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Every day brings a new set of questions about things that just weeks ago seemed unquestionable…about jobs, about schools, about where and how we live. We ask ourselves the same questions seemingly on a daily basis, very grateful that we have our health and that we have choices and look to help support those who don’t. We, like most everyone had plans…plans for the summer, plans for trips and adventures that are now either on hold or need to be completely rethought. My plan was to come back to SoCal for the summer, but that’s now changed as I will stay put here in Europe. While I hate everything about having to identify as being in a “high risk group” I nonetheless will heed the advice given about avoiding places and situations that are just not necessary for me to live my life…and getting on planes for more than 18 hours of travel given connections and waiting times just isn’t necessary right now.
And beyond the travel there’s the question of where it feels more likely that I can live my life more fully as well as safely; and I’m somewhat sad to say I’m pretty sure that for the time being, it’s here. By fully I mean, with relative piece of mind, be able to move about and interact with people - to enjoy a beer or a meal on an open air terrace; to walk and sit in a park and enjoy the sound of street music and the yelps of little kids and to be able to buy food and frivolities in stores that look and feel safe, mostly owing to the behavior of the people who like me are there as customers and playing by the same rules. No one here would think of waking into a store or crowded area without a mask. All of that has not only returned to life here, based on people’s behavior and the numbers regarding rates of current infections that back them up,
The “how did this happen?” is pretty easy to see now that the evidence is in. Where clear stay at home mandates were given by Government and strictly enforced and followed until benchmarks established by public health officials were followed, the virus abated and the curve was not only flattened but broken. With roughly the same population as the US the EU had 6% of the cases that the US did last week! In places like NY which like us here and in Italy were hard hit, the tough medicine of lock down was taken with a sense of purpose that “we’re all in this together” and now the future looks a bit brighter, though constant monitoring and adjustments will be a fact of life until there’s a vaccine. There is a shared understanding that freedom and well- being is a consequence of thoughtful behavior that takes into account its impact on others.
Sadly in all too many other places, i.e. Florida, Texas, Arizona, Idaho, California and more, despite Federally issued guidelines and concern from public health experts, half-way measures were taken and we are now seeing the disastrous and sometimes fatal consequences: for the past 5 days in a row new highs in new rates of infection have been hit... and remember this is still Phase 1! We now join Russia, Brazil and host of other countries deemed to be “unsafe” to the EU so with rare exception, starting July 1, US travelers will not be permitted entry. Though my wife and son are both in the US, both now are legal residents of Spain and should be able to be “re-patriated” but wow! Think about the economic consequences of that decision given the amount of tourist dollars that will be forsaken and think about just how bad it has to be to make that choice for countries so dependent on tourism. So no, despite some political “victory tours” it doesn’t look like “winning” from over here.
It all comes down to leadership and solidarity. I hope and pray that the majority of Americans who understand just how serious this is and whose commitment to the common good is clear, will overwhelming demand better on both counts: First in showing by example that doing something as simple as wearing a mask is a small price to pay to keep others as well as themselves safe and second especially in November by voting knowing that their lives depend on the outcome.