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Is America Jumping Into Post-Coronavirus Life Too Quickly?

Are we seeing a second wave, or are we just not out of the woods from the first outbreak?

After what has seemed like an eternity of sheltering in place to flatten the curve of COVID-19, Americans are emerging from lockdown like bears coming out of hibernation. But are we going too far and jumping back into our normal lives too quickly? Some experts think so, and the data may bear this idea out in some places.

William Schaffner of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine appeared on CNBC over the weekend to discuss the assertion that a rise in cases is emerging in the U.S.

“The second wave has begun,” said the professor of medicine told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Monday. “We’re opening up across the country, but many, many people are not social distancing, many are not wearing their masks.”

Schaffner added that mass gatherings and religious services are also being held. “Many people are simply not being careful, they’re being carefree,” he said. “That, of course, will lead to more spread of the Covid virus.”

At the same time, other experts think that we’re not experiencing a second wave; rather, we’re just not completely out of the woods from the first spread of coronavirus.

The data tends to prove that COVID-19 is still a problem in many places, even if it’s not as bad as what we saw throughout the spring season.

Johns Hopkins University, who has done a phenomenal job compiling data on the pandemic, has a series of graphs that explores how each state is handling the outbreak. The graphs for each state, arranged roughly like a map of the country, show a trend line and a color code.

The states with a decrease in the number of cases show up in shades of blue, while the states where cases are on the rise show shades of pink. The intensity of the color shows how sharp the increase or decrease is. At the time of this writing, Nebraska and Rhode Island are trending the most toward the positive, while Alabama and South Carolina are seeing the biggest spikes in cases.

Trends for the United States as a whole show a curve that has largely flattened but is still a little wobbly, with increases and decreases. Currently, the nation shows a slight upward trend.

What’s behind this upward wobble? Are the protests breeding grounds for the virus? Are churches opening too soon and not taking enough precautions? Are families forgetting to social distance as they engage in summer activities?

There’s no one factor that can contribute to the rise, but Schaffner makes a valid point: we can’t go back to lockdown if we want the economy to bounce back and improve.

Despite claiming there were signs of a second wave, Schaffner said the option of another lockdown is “off the table.”

Instead, governments, businesses and religious leaders have to work together to promote mask wearing and social distancing in order to flatten the curve.

He said wearing masks is “very, very important” and authorities should “persuade and educate” their residents to make this a “social norm.” 

“If we all do that in respect of each other, then I think we can make some progress,” said Schaffner.

“If we do all the opposite — if we open up, do not have social distancing, don’t wear masks and congregate in large numbers again, we are going to be very stressed in the medical care system,” he warned.

“The complete shutdown was such a financial disaster, and had so many social and cultural implications that I cannot imagine we’ll have a shutdown again,” he said.

Dr. Schaffner is absolutely right. We can’t risk hunkering back down in our homes, closing businesses, reliving the cabin fever of quarantine, and doing even more damage to our economy than the coronavirus has already inflicted.

That’s why we have to be careful. Social distancing is key, so maintain that six feet of personal space. Maybe we need to keep masks on a little bit longer (I’ll admit that I need to heed this advice a little better). Maybe we need to stick to takeout a little while longer – but keep supporting local businesses.

If you go on vacation, keep maintaining safety protocols. Enjoy your freedom to move about, but don’t take it for granted, and don’t swing the pendulum too far in the other direction.

Churches need to do a better job of ensuring that their congregations are safe. Plenty of houses of worship innovated with online services, and these should continue alongside services in person. Church staffs need to take all the precautions possible to keep the family of believers healthy – physically as well as spiritually.

Remember the spirit of “we’re all in this together” that we saw so much of over the past couple of months? We need to bring that back, especially as we’re back out in public. It won’t take much sacrifice on all our parts to defeat this outbreak while still restarting the engine of our economy.

Let’s all be careful out there.

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