COVID-19: Different Countries Have Responded To The Pandemic In Different Ways

Most of the coverage we’ve done has focused on the U.S. and Canada. There are some interesting stories happening in other areas of the world, though, that highlight different aspects of how the pandemic is being managed. Here are a few:

Russia While Vladimir Putin’s government initially tried to play dumb about the virus, insisting that everything is under control, in recent days it’s become clear that the pandemic is spreading there as well. As of April 17 at noon, Russia’s case count stood at 32,008 infections and 273 deaths. Those numbers should probably be taken with a grain of salt because of Putin-inspired propaganda, but Moscow (population 12.5 million) and Saint Petersburg (5.3 million) have reportedly been especially hard hit.

Sweden Unlike most countries, Sweden hasn’t implemented major physical distancing requirements to address the pandemic. Schools have remained open, and businesses such as restaurants have continued to operate. Initially, the policy seemed to be working, and Sweden (irony of ironies, since it’s a socialist country) was being touted by conservative pundits as an example of how the pandemic could be managed without inflicting too much economic harm.

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COVID-19: The Trouble With Normal

The default word that most people probably use when fantasizing about the pandemic ending and restrictions on their lives being lifted is “normal” — as in, they want life to return to normal.

It’s an understandable sentiment, I suppose, but is it a wise one? As the normal that’s being referenced, by definition, created the very circumstances that we find ourselves in today.

Instead, some are arguing we should seize the opportunity presented by the tattered state of our current world and aspire to a new normal — one which addresses the true challenges that face us related to climate change and the broader health of the environment.

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COVID-19: Trump Tries To Shift Blame For Failed Pandemic Response By Cutting Funding To WHO

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s obvious now that there’s no shortage of blame to go around for how most countries and national agencies have responded to the pandemic.

China, where the outbreak appears to have started, is on that list. After the alarm was raised by a doctor in Wuhan on Dec. 30, the Chinese government’s first response was to admonish him for spreading false information. While criticism of China’s political response to the pandemic is justified, China’s scientific response in investigating the virus and sharing data with the outside world has subsequently been praised.

As the above-linked article notes, most of the criticism has come from right-wing politicians led by U.S. president Donald “China Virus” Trump, but also includes prominent conservatives in the U.K. Heck, even Conservative Party of Canada leader Andrew Scheer gets a shout-out in the article.

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COVID-19: Ignoring The White House, 10 States Announce Plans To Develop Their Own Pandemic Exit Strategy

Physical distancing guidelines are in effect in the U.S. until April 30. As I noted in two earlier blog posts, Trump and his Republican followers are desperate to see restrictions loosened ASAP so the economy can start to recover from the hit it’s taken.

With the November election looming, the stakes, in both a political and economic sense, are high. But the human stakes are also high. And the unfortunate reality is that, at this point anyway, the U.S. has had little success in “flattening the curve” of COVID-19 infections. Instead, the pandemic is still picking up steam.

Recognizing that reality, governors of states in areas that were especially hard hit in the pandemic’s early days have announced their intention to coordinate with each other on whatever strategy is eventually settled on to open up their economies.

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Recent Court Ruling Validates Two Public School Systems in Saskatchewan

While COVID-19 is dominating the news cycle, there are other stories out there. On March 25, for example, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled in a case involving a dispute between the public and separate school systems in Saskatchewan.

I’ve written on the case before in our print publication. It involves complex constitutional and practical issues that are beyond the scope of a simple blog post, but here’s a breakdown.

In 2003, a public school in Theodore was slated for closure by the local school board because of a declining student population. To avoid that happening, the town applied to join the separate system. That was subsequently done, and the school continues to operate today.

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COVID-19: Houston, We’ve Had A Problem

Today’s post is only tangentially related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

If you check the calendar, this week marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 13 manned mission to the Moon. It launched on April 11, and followed two earlier Moon landings by Apollo 11 in July 1969 and Apollo 12 in November 1969. Unlike those missions, though, this one nearly ended in disaster.

In 1995, Apollo 13 was immortalized in a big-budget Hollywood movie directed by Ron Howard. Now, a researcher at NASA has put together a minute-by-minute audio-visual chronicle of the six-day mission. The chronicle features radio exchanges between the three-person crew and ground control at NASA, press conferences, even conversations between NASA officials and the astronauts’ families on Earth.

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COVID-19: Will Political And Economic Interests Trump Health Concerns In The U.S.?

In a March 25 blog post, I touched on the Trump administration’s desire to restart the American economy by Easter. Fortunately, that idea was eventually shelved after intervention by public health officials who warned that loosening restrictions prematurely would cause the COVID-19 case count and fatalities to spiral out of control.

For now, that remains official government policy. But the idea of restarting the U.S. economy in the midst of the pandemic, as former Fox News “journalist” Bill O’Reilly might say, still has “legs”. Okay, that’s not exactly true. What O’Reilly actually did say on Sean Hannity’s radio show in arguing that the economy should be restarted is that many people who were dying were “on their last legs anyway.”

While definitely on the crude end of the spectrum, O’Reilly is far from the only Republican politician/supporter who has championed the idea of getting the economy up and running again. Desperate to repair damage being done to his re-election bid in November as criticism over his administration’s “handling” of the pandemic grows, Trump continues to tout the idea of re-opening the economy as soon as possible.

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COVID-19: Pandemic Puts Preppers In The Spotlight

So-called “preppers” are enjoying a moment in the Sun these days with their doomsday-style approach to life where they stockpile resources from food and fuel to guns/ammo (and maybe even toilet paper) in anticipation of societal breakdown where everyone is left to fend for themselves.

At it’s core, there’s obvious merit in people having some capacity to ride out a short-term disruption to normal life. From relatively minor upsets such as a weekend-long snow storm or an extended power outage to a more severe upset such as an earthquake or tornado, there are a range of events where people would benefit from having an emergency supply of food, water and other household items, along with some savings to draw on.

Many preppers, though, take that commonsense idea to a whole new level — one that accords more with apocalyptic fiction in the vein of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road where human existence essentially boils down to survival for the sake of survival.

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COVID-19: Make America Gracious Again

This is the third post in a row I’ve done on the United States, and fourth in five days. If I seem obsessed, it’s because it’s a big issue. It’s not every day that the world’s reigning superpower suffers an existential crisis.

What’s happening now is a wake-up call for the whole world. And we need to heed it! But it’s especially a wake-up call for the U.S. And for the sake of everyone else on the planet Americans need to heed it.

To put it simply, the U.S. has to join the 21st century. Step one is implementing universal healthcare and ensuring its citizens have a decent social safety net. It’s not charity, it’s just good public policy, so that in moments of crisis, like this one, people have the capacity to work together to keep their communities safe.

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COVID-19: Alt-Right Politics Finally Meets Its Match

Before Arizona Republican senator John McCain passed away from brain cancer in August 2018, he said one of his biggest political regrets was selecting Sarah Palin as his running-mate in the 2008 U.S. presidential election against Democratic nominee Barack Obama and running-mate Joe Biden.

What that effectively did was legitimize an emerging strain of virulent populism that was formally codified with the founding of the Tea Party in 2009. Backed by the conservative advocacy group Americans For Prosperity bankrolled by Texas oil barons David and Charles Koch, the Tea Party quickly infiltrated the Republican party at the state and federal level.

The supposed focus of the Tea Party was to shrink the role of government in American life. That’s in line with traditional Republican ideology. But the actual movement championed a renegade mix of policy positions that can be summed up in six words: God, guns, gays, abortion and fossil fuels. Gays and abortion, it presumably goes without saying, were verbotten, while the other three were regarded as indispensable to American society.

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