China has turned the coronavirus corner — at least for now, reporting no new cases Thursday.
But the spike in the United States is just beginning to skyrocket, partly because we have poor leadership — a president who denied a problem until very late in the game — and other leaders, even medical officials, who largely took their cues from him.
Apparently no one thought it could happen here. Except, perhaps, for lawmakers such as Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California. They were among a number of senators on high-ranking committees who sold their stocks before the truth they apparently learned in briefings but didn't broadly share was made apparent to the rest of us through events.
But for the moment, let's just consider the health crisis and testing debacle of COVID-19, not the financial and moral fallout.
China finally put teeth in its stay-home edicts. Here in the U.S., we're saying prayers and "trusting the public," to quote Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee about his recommendations on how to blunt the spread of coronavirus.
Even in California, where on Thursday evening Gov. Gavin Newsom put the entire state and its 40 million residents on a shelter-at-home order, the remedy is largely a matter of trust. The same is true for a newer governor-ordered lockdown in New York and Illinois.
Here's how trust is working locally: Despite an order by Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, partiers were going strong at several clubs on Thursday night and into the morning of Friday.
If you think that's just the young, self-proclaimed invincible folks whom experts have told us aren't as vulnerable to the virus (though they can still carry its contagion home to their parents and grandparents), think again.
Looking both nationally and in Tennessee and Georgia, it is, for now, younger people — not older ones — with the virus. In Tennessee, for instance, among 154 positive coronavirus tests as of Thursday, the lion's share — 43 — were among people ages 21-30. Overall, only 26 were over 60, while 128 were under 60.
"The most important lesson is that the virus can be contained if people are responsible and adhere to certain simple principles," said Dr. Christopher Willis, a physician in Singapore, told New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof for a piece he wrote about the our best and worse case virus scenarios. "Stay calm. For most people it's like the common cold."
Willis was speaking from Singapore. Here, spring break ends this weekend and thousands upon thousands of young American high-schoolers and college kids will come dragging home from the beaches of Florida, Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas, where for the past week, they've packed themselves along the shorelines like sardines and hydrated themselves with cold beers and alcohol — all guaranteed to drag down their immune systems.
Aside from enforced trust, in Asian countries where the virus is leveling off, officials used aggressive testing, isolating and quarantining.
But here, testing is clearly far more rare than the virus, and no government group at any level seems able to fully explain why. Add to that the fact that hospitals in America already are reporting shortages of things as basic as masks.
In Chattanooga, we still have no place for general drive-through testing. Erlanger has set up a testing site at the UT Family Practice clinic, but it's only for Erlanger employees. Galen Medical Group has one for their patients. It's still unclear if HCA hospitals, such as Parkridge Medical Center, or CHI Memorial Hospital have sites for their patients and/or staff. Independent labs are beginning to process the tests, but don't perform them.
The bottom line is if you don't already have a primary care doctor to order the test — well, you would seem to be out of luck unless you can convince a doctor at this late time to take you on.
Add to all of that the federal governmental regulatory red tape that has hamstrung testing everywhere in the country.
In a telephone news conference Friday, Mayor Berke stopped just short of expressing frustration with Chattanooga's lack of testing.
"We've got to test people," he said with conviction. "People need access [to testing] so they can take appropriate action."
In the meantime, Chattanooga's confirmed cases climbed to eight, and Tennessee's jumped to 232 while Georgia cases more than doubled overnight to 420.
As of 4 p.m., the United States was knocking on the door of 17,000 cases of COVID-19.
How is it in America in 2020 that in the space of just one week we can't guarantee our health workers enough gloves and masks, let alone set up adequate, accessible testing sites?
Heaven help us.