Now that both South Korea and Taiwan have gotten Covid-19 under control, they have begun their new baseball seasons. They are the only game in town, as it were. I’m hoping to begin catching some on ESPN….or at least the recordings, since the games are played between 1 am and 5 am Eastern time.  

Promotion for Taiwan professional baseball

The world leader, Major League Baseball (MLB), is stuck in lockdown mode. There’s been talk of doing something like what South Korea and Taiwan are doing—playing the games in empty stadiums, with just television audiences tuning in. But it’s just talk, because the pandemic rages in the U.S., and MLB doesn’t want players and coaches and others around the team getting sick. So it wouldn’t be surprising if the  entire American season is cancelled. 

The contrasting baseball scenes between the Far East and America pretty much encapsulate the Covid-19 situation worldwide. Much of the rest of the world is returning to work, somewhat secure in the knowledge that their public health experts, with backing from the pols, have done what was needed to fight this thing and get it under some semblance of control—via widespread testing and intensive tracking of those who tested positive

The U.S.? We continue stuck in the muck, seemingly paralyzed by incompetence, indecision, and contradictions by pols and public health professionals. Every day seems to bring another outrage. Yesterday the president was saying he does’t like to see too much testing because the results make the U.S. “look bad”, the day before that he was contradicting the leader of a nursing group visiting the White House who stated they don’t have enough protective gear (and even if there are shortages, it is Obama’s fault), and doctors are telling patients there aren’t enough tests for anyone who isn’t very sick to be tested. 

Out in the hinterlands, people carrying assault rifles protest that lockdowns threaten their liberty. And on social media, Americans share videos and articles claiming that the Covid-19 pandemic isn’t a pandemic at all, but rather a plot by Bill Gates and the World Health Organization to force everyone to be vaccinated (and that’s just one of many claims). 

So while significant parts of Asia and Europe appear to have the virus under a semblance of control so that people can begin to get on with their lives, the U.S. continues to widen its worldwide lead in Covid-19 cases. Consider this: South Korea, with one-sixth America’s population, and a close neighbor of China, where it all originated, has had 10,000-plus cases. That would translate into 60,000 cases in the U.S. So how did the U.S. wind up with 1.3 million cases…..and counting? It’s quite astounding. 

The U.S. has never caught up with its pandemic, beginning with the Trump denials of a problem during February and March when it would have been possible to test and isolate. Then, when he finally went along with social distancing in mid-March, there weren’t enough tests to catch up with all the cases, and do tracking to control the spread. So the lockdown needed to be longer than in other countries to give the U.S. a chance to catch up, but not surprisingly, many Americans became impatient with the economy collapsing around them. 

So now the U.S. is beginning to go back to work without having done the hard work European and Asian countries accomplished in flattening and depressing the curve of cases. Except many Americans understandably aren’t ready to go back to work and serve as fodder for the politicians who want a functioning economy as elections approach—more than 60% in polls want to stay home till things get under control, and this includes many people who are being hurt economically. 

 Protesters, who include a lot of anti-vaxers, want to let the virus work its way through the population so as to create “herd immunity.” But since only a small percentage of the population has been exposed to the virus, with more than 75,000 deaths so far, presumably many hundreds of thousands more would need to die over a period of a year or more to achieve the needed 60-80% infection rate required for herd immunity. Even Sweden, which is cited by many as an example of “herd immunity” in action, is still a good ways from achieving that goal….and it isn’t even clear how much immunity is conferred and how long it might last.

Of course, the other option for achieving herd immunity is a vaccine. The president has made it his top goal, pushing for quicker development (wide availability this year) than public health people say is realistic or safe. 

So after all the sacrifice Americans have made in lost income and jobs,  and unable to catch up with isolating cases via testing and tracking, we are left with one slim hope in getting out from under: the tool the deniers most wanted to avoid.