What have we learned about this novel coronavirus? A lot, certainly, but probably for most people, the first lesson is that this has not been any fun. At home, kids home from school, jobs and lives disrupted, even if one’s family circle has not been affected by the thousands of confirmed cases and many deaths from COVID-19.
That is why people will be happy to see Phase 2 on Friday, based on the national guidelines and data crunched by state officials for Gov. John Bel Edwards.
A number of businesses that once were ordered closed are opened up, and restaurants and other services can be provided, although with a typical limit of 50% of occupancy.
But if there is another thing we’ve learned in the no-fun department, it is that the reopening process will be difficult. Because of space limitations — but more from skittish customers — some businesses will find that there’s not that much expansion under the Phase 2 guidelines.
Some businesses aren’t going to come back. That sad truth shows how much in the way of economic recovery lies ahead.
Phase 2 also comes with some caveats in New Orleans. Mayor LaToya Cantrell — ever-mindful of the human cost of the early days of the pandemic — wants to go very slowly in New Orleans and await some new data from the Memorial Day weekend. However, we think that given all the confusion about what’s permissible and what isn’t, it would be better if the city conformed as quickly as possible to the state guidelines, which are after all based on the best science available to the White House from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That said, everyone has to be mindful of how much, as Edwards said Monday, remains to be done.
Over the next three weeks — if progress continues — that Phase 2 is in force, the public will be the central enforcement mechanism in our national public health emergency. Wearing masks when out in public places, keeping one’s social distance in all settings, helping those particularly vulnerable with chores like getting groceries — it is our society’s common tasks that remain before us to make Phase 2 a success.
We’ve learned from this trial that the capacities of our medical systems are not unlimited. The heroic work of health care professionals and hospital staff should not be rewarded by reckless exposure to what continues to be a very communicable disease. A Phase 2 “second wave” could be very costly in terms of lives and treasure.
The hard-won lessons of the spring cannot be discarded by flipping a page into Phase 2. We urge everyone to go forward steadily but with the caution we’ve learned is needed.