My father planned a medical career when the US entered World War II after Pearl Harbor. Then, like sixteen million other Americans, he enlisted in the armed forces. He fought the Japanese in the South Pacific and never resumed his medical plans.
Dad experienced horrific atrocities during the war, but he never considered his service a sacrifice. Like his fellow Americans, he felt that he should do whatever he could to help win the war.
The coronavirus pandemic is the war of our time, a fact President Trump noted in his press conference yesterday.
My purpose in today’s Daily Article is not to frighten you, but to alert you to the potential severity of this disease so as to encourage us all to do what all of us can and must do in response. To that end, consider the following.
COVID-19 could kill more Americans than World War II
According to estimates based on CDC scenarios, between 160 million and 214 million people in the US could become infected over the course of the disease. As many as 200,000 to 1.7 million Americans could die. For perspective, 405,000 Americans died in World War II.
In addition, 2.4 million to 21 million of us could require hospitalization, potentially crushing our medical system, which has only about 925,000 staffed hospital beds. Fewer than one-tenth are for people who are critically ill. This medical crisis is what is happening right now in Italy, where one doctor says “we are in the thick of tragedy.” It could happen here.
Here’s the good news: these projections do not have to become reality in America. But they will if we do not take the necessary steps to stop the spread of the virus now. That’s why officials are closing schools, restaurants, and offices. It’s why church services have moved online and sports leagues have been suspended.
And it’s why every one of us must do everything we can do to help.
By now, you’re familiar with the CDC’s guidelines regarding handwashing and other personal practices. In addition, the president has issued guidelines titled, “15 Days to Slow the Spread”:
- Work or engage in schooling from home whenever possible unless you work in a critical infrastructure industry as defined by the Department of Homeland Security.
- Avoid social gatherings in groups of more than ten people.
- Avoid eating or drinking in bars, restaurants, and food courts. Use drive-through, pickup, or delivery options instead.
- Avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips, and social visits.
- Do not visit nursing homes, retirement homes, or long-term care facilities unless you are providing critical assistance.
- Practice good hygiene: wash your hands, especially after touching any frequently used item or surface; avoid touching your face; sneeze or cough into a tissue, or the inside of your elbow; disinfect frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible.
It takes all of us to protect all of us
Some of these, such as school and work closures, are beyond our personal discretion. But the others depend on our compliance. And it can be difficult to make difficult sacrifices that seem unneeded at the time.
The Pearl Harbor attack and Hitler’s advance across Europe made World War II very real for my father and the millions of others who risked their lives to defend our freedom. By contrast, a virus that is one nine-hundredth the width of a human hair is impossible to see.
But according to a new study, it can live for up to three days on surfaces and up to three hours in the air. And we are typically infected for about five days before we show symptoms. During this time, we are contagious but don’t know it and are spreading the disease to others.
A recent report shows that so-called “stealth transmission” was the source of at least two-thirds of documented COVID-19 cases in China early in the outbreak. As one medical professor states, “Asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic transmissions are a major factor in transmission for COVID-19. They’re going to be the drivers of spread in the community.”
As a result, social distancing is absolutely essential for all Americans. And it takes all of us to protect all of us. This is one crucial way we can win this war together.
Three ways to redeem social distancing
Let’s close with ways the Christian faith can help. Spiritual disciplines patterned on the example of Jesus enable us to experience God’s presence in profound ways. Three are especially relevant to social distancing today. (For more, please see the video I recorded yesterday on practical ways we can practice spiritual disciplines.)
Prayer. Jesus began his day with prayer and solitude (Mark 1:35) and often prayed alone (Luke 5:16) and at night (Luke 6:12). But he also prayed often for others (cf. John 17:9) and with others (cf. Luke 9:28). He prayed according to the will of his Father (Matthew 26:39). And he taught us that we “should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1 NLT).
How are you using these days to deepen your relationship with your Lord in prayer?
Solitude. Scripture says that Jesus “would often slip away to the wilderness and pray” (Luke 5:16 NASB). He encouraged his disciples to “come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31 NIV). Setting aside a place for solitude follows his model as well (cf. Luke 22:39).
When will you next make an appointment for time alone with your Lord?
Meditation. This is focusing on a biblical passage, something in nature, or an event and asking God to speak to you through it. Scripture calls us to “meditate on [God’s word] day and night” (Joshua 1:8; cf. Psalm 1:2; Psalm 119:97). David told God, “I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night” (Psalm 63:6). He also told him, “I meditate on all that you have done” (Psalm 143:5).
Will you take time today to listen to your Father?
Corrie ten Boom noted: “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.”
To whom will you look today?
NOTE: In these hard days, it is vital that we fight fear with faith. To this end, this week I began writing a second, special-edition Daily Article. It is available each weekday afternoon by email and podcast. It focuses on a breaking news story, responding with a biblical call to choose faith over fear. I hope you find it encouraging as we claim our Father’s help and hope together.