SOUTH KOREA DID IT: WE CAN TOO
There’s been a lot of great reporting, nationally, regionally and from local newspapers and TV, but this one was particularly helpful in helping we Otsego County folks sort out the crisis we find ourselves in.
The Wall Street Journal over the weekend contrasted how South Korea and Italy responded to the corona-virus arrival “South Korea’s known infections are now stabilizing at about 8,000, whereas Italy’s are rising relentlessly past 17,000,” reported Timothy W. Martin from Seoul and Marcus Walker from Rome. As of last Friday, there were 67 deaths in South Korea; Italy’s tally was 1,266, “far higher.”
Part of this is cultural.
Confucianism gives the state a freer hand “to intrude in people’s lives,” Tufts Professor Lee Sung-yoon was quoted saying. It puts “the good of the nation above individualism.”
It’s another story in “easygoing Italy.” The World Health Organization’s Gary Slutkin, an epidemiologist, said, “There’s a premium in the individualistic Western mind to be defiant.”
In the U.S., of course, both human traits are evident, from the current Presidential campaign to our local neighbors: glorification of liberty on one hand, concerns about government control on the other.
The other part was practicality, allied with forceful action.
Tracing the initial infestation to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, the government quickly tested all 100,000 church members, and is now conducting 15,000 tests daily, with diagnoses within six hours.
Italy has 20,000 more people, and is only carrying out 3,000 tests a day.
Here’s the very good news.
South Korea “accepted” by mid-February that Coronavirus had arrived. With its full-court press, the infestation peaked on Feb. 29.
That means, Coronavirus (COVID-19) is beatable. It’s still early for us: The first case in the U.S. was identified only on March 5.
President Trump’s declaration Friday of a National Emergency, following Governor Cuomo’s declaration the weekend before and county board Chairman Dave Bliss’s subsequent one, are essential steps in the right direction.
Widespread closures – locally and everywhere else – that followed over the weekend signal the message has been heard.
The widely distributed graphic that accompanies this editorial illustrates the current challenge: If Coronavirus spikes (the red part), medical facilities will be overwhelmed. If the curve can be flattened (the blue part), Coronavirus can be handled more routinely. Managed away, if you will.
Perhaps that can’t happen as quickly as in South Korea. The U.S. has 320 million people to South Korea’s 51 million, and spread over a much larger area.
While we get there, let’s handle the temporary restrictions as we generally have, with calm and a sense of responsibility to our neighbors, and the nation at large.
Locally, it was particularly heartening to hear from Bassett Healthcare President/CEO Bill Streck at that Friday, March 13, press conference: A team has been in place in the Cooperstown hospital since mid-January, only two weeks after China notified the WHO of the Wuhan outbreak, preparing for an eventuality that is now a reality.
Let’s not be Pollyannas, but let’s look ahead with confidence that this too shall pass – sooner or later. Preferably sooner.