It looks like we’re on our own.
The “we” refers to Michiganders. And the “on our own” is anything that needs to be done to curb the now-explosive surge of COVID-19 that’s has spread like wildfire in our state during the past few weeks.
That spike shows no signs of letting up — hospitals statewide, including Munson Healthcare facilities, report an alarming rise in patients needing hospitalization for COVID-19. State data shows record-setting daily positive test results, and a week where positivity rates hovered above 17 percent statewide.
During the same period, dozens of hospitals reported near- or at-capacity patient counts — at least one Spectrum hospital in Grand Rapids enacted a plan to convert a cafeteria into space for patients last week.
These are milestones that a year ago would’ve triggered a deluge of state or local public health orders, a stack of public notices from state agencies and speeches from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her top public health officials.
Yet, last week, both state and local health officials and the governor stood largely silent. State officials issued a public health advisory encouraging mask wearing at holiday and family gatherings during the coming weeks — a measure they remind us helps mitigate the spread of the virus at times when it saturates our communities.
No universal masking order for schools or public places. No recommendations for schools to suspend in-person learning as classrooms become hotspots for virus spread. No restrictions on large events.
No, the only substantive statement from the governor was a statement encouraging those who qualify to get in line for booster doses of the three vaccines available — the most effective tool available capable of preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from the virus.
This wild swing in leadership is jarring and sends the clear signal that we’re on our own, that the trajectory of the now-worsening surge is solely in our hands, that we all know what needs to be done to mitigate the worst-in-the-nation rise in COVID cases we’re witnessing.
Some communities will do little or nothing to combat that spike. Their inaction may sicken droves, overwhelm local health systems and some — mostly unvaccinated — will become gravely ill and possibly die. Others, through decisive local leadership and collective sacrifice, will tamp down the surge before it’s too late.
Some will argue this new approach to the pandemic, one that emphasizes a Darwinian approach to personal responsibility, should’ve been state leaders’ march since the start.
Others will argue the leadership void will swallow innocent people whose preexisting conditions or vulnerabilities make them cannon fodder for others’ experiments in autonomy.
We all know what we can do to head off the already crushing swell of COVID patients swamping hospitals in our state.
And if we care about the wellbeing of the people who care for us when we’re sick, and the vulnerable people in our lives, vaccinated or not, we will do what needs to be done.
Wear masks in gathering places, get vaccinated, and stay home if we’re sick or exposed to someone who is ill.
We all have a role to play in ensuring everyone around us enjoys a safe, happy and healthy holiday season.
Our collective actions during the coming weeks will determine our collective outcome.