In the midst of our awful COVID-19 pandemic, Marc Theissen’s recent column eagerly assigns blame for this catastrophe. Certainly, there will be time for blame. Now, we must focus on combating COVID-19. We must learn from leaders who successfully protect their citizens. We must support scientists developing solutions for this deadly pestilence that stalks in darkness.
Governor Northam has experience as an army major, physician and professor. These, reports The Star, combined with his “calm bedside manner at news conferences,” have helped Virginia to have “fewer infections than (many) other states.”
Other leaders worldwide, addressing this pandemic, implemented vastly different policies. These different policies caused vastly different outcomes.
For instance, two island democracies instituted opposite public health actions. One, Taiwan, acted decisively after the Chinese announced a novel infection on New Year’s Eve. The next day, Taiwan began screening all travelers from Wuhan. That month, Taiwan sent scientists to study this epidemic in Wuhan.
The other, the United Kingdom, procrastinated until January 22nd to change “the risk level to the British public from ‘very low’ to ‘low’.” Finally, nearly three months after Taiwan took action, Britain imposed strict social restrictions and declared “a moment of national emergency.”
Today, the UK has more than 105,000 cases and 13,500 deaths. Taiwan, by contrast, has 395 total cases and six deaths. In mid-March, Taiwan even donated masks to White House staff, weeks before masks were recommended to Americans.
COVID-19 infection often lags exposure by days. COVID-19 often has infected many before the index case is diagnosed. The leaders who had better outcomes heeded the science. Those leaders with better health outcomes acted before these index infections.
Just as pandemic damage lags initial infections, so too climate change damage lags fossil fuel pollution. CO2 emitted today will continue to change climate for generations.
COVID-19 damage lags by days. Climate change damage lags by years. “COVID-19 mimics climate catastrophe at ‘warp speed,’” according to E&E news. It concludes pandemics “provide a snapshot into what could happen when global warming reaches its zenith.”
This pandemic has accelerating rates of infection and death. Climate change has accelerating rates of ocean rise and species extinction.
Within decades, climate change will cause more deaths than COVID-19 has to date. Within decades “climate change could cost the U.S. up to 10.5 percent of its GDP,” according to economic researchers. Climate change is the plague which will destroy at midday.
Proactive measures can minimize pandemic damage. So, too, proactive measures can minimize climate change damage. “Analyses from BlackRock, Morgan Stanley and others reflect what the world is learning in the COVID-19 fight: Aggressive action proactively addressing (climate change’s) systemic risk produces better outcomes than pretending there is little risk.”
As a physician and Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action member, I know proactive treatment of disease improves outcomes. I support Governor Northam’s efforts to contain COVID-19. I support his signing the Virginia Clean Energy Act to address fossil fuel pollution. As Northam says, “a clean environment and a strong economy go hand-in-hand.”
Nick Snow is a resident of Millwood.
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