As I proposed before the CPAC meeting and will again now, there is a danger in large gatherings and a precedent of ignoring that danger to great detriment.
The steps China has taken against the coronavirus (rapidly building new hospitals, testing huge numbers of people, quarantining people swiftly and effectively) are clearly things that the U.S. government will never do as long as issuing a press release is seen as preferable.
Plans for St. Patrick’s Day parades and other large gatherings should be carefully considered. March Madness might really be madness to attend. Political party conventions may have yet another drawback.
We’ve seen something like this before.
In September 1918, numerous health experts warned that holding a big pro-war parade in Philadelphia with flu-infected soldiers just back from the war could create an epidemic. But Philadelphia’s Health Director Wilmer Krusen suggested that people simply stop coughing, spitting, and sneezing. Problem solved!
Unfortunately something went wrong (who could have predicted?) and the parade created an epidemic of “Spanish” flu. It was called “Spanish” because in countries at war all the news had to be cheery anticipation of imminent victory and glory. Spain was not at war, and newspapers there were allowed to report on the flu. While World War I was among the worst episodes of concentrated violence ever seen, the flu that was spread in the trenches would go on to kill many more than the war itself.
On top of that, one of the people who may have been infected as a result of the glorious parade in Philadelphia and the spread of the disease was President Woodrow Wilson. When he went to Paris to negotiate the Treaty of Versailles, having promised the world a lasting peace without vengeance against Germany, he spent the trip sick in his hotel room. The British and French, in Wilson’s absence, created a treaty that brutally punished Germany and had wise observers predicting World War II on the spot.
We don’t know that Wilson had the flu, but it’s entirely possible. We don’t know that he would have tried and succeeded at keeping his promises if he hadn’t been sick, but it’s entirely possible.
Coincidentally, NATO is now engaged in massive war rehearsals — the largest in decades — on the border of Russia called “Defender 2020.” Finland has dropped out of these preparations for WWIII on the grounds that the war games could spread coronavirus. One must have standards, I guess.
We should consider developing some standards soon.