It's hard to look forward to anything when all the stuff you were looking forward to might be closed or canceled, isn't it?
Every day, something else goes. Today on the theme park beat, IAAPA announced that it is ditching its IAAPA Expo Asia 2020, which was to be held in June at the Venetian Macao in China. Elsewhere, airlines are cutting their schedules. Cruise lines are watching sailings empty as public officials issue warnings, then backtrack, leaving the public confused. Meanwhile, reports of cast members testing positive for Covid-19 at Disneyland Paris fuel speculation that it might close, too. Here in the United States, the parks remain open, though with the addition of plentiful dispensers of hand sanitizer.
No, it's not an easy time to be making travel plans. But amid all the confusion, frustration and even anger that many people are feeling right now, I think it's important to consider why things are happening.
The global Covid-19 crisis has seen both careless action and reckless inaction, as people flail under the pressure of having both too much information and yet not enough. So what is necessary and what is not? What is panic and what is prudence?
Is the model here SARS, which killed 774 people before the disease was contained... or the 1918 ("Spanish") influenza that killed between 17 and 50 million? Covid-19 has killed more than 4,000 people already, though at a lower rate than the SARS epidemic, which was caused by another strain of coronavirus. SARS was contained relatively quickly because authorities applied lessons learned after the 1918 pandemic.
How does this affect theme park fans? Because the lesson of 1918 and SARS is that if you don't have a vaccine or an immediate Tamiflu-style treatment for a virus, the best way to stop its spread is by preventative isolation. In other words, a quarantine.
It might seem ridiculous to cancel major sporting and cultural events, close theme parks and ban public gatherings for a virus that leaves most of its victims with relatively mild symptoms. But you do that because some of the people who get Covid-19 won't get off that easily. For the elderly and those with heart and lung conditions, this virus can be a death sentence. The best way we have to keep those people alive is to keep from getting sick in the first place.
The elderly and the sick often rely upon the assistance of others, so it is imperative that those others not come down with Covid-19. So the people who those health care and aid workers come in contact with over the course of their days must be Covid-19 free, too. But how do we ensure that?
Ideally, the most efficient way to stop a virus is to test everyone, then strictly isolate everyone who has it. But we've not done that in the United States, where Covid-19 testing has been a farce of bad decision-making ever since China first reported the disease. Covid-19 victims do not show symptoms for about five days after getting infected. By the time that someone gets sick enough to end up at a hospital and satisfy the CDC's criteria for being tested, they could have infected countless other individuals.
That's important because a new virus such as Covid-19 - for which no one has been vaccinated because a vaccine does not exist - can spread so quickly that it overwhelms hospitals' ability to house and care for the most vulnerable patients. Communities need to at least slow the spread of the new virus so that, like the seasonal flu, it doesn't flood emergency rooms all at once.
That leaves us with one strategy for containing the disease - preventive isolation. If you keep people apart from one another, the virus can't spread between them. Unfortunately, American culture often trains us to behave like sociopathic consumers — just act selfishly, do what you want, and wait for the "invisible hand" of the marketplace to make it all right for everyone else. But if we are to be part of a functioning society, sometimes you have to set your own interests aside in favor of helping others who need it.
Getting Covid-19 might not be a big deal for you. But it could be a big deal for that 80-year-old or COPD patient ahead of you in the grocery checkout line. You need to not get this virus for them, even if you don't care whether you get it or not.
This does not mean that we all have to stay home by ourselves until Covid-19 disappears. But it also doesn't mean that we need to hoard toilet paper and hand sanitizer, either. As my doctor said yesterday, this isn't even a gastrointestinal disease. What the hell are people thinking they need all that toilet paper for? To cough into?
If we can't get the widespread testing that we need, the next best thing that communities where Covid-19 is present can do is to temporarily stop events that put large numbers of people in close proximity for extended periods of time: major sporting events and concerts, crowded theater performances, and large university classes. Eliminating those opportunities for the virus to spread to lots of people quickly "flattens the curve" of new infections, allowing hospitals and health care workers not be overwhelmed.
If those measures don't contain the virus enough, though, then it might be time to do as other nations have and to take more drastic actions to keep people apart from one another until the virus' spread slows. Leaders are in a tough spot now. Act quickly, and people complain that you are closing things unnecessarily. Act slowly, and people complain that you didn't do enough to stop the disease.
I hope that this disease gets contained quickly, as SARS was nearly two decades ago. I want again to look forward to visiting a bunch of great theme parks and new attractions, as I was just a few weeks ago. But I won't get mad at public officials and theme park leaders if they postpone events or even close parks. If it needs to be done, then do it.
I just hope that it won't be.Tweet
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