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Editors' Expressions: Dear Neighbors

Dear neighbors,

I hope this note finds you well. Spring has finally arrived—it’s about time! Your yard looks great. I promise to get to mine soon.

Even without the sunshine and warmer temperatures, you can tell it’s spring in Oregon. You can tell by the people: When that endless dreary winter finally breaks, they burst forth into the forests and mountains and rivers like puppies unpenned, too excited to restrain another second. Everyone’s smiling, everyone’s friendly, everyone’s chatty. We literally get spring in our step.

This year’s is not a normal spring, though—no matter how much you want to pretend it is.

I think you want to pretend the coronavirus outbreak is over, or at least that we’ve passed the real danger.

Over here where we’re still amassing line-of-duty death notifications, I think you’re wrong.

I know you have cabin fever—me too. Our human contact for the last month has consisted entirely of shouted small talk over driveways and fences. I’m as desperate as you are for a meal out, live music, sports, theater.

I understand being so eager for this to end that you latch onto any nugget from any source that might tell you it is. I also understand that people with their own interests may just tell you what you want to hear—particularly people who face impending public referenda on keeping their jobs while the virus nukes the economy.

So you went to the coast for the weekend with some friends. I hope you had fun, and I hope you stay healthy, and I mean that sincerely. But it really wasn't the smartest move. 

Ours hasn’t been one of the more draconian state lockdowns. Other states have gone over the top, no doubt. Even with a lighter touch, ours has generally worked—witness Oregon’s lower rate of COVID-19 cases and deaths vs. its neighbors above and below.

That’s not been lifted, and I don’t understand why you’d jeopardize its success prematurely. You court a rebound wave that will cost more lives and more suffering and ruin not just our springs but our summers too. How privileged and hubristic. (Keep me off the river in July, and we’ll have worse words than that.)

Maybe you’re not sure whom to believe—the doctors and scientists who say we’re not through this yet or the professional talkers urging “liberation” in a way that suggests they’ve never been really oppressed a day in their cosseted, corpulent lives. Not a hard call in my eyes, but hey, people vest authority in all sorts of weird places. 

Let’s not minimize the economic devastation happening. It’s bad. It’s not as bad as dying. Be clear that politicians who pronounce Americans willing to “take one for the team” to get things restarted are talking about you and your loved ones, not themselves and their own.

Last week came reports of abnormal blood clotting in COVID-19 patients. They don’t know what’s causing it. They also don’t yet know why SARS-CoV-2 seems linked to heart problems, why people lose their sense of smell, why its symptom presentation and severity can vary so widely, or even exactly what the infectious dose is.

Point is, there’s a lot still unknown, even with all the smart people studying this so urgently. That’s the thing with new viruses. So, yeah—privileged and hubristic. And dangerously irresponsible when you apply that mentality to whole states.

I don’t know how this will eventually play out in terms of better-than/worse-than, and I don’t think you do either. I do think, for the most part, few are suffering too badly to sit down, be patient, and let the experts do their jobs. I promise, you’ll survive the tyranny of Cheesecake Factory deprivation for a few more weeks.

John Erich is the senior editor of EMS World. 

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