Throughout this week, we have been publishing stories about Susquehanna Valley people who have either lost loved ones to the COVID-19 virus or had difficult battles with it. We have been telling those stories — and will continue to do so — because they are important and provide human context to the incredible pandemic numbers we report each day.
Those numbers continue to overwhelm.
When Gov. Tom Wolf announced new COVID-19 restrictions on Thursday, it was not much of a surprise. We’d been hearing speculation throughout the week and frankly, I thought this action might have come sooner.
There was understandable pushback, particularly from the restaurant industry, which has been hit very hard by this pandemic. The delay by the federal and state governments in providing new pandemic relief for these and other small businesses, along with help for individuals who have lost their jobs, is unconscionable. Both major parties share the blame.
There was also quite a bit of anger over the postponement of the winter scholastic sports season by three weeks.
Nobody, including Gov. Wolf, wanted to have to go back to shutting things down. But as we said in today’s editorial, “Pennsylvanians left him little choice.”
Like many of you, my family Thanksgiving plans had to change last month. The invitation to celebrate, along with other family members, at our son Dan and his wife Maggie’s new home in New Jersey had to be canceled. We were all disappointed but knew it was the right thing to do, especially since Dan and Maggie are expecting their first child later this month.
I wrote “like many of you,” because I know first-hand there are many people here doing the responsible thing when it comes to wearing masks, social distancing and postponing social gatherings.
Many, but not enough, both here and nationally.
While Thanksgiving weekend travel was certainly far lighter than in previous years, Americans boarded airplanes at the highest level since mid-March. Millions more traveled by car to celebrate with family and friends.
According to Transportation Security Administration data, more people passed through U.S. airport security checkpoints on the Sunday after Thanksgiving than on any other day since the pandemic began. The TSA screened 1.17 million people that day. While that was less than half the record 2.9 million people screened by the TSA on the same day in 2019, it was still a disappointingly huge amount of people who chose personal preference over the advice of health officials.
Personally, I can’t imagine being willing to sit on a crowded airplane, take a packed shuttle bus to the terminal from the parking lot, or sit in a jammed waiting area. But many people chose to do just that. Consequences have followed. More are likely.
Dr. Jaewon Ryu, President and CEO of Geisinger Health System said Thursday that the system’s hospitals are already operating at near capacity. Kendra Aucker, President and CEO of Evangelical Community Hospital, said her hospital has experienced similar increases and operational stresses.
“We need everyone’s help right now,” she said.
U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, R-Snyder County, criticized Wolf’s new restrictions on Thursday. “Pennsylvanians are smart, hard-working people capable of following common-sense guidance from health care professionals,” he said.
I agree with Fred that we have a lot of smart, hard-working people capable of following common-sense guidance here and elsewhere.
But sadly, the numbers make it clear that being capable and being willing are two different things.
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