronavirus should not be mired in differences. We have to be on the same page. We have to stand together. The ultimate measure of who we are as Americans depends upon how we meet this unprecedented challenge in our lives.