As many cities in Louisiana and the rest of America get set to re-open their doors soon, the novel coronavirus COVID-19 continues to spread. These plans are being met with mixed results depending on whom the question is asked. Some, like economist Thomas L. Friedman, see President Trump’s decision to authorize state governments to soften stay-at-home directives as dire.
On April 20th, Daniel Lee of the Wall Street Journal noted that “calls to reopen the economy are becoming more serious.” Lee cited the feelings of Americans in places where COVID-19 cases have averaged lower than many of the nation’s larger metropolitans. He cited a kind of unrest that could become a reality as stay-at-home orders continue and more Americans file for unemployment.
One such state is Indiana where protests have already begun. Lee describes the mood there as “passing resentment and edging toward defiance.” Lee was sarcastic about the protests and the reasons behind them saying, “Saturday brought protests at the governor’s mansion in Indianapolis. So I could stay at work and possibly get the virus. And the country could stay in shutdown and risk another Great Depression—not to mention a soft rebellion leading to the arrest of normally law-abiding citizens.”
After Trump tweeted his support for groups gathered in protests happening in several other states, Friedman wrote in the April 18 edition of the New York Times “’LIBERATE MINNESOTA!’ ‘LIBERATE MICHIGAN!’ ‘LIBERATE VIRGINIA!’ With these three short tweets last week, President Trump attempted to kick off the post-lockdown phase of America’s coronavirus crisis. It should be called: ‘American Russian roulette: The Covid-19 version.’”
Those opposed to re-opening too soon have emphasized the lack of widespread testing across the nation. The Wall Street Journal’s Lee turned from his sarcastic tone and said, “If widespread testing doesn’t become available soon, things could get ugly.”
On April 20th, the editorial board of the St. Louis Dispatch saw this oversight as the fault of the federal government saying, “President Donald Trump’s one consistency during this pandemic has been his failure to understand the central necessity of widespread testing and tracing — a failure upon which he doubled-down last week, wrongly suggesting some states don’t need it.” The Dispatch cites COVID-19’s “aggressive transmission and the fact that many who are infected never show symptoms, make testing a non-negotiable requirement.”
That same day, the editorial board of the New York Times said that it was too soon to re-open businesses as they were pre-COVID-19 because essential workers were still not getting adequate protection. “Shelter-in-place orders are an effective means to slowing the spread of the coronavirus, yet millions of Americans have no choice but to leave home to go to work every day. Deemed essential for their jobs in manufacturing, grocery stores, pharmacies, warehouses, retailing and restaurants, they face daily risks by working alongside colleagues and customers who may be carriers of the coronavirus. ”
They believe that workers in such places deemed essential deserve better protection from the Office of Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in order to safeguard against further spread of the virus, and the re-opening of public spaces too soon would make safety a goal too far out of reach. “Lifting the restrictions too early could undo all the pain the state has suffered so far and prolong the shutdown misery.”
The NY Times board also noted that the dangers are the same for those in avid protest. They personified the virus saying, “If coronaviruses could dream, no doubt they would have fantasies about encountering large numbers of unprotected people from far-flung places congregating in close conditions, spraying respiratory droplets with every shout, and finding an easy ride to new places and people to infect.”
Richard Florida and David Pedigo of the Conservative Brookings Institution presented a perspective on how cities have historically survived such times. In their March 24thpiece “How Our Cities Can Re-open after the COVID-19 Pandemic” atbrookings.edu, they noted the resilience of cities, “No pandemic or plague or natural disaster has killed off “the city,” or humanity’s need to live and work in urban clusters. Not the Black Plagues of the 14th century or London’s cholera epidemic in the 1850s, or even 1918’s Spanish Flu, which killed tens of millions of people worldwide. That’s because cities’ concentration of people and economic activity—which serves as the motor force for innovation and economic growth—is just too strong.”
Florida and Pedigo said that society will re-establish a kind of normalcy, “But when we do, cities and their leaders should not simply return to business as usual. Not only does COVID-19 threaten to reappear in subsequent waves if we do not remain vigilant, but there will always be future pandemics to brace against as well.”
They noted that –of course- city, state, and federal leaders have to do their parts to safely get cities back up-and-running again, but the aftermath should be met with a newer way of thinking. Florida and Perigo said “we will need plans in place to prepare for future pandemics, and any social or economic lockdowns they necessitate. The federal government must do its part too, with bold and unprecedented programs to bolster the economic situation of our states and cities as well as our workers and business, especially small business.”
They outlined “a 10-point plan based on detailed tracking of the current pandemic and historical accounts of previous ones, presenting some key measures to prepare our cities, economy, and workers for the next phase of the coronavirus crisis and beyond.”
Some of those steps include creating airports that are pandemic-proof. “We need to make sure they can get up and running again quickly, and that means mobilizing like we did in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks by adding temperature checks and necessary health screenings to the security measures already in place.”
Another step is to prepare places in cities that accommodate large-scale events. “This will be critical for communities that are dependent on such attractions: A Brookings analysis shows that COVID-19’s economic downturn will hit tourism-driven cities such as Orlando and Las Vegas hardest.”
Additionally, cities will need to re-tool some basic but vital public services like trains, buses, subways, and possibly streets. “When they are back in service, design changes in stations and seating will be needed to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Streets may need some retrofits too.”
Key institutions like “medical centers, hospitals, and universities are on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19, and many are already overtaxed.” Another step laid-out by Florida and Perigo is to make sure these institutions are set for the challenges a pandemic might bring. “Just as with other large-scale civic assets, classes in these institutions can be kept small, but institutions will need to retrofit dormitories and dining halls with temperature checks and ensure adequate social distancing so they can safely function.”
Finally, they suggest making sure “less advantageous” and more vulnerable communities are taken care of. “The economic fallout of pandemics will hurt most for the least-advantaged neighborhoods and their residents, who lack adequate health coverage and access to medical care, and who are the most vulnerable to job losses.”
They added that “concentrated poverty, economic inequality, and racial and economic segregation are not only morally unjust—they also provide fertile ground for pandemics to take root and spread. Economic inclusion and more equitable development are critical factors for the health, safety, and economic competitiveness of our places.”
For a complete list of Richard Florida and David Perigo’s suggestions of how cities can rebuild after a pandemic, go to the Brookings Institution’s website above.
The federal government has yielded power to states’ governments to decide how re-openings will be implemented. Louisiana Governor Jon Bel Edwards recognizes that since Louisiana is a COVID-19 hotspot, a limited re-opening might be the best course of action. Louisiana businesses will be re-opened in phases. Edwards would like to begin Phase 1 by the first of May. He told a recent press conference that “we intend to move forward in way that protects public health. Phase one is a gradual easing of public restrictions. I want people to keep their expectations in check.”
At press time, Louisiana’s state total of COVID-19 diagnoses was 29,673 with 20,316 believed recoveries, and 1,991 deaths reported. Morehouse Parish had a total of 55 diagnosed COVID-19 cases and four deaths as reported by the Louisiana Department of Health (ldh.la.gov).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains the same warnings and recommendations outlined in the April 22 through 28 edition of the Bastrop Enterprise. The CDC website recommends washing “your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
“If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
“Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
“Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
“Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick, those with underlying conditions that might weaken immune systems.”
To protect others, the CDC recommends that you stay at home when you are sick. They also encourage “you to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
“Throw used tissues in the trash” and “immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.”
Further CDC recommendations include wearing a facemask if you are sick, if you will be around anyone you know is sick, or if you will be anywhere in public. Lastly, keep surfaces clean and disinfected, this includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.