As Chester County moves toward Yellow, let’s all be smart about COVID-19

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times @mikemcgannpa

So, on June 5, Chester County moves to Yellow status.

Obviously, it is good news. It means some of our businesses will reopen and some of our people will go back to work. In some ways, life will go back to something approaching normal.

It appears the county will go to Green status by the end of next month — meaning even more things will open, including bars and restaurants.

But life will not be back to normal for quite some time. Aside from restrictions in restaurants when we get to Green — lowered capacity, social distancing — you wonder whether people will be willing to go out to eat any time soon. You also have to wonder whether people will have the money to go out to eat, as the economy is likely to be wounded for some time to come.

It’s been bad, but it will get better — but we all need to be careful or it will get worse again. Pandemics tend to have a second wave that is worse than the first. There is a very real possibility that we will get hit again and maybe worse — and despite claims from President Donald Trump, states, including this one, will close down again if it happens again.

Already, according to The Washington Post, 24 states have COVID-19 R rates (the number of people infected by a sick person) over 1. When the rate is more than one, a disease spreads exponentially. When it is less than one, it shrinks away slowly. The lockdown in Pennsylvania reduced the number to below 1. But those 24 states could see a bloom in new cases — like Texas (and apparently Georgia and Florida, though it appears both states cooked their case numbers). That suggests this thing is coming back — when it spreads in other states, it inevitably comes to neighboring states.

So, and I’m not trying to be a prophet of doom, the odds are high we’ll see a resurgence in the fall. How bad it is — and how much we have to shut down — will depend upon how well people do in the next few months in terms of wearing masks, keeping distant and being smart.

There are too many people out there telling you not to observe social distancing or not to wear a mask or that COVID-19 is a “hoax”  — a large percentage of which (half by some estimates) are Russian bots on social media. 100,000 dead Americans should be proof enough of how dangerous this virus is and that we must remain vigilant.

And let’s take a moment to address the political thugs (i.e. GOP state legislative members and some local “business” groups) taking a victory lap over Wolf’s decision.

Were it up to these lovely people (the ‘kill off grandma to keep my business rolling’ crowd), it seems about 7,000 more people in Philadelphia would have died had Wolf not moved quickly to lock things down, according to a new study by Drexel University. I’ve said for weeks, that Philadelphia would have ended up looking like Brooklyn — which has had more than 4,000 deaths – were it not for Wolf’s actions.

That’s not to say everything Wolf has done has been beyond criticism — Dr. Rachel Levine’s Department of Health has been a hot mess, unable to generate consistent information, flip flopping on rules and worst of all, totally failed to monitor and intervene effectively with long-term care facilities, where the death toll turned out to be the highest. And no, don’t get me started on Mariner East II — which mysteriously got a waiver to keep on working (and to this day, workers on the project ignore social distancing and are not wearing masks, based on photos sent to me of late).

But Wolf got the big things right — he moved more aggressively than other governors to shut things down — and he saved lives. Lives — your mother, brother, cousin, or maybe you — that would have been lost had Wolf listened to the “stay open” crowd.

Come November, people need to remember folks who were so willing to trade your life for the sake of business earnings. I get the toll on business — I own two — and it stinks. But I also know that having your customers dead is lousy for the business in the long term. And yes, government should have done more and better for small business — but that’s a topic for another column.

I hear all the arguments about drug overdoses and suicides caused by the economic turmoil — how somehow those numbers will outstrip unrestrained COVID-19 deaths. They won’t, tragic as they are. And, honestly, where was the concern from these same legislators who advocated pumping handguns into the economy (15,000 people die from gun suicides yearly) and I missed the angst when so many of them were taking fat campaign contributions from companies shilling opioids.

Spare me your false concern.

It’s about the money — your money or that of your campaign contributors.

We have a chance in Chester County to make June a month of renewal, rebirth and reinvention. But we have to be smart. Take it slow, be cautious.

I don’t want to be writing in October about what we should have done to prevent another, worse, outbreak. Keep doing your part, ignore the tiny, selfish cadre of naysayers and we will get through all of this.

In the end, it truly is up to you.

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