By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

COVID at 4

It was four years ago today, a Wednesday, that COVID-19 became the central reality of our lives. I had spent the previous week on a reporting trip in Mendocino County, California. Nationally, the news was getting more ominous by the day. We attended a college assembly in a packed, windowless hall, with the usual buffet replaced with boxed lunches as some sort of appeasement to the Gods of Disease.

Word finally came down during our faculty meeting that classes would be canceled starting the next day. That evening, in my graduate ethics seminar, came the triple-header: the NBA suspended its season and sent everyone home from a game in Oklahoma City; Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, announced they’d caught COVID while in Australia; and Donald Trump delivered a speech from the Oval Office that was so unnerving the stock market crashed.

We watched Trump in class. I remember telling my students we’d probably be back in few weeks. Little did we know.

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  1. In all fairness, I doubt there’s anything any president could have said that would not crash the market. That said, Trump’s incompetence and utter lack of leadership, both for this country and the world, throughout the first 10 months of the pandemic made things so much worse.

  2. The key line is “the central reality of our lives,” as in the lives of people in the U.S. In reality, this was fairly easy to spot for a good while before panic erupted in the U.S. It still amazes me how there was so much denial in the months prior, as if somehow it would just be a “China problem.”

    • Dan Kennedy

      But we’ve had plenty of disease outbreaks overseas that didn’t make it over here. I remember having a faculty meeting in mid-February 2020 at which we talked about providing support for our Chinese students. No, it didn’t occur to us that we would be next, and on many occasions in the past, we *weren’t* next.

      • Adam Smith

        yes, but those were not infecting people at nearly the same rate as COVID was. The hospitals in China were overwhelmed.

        • Adam Smith

          Sorry, in my first message, I meant to say “month,” not months prior, as in early February. I don’t know what could have been done early on differently, but I think the public messaging, as I recall it, seemed to be one of “don’t worry” and then all of a sudden, “Ahhhh!”

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