As much as we’d hoped that with the advent of cooler weather, we were about done with the whole COVID-19 business, the Arkansas Department of Health is telling us different.
ADH reported that overall COVID-19 cases in the state on Nov. 29 rose by 1,221, which represented 1,019 new confirmed cases and 202 probable cases. The count of patients admitted to hospitals because of the virus on Nov. 29 increased by 20 to 1,030 from the previous day. Pollsters might say we’re trending in the wrong direction.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health doesn’t think it’s a trend — he has warned the nation that after millions of Americans ignored the recommendation to stay home over the Thanksgiving holiday, we could face another big surge. He called it “a surge upon a surge.”
Other folks say it’s only natural that the state and nation are racking up more cases because the medical community is doing more testing and more contact tracing. Some may be disappointed the virus didn’t go away the day after the presidential election. Still others say that if the darned lyin’ media would just quit whipping up hysteria about it, this whole “China virus” thing wouldn’t be such a big deal.
But Arkansas’ governor, Republican Asa Hutchinson, believes it’s a big deal.
“I think about the loss to so many families and the stress on our healthcare workers. We have a lot of work to do between now and Christmas,” the governor wrote Nov. 29 on Twitter in response to that day’s numbers.
Intentional or not, the always-unflappable governor seems to have engaged in a bit of understatement. On Nov. 19, the health department ordered that establishments serving alcohol close at 11 p.m. until after the New Year holiday period. We will see how social distancing and going home from the watering holes early affect the COVID numbers which at present are continuing to rise. It will be surprising, however, if more stringent measures are adopted in Arkansas regardless.
No doubt, the governor wants to see declines in cases of COVID, those hospitalized with the virus and those who are on ventilators, and decline appreciably through measures already in place before Christmas. If many of us paid scant attention to the national advisories against travel on Thanksgiving, it’s a pretty safe bet we’ll pay no mind at all to Dr. Fauci’s “surge on a surge” prediction if we want to get together with family and friends at Christmas, and we’ll suffer the consequences later.
Besides, why should we worry? We’re pretty much done with this pandemic deal anyway, right? It is true that two manufacturers are set to start distributing millions of doses of COVID vaccines this month, pending final approval. Secretary of U.S. Health and Human Services Alex Azar has said vaccinations could be going into recipients’ arms before Christmas. So, let’s line up, get our shots and all these masks and caution tape in our favorite bars, restaurants and retail stores will magically disappear, right?
I’m sure our elected officials and government agency leaders wish it were that simple. When Gov. Hutchinson said the state has a lot of work to do before Christmas, it seems certain he was referring not only to try to control the spread of the virus, but also to the state’s preparations to receive and distribute the vaccines to healthcare providers. Who gets which vaccine and who gets vaccinated first are two questions that not just our governor, but all the states’ governors will have to answer. We’d like to think there will be very little political pushing and shoving to get to the head of the line. That’s what we’d like to think.
For those of us who were made to study Shakespeare in school, it’s likely we remember a few quotes but little else. The Bard’s lengthy and complex play “Richard III” had to do with the struggle for power, raw ambition, fate and fatalism, but for us non-scholars, the play is good for a quote we’ve stolen to describe anything unsettling that lasts too long: “Now is the winter of our discontent.” We’re all anxious for the other half of that line, the part where that winter has “turned glorious summer.” Bring on the glorious summer!
To put it in football terms, it appears we’ve made it to the Red Zone. But recall for a moment if you will, how close Charlie Brown was to kicking the football through the uprights before Lucy snatched the ball away at the last second every time, causing him to miss the ball entirely and go flying unceremoniously to the ground. That both characters behave the same way is instructive. We can see the goal line but we’ve got to keep our eyes on the ball — and maybe, not just assume it’s all going to work out all right.
And who can forget how a depressed Charlie Brown failed in his effort to put on a Christmas play, but was cheered up when Linus explained to him the meaning of Christmas. The whole Peanuts gang united to celebrate.
What a concept — the whole gang uniting to achieve a common goal.
Editor’s note: Paul Holmes is editor-at-large for Northeast Arkansas Talk Business & Politics. He can be reached at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.