There seemed to be a sense of relaxation in Charleston and across West Virginia over the weekend. The governor has a plan for the state to gradually reopen amid the coronavirus. The numbers of new cases are dropping. With good weather, many people ventured outside on Saturday and Sunday.
Many still kept to social distancing, wearing masks in public, and keeping gatherings small. Others did not.
That’s to be expected. There’s a natural tendency for some people to let down their guard when something appears to be coming to an end. Ask any public school teacher what their classrooms are like in a normal year once May comes around. It’s a similar kind of feeling.
But West Virginians need to remain wary, especially in light of a new report that COVID-19 cases and deaths aren’t slowing down at all in many areas. While some hotbeds are seeing a lingering plateau with the virus, cases and deaths are actually climbing elsewhere, in areas rural and urban.
After numerous states began shutting down non-essential businesses and advising limited travel, it was anticipated the death toll from the virus would be about 60,000 — a number the United States has already passed. On Sunday, President Donald Trump estimated that total fatalities could reach 100,000 (double the amount he had projected in mid-April) by the time the virus has run its course.
According to The New York Times, an internal report from the Trump administration shows that up to 3,000 deaths per day might become standard by June 1, and the United States could hit about 200,000 deaths by that time, which is closer to original predictions in the early stages of the pandemic.
Reopening the country, something the president and several governors have been eager to do as the nation’s economy tanks, will give the virus more fuel to spread, sicken and kill. It might be possible to reopen with fewer casualties if public health guidelines are followed strictly. And it seems, inevitable, the country will reopen, whether that’s the right thing to do or not.
The financial pressure everywhere is immense. West Virginia is facing a huge budget shortfall, has massive unemployment claims and is banking on the federal government to come to the rescue, something that is far from certain.
There’s a lot to consider, and making the right decision is hard, especially if those making the choices don’t even have the right information in front of them. But momentum is carrying everyone toward a reopening, so residents need to control the things they can, which means following public health guidelines. Keep gatherings small. Wash your hands. Wear a cloth covering over your face in public. Practice social distancing.
This is all uncharted territory, but staying healthy demands vigilance.