When I was very young, my brother used to insist that a monster lurked under my bed, waiting patiently for his chance to grab me by the ankle if I ever happened to venture out of bed at night. Consequently, I always tried to make sure I stayed tucked tightly under my covers all night. No monster was going to get me. And once I figured out that there was no such a thing as monsters, I wasn’t afraid anymore.
But as it turned out, monsters do exist. Today, a monster is stoking fear in millions of us. This invisible monster isn’t under the bed, but it has kept us in hiding from work, school, family, and friends for several weeks now. Here in Ohio and in all but nine other states, we’ve been encouraged to stay home to ‘flatten the curve’. There is reason to believe that this effort is working. But even if we are successful, it will still be weeks or months before we can feel any confidence that our lives can start to return to normal.
Right now, COVID-19 is growing exponentially. It isn’t going away by Easter, or anytime soon. This monster waits as patiently as any under-the-bed monster ever has. It only needs a second for a germy hand to absentmindedly rub an eye, scratch a phantom tickle under a nose, or smother a yawn. Then it enters though our mucous membranes, and we can begin to spread it to others without even being aware of doing so.
And now we have a White House that is not ruled by experts of any kind, least of all scientific ones. At the beginning of all this, Donald Trump denied the problem. Then he blamed the media and Democrats. Next, he said there was only one patient in this country; a few days later he admitted there could be five. He advised Americans to go on cruises, and compared COVID-19 to the flu. Then he said it would all be over by April, which obviously is not true. And it never had a chance of being true because the President refused to act quickly and responsibly.
When the President finally began to come around to the idea that he wasn’t going to be able to talk his way out of the pandemic, he did bring in a few experts. We all feel fortunate to have Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx, but the President only seems to listen to them when he feels like it, which is not often. Then, after he has publicly agreed with one of their assessments, by the next day, or sometimes during the same press conference, he changes course and disagrees again.
If COVID-19 is the monster that is no longer hiding under the bed, then Donald Trump, his administration, the Republican Congressmen, and those nine Republican Governors who refuse to issue stay-at-home orders and continue to declare their fealty to him are the monsters in front of us. They all seem to have made a disturbingly easy peace with hundreds or even thousands of deaths here in America. They all drone on about not wishing to step on individual freedoms and their fervent distrust of big government, but the only thing they really care about is the economy. Everyone else is expendable.
COVID-19 was always going to take lives. But this Republican administration’s failure to act means the scale of America’s disaster is going to be much greater than it should have been. Trump and his minions made choices that gambled with the lives of Americans and their families. They treated us, and treat us all still, as disposable.
The world is at war with this virus. But the President for some unfathomable reason keeps refusing to get the necessary protective equipment to our health care professionals who so desperately need it. He keeps spouting unproven, possibly dangerous alternative theories for cures, things he “has a feeling about.” He touts these during his now-daily COVID-19 press briefings, which he emcees like some sort of political pep rally/popularity contest.
Imagine if the United States’ government sent soldiers into war without proper equipment; for example, if helmets were only distributed to every third soldier, or bullets were rationed to the platoons whose commanders were most accomplished at kissing the supreme leader’s butt. Would that be acceptable to everyone… to anyone?
There will come a time when we can quit hiding. But for now, we’re all going to have to keep hiding from the monsters: the virus that has escaped and the ones in the current Republican party and administration. We desperately need science and community cooperation to defeat the monsters we’re hiding from. So many lives are on the line; if only we had a President and an administration that respected academics and listened to science.