Thursday afternoon, Gov. DeWine announced the ban of any mass gatherings of 100 persons or more. However, the ban does not include grocery stores, airports, malls or places where people are “passing through.”

Schools will be closed, public events have been canceled or postponed, and the “show will NOT go on” with respect to the Jefferson Falcon Follies, Frozen Jr. at the Ashtabula Arts Center or even Jesus Christ Superstar in Cleveland.

There are a number of reasons why I support Gov. DeWine’s decision. First, covid-19 is highly contagious and no vaccine is yet available. Second, there are clearly not enough test kits to go around. Third, our scattergraph now resembles that of Italy in terms of the number of confirmed cases. (But without test kits the exact extrapolation remains unknown).

wapo-screenshotAs an elected public official, our first obligation to our constituents is to protect and ensure, as best we can, their safety. Though some may argue that Gov. DeWine’s decision reflects “government overreach” or perhaps an “overreaction,” this clip from the Washington Post would project 100,000 (or 1%) of our state’s population to be potential carriers.

Given the lack of test kits and a vaccine, the most effective method to soften the blow is to reduce contact and ask that each of us be more aware of our impact on others through our hygiene (i.e., hand washing) and our behaviors (e.g., self-quarantine).

Lest we forget, perhaps the deadliest pandemic in the history of the world occurred a century ago with the outbreak of the Spanish Flu during the last months of WWI. Set against the backdrop of deaths both military and civilian due to the war, the 1918 influenza pandemic resulted in “50 million or more deaths, equivalent in proportion to 200 million in today’s global population. For more than a century, it has stood as a benchmark against which all other pandemics and disease emergences have been measured.” (Morens, et al., The New England Journal of Medicine, Feb. 2020)

Further, History Stories includes this chilling observation concerning quarantines — or the lack of them during the closing months of the Great War:

The rapid spread of Spanish flu in the fall of 1918 was at least partially to blame on public health officials unwilling to impose quarantines during wartime. In Britain,… a government official named Arthur Newsholme knew full well that a strict civilian lockdown was the best way to fight the spread of the highly contagious disease. But he wouldn’t risk crippling the war effort by keeping munitions factory workers and other civilians home. Newsholme concluded that “the relentless needs of warfare justified incurring [the] risk of spreading infection” and encouraged Britons to simply “carry on” during the pandemic. (Roos, David. History Stories, March 3, 2020)

IMG_0169This is precisely why the study of history is so important — to avoid making the mistakes of the past.

There will be challenges ahead — the economy will be tested, our personal lives will be changed, and the strain on government will be evident, but the safety of our citizenry remains paramount. We are certainly in “unchartered waters” with respect to covid-19, but by working together and relying on science (and history) to make prudent decisions, we will get through the current crisis and emerge with a deeper sense of, and an appreciation for, our “interconnectedness.”

For, in the final analysis, we are one people who breathe the same air, drink the same water and hold the same dreams for our children. We are inextricably and inexorably bound together on this spaceship we call Earth.

Response to DeWine’s ban on mass gatherings