Our Botched Pandemic Dress Rehearsal

Here’s a cheery Saturday thought for you all, as you line up for your vaccine, or breathe a sigh of relief that you’ve at least got your first dose of Moderna, Pfeizer, or Astra Zeneca. Now, you can sit back, worry less, and wait for the booster shot. At least you won’t wind up in the hospital on a ventilator. Hold that optimism for a moment though, but don’t throw it away because you’re going to need it. You see, COVID-19 is, as pandemics go, a relatively benign pandemic, despite the staggering economic cost, despite more than 3 million deaths worldwide, despite overflowing hospital ICU wings, despite everything bad that’s happened so far, we’ve had it easy.

It could have been much worse and, at some future time, quite possibly within a few months, or a few years (if we’re lucky), another bug will spread that will be far worse and much deadlier than COVID-19. It’s going to happen, no matter how optimistic we all are. This whole thing, this current pandemic, has been a dress rehearsal for something we’ve yet to see. It’s a dress rehearsal that we’ve botched in so many terrifying ways that we should, as a society, be ashamed.

We could have prevented most of the damage. We did not (and “we” here, includes our governments). We could have responded faster. We did not. We could have maintained and strengthened health, public safety, and disaster response systems. Instead, we cut back, closed facilities, and dismantled the institutions that were meant to protect us.

We have to do better, and we need to build the infrastructure that will help us survive the next pandemic right fucking now! Our governments, and all of us by extension, have it in our power to make sure the next pandemic doesn’t pose an existential risk that will topple all that we hold dear. We can do this! But we need to get on it now. All this bullshit about dollars and whether the money could be better spent elsewhere is just that, bullshit. There is no better place to spend our money than on our collective well being and survival.

So, enjoy this mini-pandemic. Appreciate how wonderfully easy this has been on us all, because some day, in the not too distant future, it’s going to be a lot worse, and we have bloody well be ready for it.

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