May 14, 2020 Editorial
“Traffic Chief wants bus and taxi drivers to wear masks” was the caption in KN on May 9. Senior public officials and a host of citizens have complained of social distancing guidelines not being observed. Another report in KN spoke of dozens charged for violating curfew restrictions in place. On the surface, and from all that is known, these represent sober calls, prudent concerns, and wise actions. But now the questions: lockdowns and curfews and social distancing: are they working? Do they translate to much of the significant? Should these preventative measures be continued? Are they even necessary?
On May 7, the New York Post carried a story that was titled, “Coronavirus reveals ‘shocking’ stats about hospitalized New Yorkers.” The details are not comforting. First, and as relayed by Governor Cuomo, it was that some “two thirds of New Yorkers hospitalized with the coronavirus were admitted from their homes.” This was not only described as ‘shocking’ but defies social distancing logic. The second disturbing revelation was that “46% were unemployed, and “37% retired.” In other words, most of those infected and hospitalized (a taut balancing act, given the lack of available beds to house the influxes) could be expected to be largely off the roads and away from congested hotspots, for that matter any place at all.
Moreover, many of them would have been under some form of State mandated or self-imposed lockdown for several weeks now, particularly the retired. The unemployed have nowhere to go in search of work since most company doors are closed. The words of a mystified and worried Governor Cuomo should echo troublingly all the way here in Guyana: “So, that says they are not working, and they are not traveling.” Of people still in the frighteningly shrinking US job market, only 17% from the survey number in the ranks of those admitted. Additionally, an area feared to feel the brunt of the COVID-19 impact has largely and thankfully been spared the worst. That would be in the sensitive realm of exposed – despite masks and other scarce components of PPE – frontline healthcare workers. They are in the middle of raging storms that batter, yet most have been spared, which alone is a ray of light to give hope.
What does all of this mean? How should these developments be interpreted? The first thing that must be noted is that this survey commissioned by state officials in hard hit New York “was not an indicator of their compliance with social distancing guidelines” or that it questioned about possible sources from which the infection may have been gained. But now for a profoundly disturbing aspect of this coronavirus pandemic that was confirmed once again. For those insisting- indeed, demanding- that it is time to ease up with the restrictions, we say, rather, that it is time to sit up and listen up closely. We urge this because of a most telling reason: the known demographics of the population of Guyana.
The survey done by New York State revealed that almost half of the admissions were accounted for by minorities. Blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately affected. This country is composed, to a great extent, of a coloured population, gatherings of minorities, with a distinctive number of Cubans and Venezuelans operating in the social milieu. No longer can we claim to be otherwise. No longer can we plead any lack of awareness of the fate of some of our fellow Guyanese, who were mortally stricken in the Big Apple and elsewhere. In aggregate, they are a picture of major segments of the racial rainbow that make up the citizenry of this country.
When all of the above is taken into consideration, along with the cautions of internationally renowned health authorities, we do not think and would not recommend any relaxation of existing lockdown precautions and curfew arrangements in effect. It is our view at this paper, that were it not for introducing and enforcing these same restrictions, the toll of confirmed cases and of the dead would have been much higher. We think that this would have been the reality overseas and in Guyana.
Thus, we say this: let it stay a little while longer and let us, we citizens, observe accordingly.
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