Updated: Aug 10, 2021
We're playing the same risky game with a deadly pandemic. We know what works. We know how to institute a game-winning strategy, but in the third quarter we lost our advantage. It’s not yet game over. Let’s go back to basics. Because we know what works.
Put me in, Coach
Each of us can remember the advice from coaches throughout our lives. Regardless of the game, regardless of the sport, there were generic, universal off-the-shelf recommendations that undoubtedly would propel us to the pantheon of athletic greatness. We would win the game. We would win the scholarship, and our adoring fans would follow us throughout our upward athletic trajectory.
Post-Olympics, this thinking is especially appropriate considering it’s not true at all.
Most of us learned about fair play, sportsmanship, and teamwork from Little League or YMCA soccer, or elite basketball, but I would dare say almost none of us would ever achieve national stardom despite all the coach’s recommendations. At the end of the day as our lives unfolded, it really did not matter very much if we won or lost.
But today the game of COVID-19—specifically the delta variant and whatever mutations come along next—is really a matter of life and death. This is not the minor leagues; this is the big show, and the stakes are high: your life. Your kids' lives.
The data are solid, reproducible, and have been supported by iconic health policy and medical experts. Let us look at the numbers. Among individuals hospitalized today in the intensive care unit because of COVID-19, 99 percent have not been vaccinated. It is difficult to argue with that statistic. And now our precious children are at risk because vaccine-eligible adults did not get two shots.
We have a shot at normalcy
Our chances of becoming dreadfully ill if we are vaccinated is vanishingly low but, nevertheless, a risk. And we can put others (children) at risk too.
We now know that some Southern states and children’s hospitals are overrun with critically ill children, some of whom are on respirators and in the intensive care unit. This nightmare reflects the almost apocalyptic spread of the virus.
When coaches are asked what their strategy is for the Super Bowl or for some major championship, the rhetoric is fairly the same, “We dance with the one who brung us.” In other words, we stick with the winning plays, we stick to our playbook, we stick to our leaders, and we know that when the championship is on the line, when you’re playing in the gold-medal match at the Olympics, we do not experiment.
With COVID, the medical data are solid, and we know what works. We know how to hit a three pointer or pass the baton, stick the landing, and sprint to the finish. We practice the basics: hand washing, social distancing, masking, vaccination. When we follow the basics, the virus is on the run.
We let our guard down too soon. Restaurants and bars opened, and without making any political statements, we were too lax. Masks were rare. Baseball stadiums filled up, Broadway opened, and nobody would have guessed a deadly virus was among us—but it still is.
Back to basics
When we became soft, when we became complacent, when we became casual, the spike in the delta variant went through the ceiling. And this virus is very different from the original strain months ago. It is highly contagious, it is highly transmissible, and among individuals even with masks, the viral load, the amount of the virus in the upper airways, is 1,000-fold greater than it was several months ago.
What’s our playbook now, coach? We were on the verge of “normalcy.” Some parts of the country had zero new cases of COVID, no hospitalizations, and we forgot the basics.