The struggle to maintain humanity will be challenged during this pandemic.

I.


We’ve all seen the photos: flattened buildings and twisted metal, uprooted trees and overturned cars, and always the victims huddled together against whatever disaster has befallen them.


With the current coronavirus disaster, there’ll be none of that. The only aspect that can keep us sane—human contact—has been stripped away; not only will it not occur, but it is not allowed to occur.


Some may remember Harry Harlow’s controversial but significant study with monkeys exposed to touch and those removed from it. Among the many negative results in the isolated subjects was a weakening of their immune system. It’s almost diabolical that of all the scourges we could face, we now have a plague that demands isolation.


So challenges lie ahead, and the greatest may be to affirm our humanity in other ways. For instance, Kevin Love, who plays professional basketball, has donated $100,000 to help the workers employed at the arena in Cleveland where his team played its games until the season was suspended. I’ll be interesting in seeing if his teammates, especially those with inflated seven-figure salaries, will do the same.


II.


Let us now praise state and local governments and (again) the NBA.


Here in Connecticut the population is divided into those who want tolls and favor the governor and those who don’t and don’t. We don’t have Fox News to foment the divisiveness, but we do have local radio personalities to do the same job—folks who were hired to play records and became confused when records disappeared. It’s time for them to shut up, or time for us to stop listening. We don’t need petty political ratings attempts.


Recent weeks have illustrated how feckless and feeble the Trump administration has been regarding this outbreak, moving from casual avoidance, to begrudging admission, to fruitless “solutions.” At the same time, local and state governments are pushing ahead, maybe because unlike the insulated and theoretical Washington cabal, local and state governments actually know their constituents. (When a mayor closes a school, he or she may actually know who attends and teaches there.) Canceling parades and postponing crowded events will—according to every epidemiologist—save lives.


And the NBA? It was that organization that shut everything down, providing the impetus for all others.

III.


Marrying I with II could keep us all a lot saner, and that’s why we need testing. The unknown isolates and terrifies us, but over time testing could create safe zones, and monitoring could maintain them. Right now we are so far from that situation, and so far from an administration capable of even thinking that way, that such a solution may be a long way off. When it does happen, it won’t come from any mumbled speech from the president. It will come from Hartford, Denver, Richmond, Austin... from Plainville, Urbandale, Dubois, Moose.


As for maintaining our humanity, we do it by being charitable. The heart-rending photos won’t be prompting us this time, but Kevin Love didn’t need them. We shouldn’t either.

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