From the editor - When the Earth did stand still


March 27, 2024

In the 1951 movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” the landing of a spaceship on the Washington Mall and the emergence of Klaatu in a spacesuit and helmet immediately changed everything worldwide. By the film’s end, humanity learned valuable lessons and nothing would be the same ever again. Ah, stories.

In real life, catastrophe strikes, say a three-year-plus worldwide coronavirus pandemic – for that is what a pandemic means, worldwide infections, sickness and death – and societies near and far, local and global hunker down, survive and a year after emerging from it, say March 23, 2024, what is the big deal? Who notices? Who commemorates it? Who has learned from it and what are the lessons learned?

Recall how totally shut down La Conner, Skagit County, the state of Washington and the country were as March 2020 ended.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s Stay Home – Stay Healthy Order prohibited “all people in Washington state from leaving their homes or participating in social, spiritual and recreational gatherings of any kind regardless of the number of participants, and all non-essential businesses in Washington State from conducting business, within the limitations provided herein.”

The snapshots of Weekly News stories on page 7 offers a glimpse into no toilet paper on store shelves, people supporting restaurants through take-out orders and a sign at the roundabout telling people to stay home. The rest of 2020 was a matter of mostly staying home.

In early 2021, vaccines became widely available and most people were vaccinated. Still more people died in 2021 than 2020: In Washington, 6,165, and nationally 463,267, lost their lives from the infection. By 2022, annual deaths fell below 2020’s total and the decline continues, as recorded by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics.

Inslee lifted the state of emergency for COVID-19 Nov. 1, 2022.

Locally and around the state, we gathered together but not all together. The national fabric of all for one and one for all has long been frayed, as quaint – or unworkable – as an early 1950s sci-fi film. Instead the national political polarization was reflected in every community in following scientific guidelines, socially distancing, wearing masks and getting vaccinated – or not. The pandemic did not bring society together nationally or locally.

Knowledge in the public health community has advanced to turn the de-evolution of the pandemic into an epidemic. As with the flu, annual shots have become the norm. Still, in every state people are getting infected and some are getting both pretty sick and staying sick for a long period of time.

While masks are recommended for going into public spaces, whether it is the grocery or hardware store or the Lincoln Theatre or Maple Hall, few masks are to be seen.

How prepared are we, either as individuals and families, or institutions such as schools and public health departments for the next large scale catastrophe?

Maybe it is the American way to not be prepared and not for the long haul.

– Ken Stern


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