Possibly we’ve reached the peak of the coronavirus scourge and the numbers of infections — and deaths — will slow day by day. “Slight glimmers of hope,” declared Gov. Ned Lamont, though some experts warn we are not yet at the summit.
Hope is a welcome and fitting word on Easter Sunday, Passover week, and with Ramadan beginning on April 23.
After a month of social isolation, schools closed and most businesses shuttered, hospitals girded for the pandemic hoping medical supplies could keep up with the demand, we are all in need of hope. With hundreds of deaths — each tragic to loved ones — and thousands out of work, these are anxious times.
But as eager as all are to return to a sense of normality, it cannot be rushed. Strict “stay-at-home” measures must continue for the foreseeable future to avoid a resurgence. Lamont acted prudently on Thursday when he extended isolation to May 20.
For one, the glimmer is based more on optimism than statistics. Testing is not widespread enough in Connecticut, or anywhere in the United States, for health officials to determine with certitude the rate of infections.
What we do see is inconclusive: Fairfield County, the epicenter of the outbreak in the state, had one fewer hospital admission for one day at the end of last week. It is too soon to declare the worst over.
Extending the closing of schools until at least May 20 does put pressure on parents. It’s another month of overseeing distance learning and keeping kids on track. It’s another month of the glaring disparity in education in which some students, particularly in urban areas, lack Chromebooks from their schools or necessary broadband connections at home. Efforts are underway to address the discrepancy, with the Connecticut Partnership for Education foremost among them, but its gift of 60,000 computers hasn’t reached the hands of students yet, given the time needed for procurement and set up.
The loss of commerce for another month has some politicians suggesting closures should be week by week. We understand that view — particularly with unemployment skyrocketing — but weekly milestones prolong uncertainty and hinder planning.
Expect the voices to get more persistent.
“I’m as concerned as anyone about this public health crisis, but this complicated situation demands a balanced approach,” House Minority Leader Themis Klarides tweeted Friday. “Our state’s economy is unraveling,and a lot of people will wake up today feeling like the scales have tipped from hope to anxiety.”
This crisis should not be represented as health vs the economy. They are intertwined. And while the unemployment rate is alarming, government measures are mitigating the impact. Lamont on Thursday ordered landlords to give renters grace periods of a few months, unemployment benefits are extended, and the federal government is about to deposit stimulus funds into individual accounts.
Businesses should reopen gradually, so there’s not a virus resurgence.
These are anxious times. But in this season of religious significance for many, let us focus on rebirth — on hope.