It is March 22, 2020. A little over a week ago, the World Health Organization declared the spread of the Novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19, had reached pandemic status. COVID-19 is a highly communicable respiratory virus that originated in Wuhan, China in early December 2019. The first case in the US was diagnosed in Washington state on Jan. 20. By March, Italy was experiencing widespread contagion. People were dying. A lot. At the university where I teach in Virginia, students left for Spring Break on March 6, excited for vacations and time at home with family. By week’s end, they were asked not to return. During the course of the week they were gone, cases of the potentially deadly virus had spread to the East coast with New York once again serving as ground zero. With students traveling on spring break, the University was concerned they’d bring the virus with them back to campus. Public schools also closed under order of the governor in an effort to halt the virus. These efforts have failed.
Rockingham County, where I live just five miles from Harrisonburg’s city center, saw its first diagnosed case of the virus this past week, but in reality, there are likely a hundred or more people carrying or suffering from the virus. The local hospital is testing only those who have had known contact with someone diagnosed or who traveled out of the country–even if they have symptoms. Test kits are in short supply, as is important medical equipment such protective masks and ventilators. We are in the midst of a public health crisis and our government, which has not taken any viable steps to stop spread and provide hospitals and clinics with needed tests and medical equipment, has failed us.