August 10, 2020 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Prepare for a permanent pandemic

Abnormal politics means no return to normal.

President Trump Participates In National Dialogue On Safely Reopening Nation's Schools

Share this article

Forget about the old days. They are gone. Forget about the old ways of doing things. They are gone. You are facing things your parents never faced. Your children are facing things that you, as a child, never faced. Everything has changed. I mean that completely, categorically. The one exception is our belief in a return to normal. There is no normal. Unless you mean chaos and disaster. Unless you mean they’re normal.

There was a brief period when this country could have done something about the novel coronavirus now crawling over every nook and cranny of our individual lives and society. There was a time when it could have been minimized, even stopped, while we recovered from damage already done. That moment has passed. The pandemic is here to stay. Its individual and social impact is permanent. At first we talked about a lost month. Then about a lost summer. Soon, a lost year, lost decade, until finally, if we’re lucky and if we’re wise, we realize what we’re talking about is a lost generation.

We may realize it’s a lost generation.

“The first thing I’m going to do when the pandemic is over is give one of my friends a big hug.” That’s what my 9-year-old child said today over breakfast. I’m guessing your children, or grandchildren, have said something similar. I’m guessing they have expressed a longing for a return to normal, a longing you are powerless to make real. I’m guessing you felt the pain I felt but could not—would not—give voice to. Never in the child’s presence. New Haven’s school board decided against in-person teaching. Classes will be virtual. “You will never be able to hug your friends again,” I thought.

Nearly 100,000 children came down with Covid-19 in late July, according to a new report by the American Academy of Pediatrics. That number is likely to go up. The school year has begun in states whose governments refuse to mandate wearing face masks. Do not believe Joe Biden’s victory, should that happen, will mean going back to sane public health policy. These states decided to endanger the well-being of their own children to score political points. Moreover, 11 percent of the country won’t wear a mask no matter what, according to a recent Wall Street Journal survey. That percentage will triple, even quintuple, under a Democratic president. They will rally in numbers high enough for viral spread under flags declaring “Don’t Tread on Me.” Many will refuse to get vaccinated, whenever a vaccine is viable, which might take years, because they already believe vaccines generally are secret plots to harm them. Resistance to masks and vaccines will have the backing of the Republican Party and its billionaire donors. You thought the coronavirus was going to go away someday. Think again.

No one knows the effect on kids. Some exhibit symptoms. Most blessedly don’t. More certain is they give it to you, your parents, your grandparents—teachers, coaches, instructors, tutors—anyone spending time with kids. But again, no one knows. There’s some evidence of what the disease does to the heart. Professional athletes are getting sidelined. There’s more evidence of what it does to the brain. “There are also longer-lasting consequences for the brain, including myalgic encephalomyelitis /chronic fatigue syndrome and Guillain-Barre syndrome,” wrote Natalie Tronson. The University of Michigan neurologist gave us reason to be worried about more than death tolls. “COVID-19 will continue to impact health and well-being long after the pandemic is over. As such, it will be critical to continue to assess the effects of COVID-19 illness in vulnerability to later cognitive decline and dementias.”

The death toll surpassed 160,000 Sunday. The number of infections crested 5,000,000. That’s sure to double, at least, by the time we know who the winner of the election is (a process, as I said last week, that will drag on until 2021). Doubling is sure to happen, I have no doubt, because all things will be equal between now and then; and all things will be equal, because Donald Trump does not want to know whether he’s done a good job of containing the pandemic. He only wants his toadies to tell him that he’s done a good job. “With polls showing Trump’s popularity on the decline and widespread disapproval of his management of the viral outbreak, staffers have concocted a positive feedback loop,” according to the Post. “They present him with fawning media commentary and craft charts with statistics that back up the president’s claim that the administration has done a great—even historically excellent—job fighting the virus.”

The US is a patchwork. Thirteen and a half thousand school districts with 13,500 ways of going back to school amid a pandemic. The only safe way, however, is with a national response. “We need not only adaptive safety practices at the schools but also lower amounts of virus in each community,” Tom Bossert, a former White House homeland security adviser under Trump, told the Post. “A suppression-level effort to shrink and not just mitigate the spread of covid requires a national strategy.”

A national response is precisely what the president did not want. For one thing, he thought blue-state people were the only ones getting sick. For another, leading a national response would put him at risk of being wrong. And Donald Trump is never wrong. “Trump and several White House aides have instead continued to think that it is politically advantageous to cede the issue to the states to avoid taking ownership or blame for the issue, even though testing shortages are largely seen as a federal failure.”

This is Nero fiddling while Rome burns.

John Stoehr

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.


  1. Anonymous on July 30, 2021 at 10:48 pm
    • Chris on July 30, 2021 at 10:48 pm

      Whoa! Unnecessary. Sometimes people say things in a particular moment that they don’t actually mean. It’s called an overreaction, like your hurtful comment.

      • Anonymous on July 30, 2021 at 10:48 pm
        • Chris on July 30, 2021 at 10:48 pm

          Ok. Time to leave this discussion board and go troll somewhere else then. Stay safe.

  2. RUArmyNavyMominTX on July 30, 2021 at 10:48 pm

    What this column highlights is that the Trumpists who refuse to accept his likely defeat will make an effective Biden response incapable of eliminating the virus. As a HS teacher, I appreciate the pain that your children are unnecessarily experiencing and will never forgive those who believe that Trump & his cabal couldn’t have done more; with any karma, they will be relegated to their small sub-set of humanity, if not to jail and eternal damnation, in the election’s aftermath.

  3. David Mikulec on July 30, 2021 at 10:48 pm

    I’m waiting for Rod Serling to walk out any minute now and introduce this as a Twilight Zone episode.

  4. Thornton Prayer on July 30, 2021 at 10:48 pm

    This virus is going to be with us for a long time. It could have been controlled but the asinine narcissism of DOTUS and those who disregarded basic protections for self and others as “freedom” has guaranteed that COVID-19 will be around for a long-term mess.

    Don’t worry about the sniping of those who believe that thinking soberly about the pandemic’s effects on society is somehow wrong. Look to the history of the Black Death/Plague as to how people had to adjust and survive dealing with an uncontrolled infectious disease. Just as the more thoughtful then dealt with a foolish demographic who believed that witches and cats were the cause of the plague, we’re having to do the same with the mass of the maskless.

    The sober minded who took precautions back then were able to survive the foolish and eventually foster the Renaissance. Those of us today who are being mindful and conscious will ultimately be the ones rebuilding the Republic.

  5. Sophia Chazzan on July 30, 2021 at 10:48 pm

    Um, no. No matter how far this vaccine spreads, effective vaccines and medicine will end this. And they are coming soon. Shut up with your doomer bullshit and be realistic. If the Black Death could end in 4 years in a time when people believed in fucking humors and leeching, this will end in a year or two.

    Trump and conspiracy theorists are prolonging this, yes. This will go on longer than initially expected, yes, but pretending this will be chronic is needlessly alarming and scary. It’s also false.

    I bet on my life we’ll have a vaccine after the FDA vaccine conference on October 22. It will take a few months to mass produce them, but I’d be shocked if we weren’t largely back to normal by New Year’s Day.

    • Sophia Chazzan on July 30, 2021 at 10:48 pm

      virus spreads*

Leave a Comment

Want to comment on this post?
Click here to upgrade to a premium membership.