Colson: Now isn’t a time to be overly optimistic |

Colson: Now isn’t a time to be overly optimistic

John Colson
Hit & Run

Aw, jeez, four employees at the El Jebel City Market grocery store have tested positive for COVID-19, and the fact that I do a good bit of shopping there has not exactly boosted my confidence in the “reopening” of Colorado and the nation after weeks of coronavirus lockdown.

As have many around the U.S., my wife and I have been engaged in cautious “reopening” gambits, visiting with select friends in such socially-isolated circumstances as sitting at least 6 feet apart at the picnic tables next to the Carbondale Community Oven while sipping coffee from a thermos brought over from our nearby home, or walks around the south end of town.

Then there was our celebration of 30 years of marriage last Friday, at the home of close friends in the East Sopris Creek area who also were celebrating three decades of wedded bliss. Again, we sat well apart at separate tables. We took off our masks only after learning that our friends had contracted the virus back in March, suffered wickedly painful but short-lived symptoms before recovering quickly, and are now chock full of COVID-19 antibodies, so we felt relatively safe from contagion.

Lastly, on Sunday, I went to one of the Black Lives Matter rallies in Aspen, in support of the nationwide convulsion of rage and anxiety over the strangulation of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of a white policeman in Minneapolis on May 25.

I note happily that, from my solo perspective, everyone I saw had a mask on except for those giving speeches to the crowd of 400 or so, they mostly were practicing social distancing with varying degrees of success (especially during a march around the downtown area) and everyone seemed pretty happy to be out and about, including yours truly.

As an aside, I read a news story recently by a New York Times bureau chief living in Tokyo about masks to ward off the virus. The writer concluded that it was the Japanese habit of wearing masks, long before the cornovirus pandemic grabbed the globe by the throat, that had saved Japan from the gruesome toll of infection and death that has hit, say, the U.S. of A.

Where we have suffered more than 112,000 deaths and some 2 million infections from the pandemic (as of Monday’s website), Japan has seen only about 17,000 cases, with more than 16,000 recoveries and fewer than 1,000 deaths.

Japan has a population of about 126 million, compared with 331 million or so in the U.S., meaning this country, with about 2.6 times as many people, has racked up more than 100 times as many confirmed infections, and about the same multiplicity of deaths, as the Japanese, perhaps because they have a long tradition of using face masks as a public-safety mechanism.

I also read this week that a study out of UC-Berkeley found that the lockdown of the U.S., while it has ravaged our national economy, is now believed to have prevented perhaps 5 million additional virus infections. The article, on the CNBC website, pointed out that because many infections are mild enough to go undetected, but still can cause infections in others, researchers estimated that the number of infections avoided thanks to the lockdown could reach as high as 60 million.

If we extrapolate those numbers, that could mean we have dodged a death toll in the millions by adhering to the lockdown requirements, which are now being loosened wildly and broadly.

But as we have seen here in Colorado, where we have surpassed Japan with approaching 27,000 confirmed cases and 1,400 deaths, the virus is not done with us yet.

Last week, Colorado Public Radio reported that researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health are warning that our state could well see a second spike in infections in the coming weeks and months.

The dean of the school, Dr. Jon Samet, told CPR that while the rate of hospitalizations had been declining until recently, the rate of that decline had shrunk as of the end of May, an indication that infections may soon begin to rise again.

While the data is not available yet to determine how that might happen or why, scientists have been warning for weeks that we are “reopening” the economy too aggressively, which may bring a resurgence of the virus.

And while no one knows for sure, some have already predicted that the next “wave” of infections and deaths could well be more catastrophic than the first “wave,” which still has us in its grip.

I don’t want to be a Nervous Nellie, but I am worried.

We, as a nation, were slow to react to the initial reports of the pandemic’s severity and deadliness, with the result that the U.S. is perched near the top of the heap of nations with the worst death tolls.

If we once again ignore the scientists, and listen instead to politicians desperate to get people back to work in time for the November national election, are we not setting ourselves up for an even bigger fall than the one we just experienced?

I know, it’s been a bad couple of months since the virus first reared its ugly face, and we all want it to be over.

But wishing does not make it so, despite what our frightened, overly eager national leaders are telling us.

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