American people are strange creatures especially when there’s a crisis. In such events, panic takes over common sense. For example, in the days after the arrival of Hurricane Irma into Florida, grocery stores ran out of grape jelly. Go figure! In the days heading into the pandemic now known as the coronavirus, we have a toilet paper crisis with store shelves bare once again.
I found myself in wonderment about the toilet paper. Unlike the grape jelly issue, which didn’t cause sporadic bouts of public hysteria and couldn’t be explained, could this TP dilemma be equally unexplainable? Did a bunch of hoarders learn that TP (presumably for one’s bunghole) is a very stockable item that can be sold on Facebook? Or, was it that people were thinking, “Oh, if I drink all these bottles of Nyquil (which were also flying off the shelves) I’ll have explosive diarrhea for sure.” (You most certainly would and that TP would come in handy. Pun intended.)
Considering the ongoing nature of the coronavirus tragedy, we have to hand it to us. In a crisis, we Americans can really outdo ourselves. So what’s really up with the TP? Why are folks fighting over toilet paper?
It appears that when some media outlets spread the ominous news of whole countries in mass quarantine-like settings and then announced the New Rochelle, New York, “containment area,” Americans freaked. Understandably so. The overall lack of information, including social media misinformation and a lot of misleading word-of-mouth, brought out our instinctive fear of the unknown.
Desperation sets in quickly when there’s fear and that desperation must be fed. Just like the 1918 flu pandemic, coronavirus has taught us the lengths to which people will go when desperate. Back in 1918, “there loomed all manner of home remedies and cockamamie advice.” Today’s not that much different.
Are we ready? Will we let history repeat itself? Can we stave the beast that is this virus, or are we all doomed?
Well, good news; we are not all doomed. About 46% of the US population is predicted to come down with coronavirus, which may seem steep but is far less than the 70% expected in Germany.
Today, with more than 130 cases and four deaths in Florida so far, Polk County stands in a good position in that there are no known cases of coronavirus here (not yet). The closest cases to Polk include an Orlando resident who died in California and a patient in Osceola County. Living in a remote location, like Polk, as it turns out is a good thing.
And that’s not all we’ve learned in the opening weeks of the coronavirus. Other things we’ve learned:
- Given the closures of Disney World and Universal Studios, Florida’s I-4 (at least temporarily) is no longer a moving parking lot. (Drive. Enjoy.)
- Dogs cannot contract COVID-19, so they’re corona-proof! (So I can still kiss my puppy on the lips? No, you can’t. Yes, you can. No, you can’t … you get the drift.)
- You know that stash of fast food napkins in your glove compartment. It’s time to make them useful.
- If you’ll notice, the liquor stores don’t have empty shelves. (Are folks not realizing they’ll be quarantined with their spouses and kids?)
- We can be sure that some folks forgot to stock up on condoms; so, to be sure, I’ll be writing once again in about nine months on the topic of Baby Boom II, the quarantined generation.
But to all this COVID fun, we’ve got to consider the serious side of this crisis. Since we are now officially in the throes of this pandemic, we should now know that (and if you didn’t know it, you heard it here first):
- Cruise ships are virus incubators and the president of the United States is an asshole. (There, I said it. Not allowing the Grand Princess to at least dock was heartless.)
- The job you were told couldn’t be done remotely can be done remotely, something disabled workers knew all along; that is, the Internet is a utility not a luxury.
- Without school, millions of children don’t eat. (Sad but true in this nation barely holding on to its first-rate status.)
- Many Americans have neither sick leave nor adequate health insurance. (Universal healthcare is a necessity.)
- Even without a pandemic with which to deal, hospitals are already understaffed. (Just ask them at Heart of Florida Hospital what happens when five ambulances show up at the same time.) And, none of them have tests.
In spite of the consequences of bad public policy, we thrive as a species. At the same time that all these closures and cancellations has given people a sense of an imminent threat, which has apparently panicked many of us into self-quarantine (or something that looks like that), we’ve been giving authorities a breather so that this week upcoming, they can be spiffing up their “stay calm” remedies, namely, don’t panic.
And on a optimistic note, one last thing we’ve learned during this crisis is that all these closures and cancellations, like at Disney, Universal, Legoland, et al., which seem like a really bad thing but is really a really good thing. It means that Americans are still able to come together to cause to happen an amazing act of social solidarity.
By self-quarantining, we’re sacrificing. This sacrifice is what will give our first responders and caretakers, such as nurses, doctors and hospitals a fighting chance. And to them, kudos on being there for us.