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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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: 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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COVID-19: American Snapshot

As of April 7 at 1 p.m. CST, the U.S. had recorded 388,421 COVID-19 infections and 12,393 deaths. New York and New Jersey are still the country’s viral hotspots, but Michigan, California, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Florida, Massachusetts and Illinois have all exceeded 10,000 infections. In the next few days, Georgia and Texas, and possibly Washington State, will join them.

In many ways, the U.S., with its fanatic mix of rugged individualism, evangelical Christianity where belief trumps science, and hyper-devotion to a capitalist ideal of personal enrichment and privilege without regard for the consequences to social unity, the environment and global cooperation between nations, is the perfect breeding ground for the virus.

The American attitude is epitomized by the months-long “strategy” of denial and deflection that the Trump administration has employed to deal with the pandemic (aided and abetted by the broader Republican party at the federal and state level, and their backers in right-wing media led by Fox News).

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COVID-19: Animals May Be Vulnerable To The Virus Too

On Friday, I did a blog post offering some context on the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic and its relationship to the environmental challenges humanity is currently facing.

As was noted in the post, COVID-19 is part of the coronavirus family which exists in mammals and birds. If the right conditions are present, these viruses, along with many other viruses and bacteria that can cause serious illness, can transfer from animals to humans.

The official term for that zoonotic. Just as humans can fall ill from contact with infected animals, viruses that cause illness in humans can transfer to animals. And in recent days, we’ve seen indications that COVID-19 may be doing just that.

On Sunday, it was reported that a Malayan tiger at the New York Zoo had tested positive for the virus. Other tigers and lions at the zoo are also showing signs of illness.

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COVID-19: Evangelicals Put “Faith” Ahead Of Public Safety

Last Sunday, evangelical church leaders in several American states went ahead with services despite the potential threat of spreading the virus.

Back then, the Trump administration was still touting the fantasy of churches being full at Easter. The administration made an abrupt about face on Monday, when they were presented with stark projections that between 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could die from the virus in the next few months.

At that point, Trump extended the physical distancing guidelines to April 30. At the state level, though, some governors have undermined those efforts by exempting church services from the guidelines.

Generally, the governors that have done so head states where evangelical Christians are a major support base. And evangelicals have aggressively pushed back against any restrictions on their “freedom” to hold services.

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