Monday, May 18, 2020
Remember the headlines of March 17:
News coverage is an index of change. In the last two months I’ve ramped up to four newspapers (digital of course) and six free news apps grouped on the front of my iPad. This fascination with the news started two months ago when headlines suddenly centered on new viruses, outbreaks, quarantines, stranded cruise ships, sweeping travel bans, and history. Not history of the past, but history of the future, the leading edge of an era that will change life as we know it.
Today’s top-section stories focus on vaccines. Moderna, an American bitoech company, has announced that their vaccine, now in clinical trials, has been found to elicit antibody production in healthy volunteers. Headlines are cautious with journalists choosing to reflect on the past or speculate about the future. But the slant is generally hopeful.
A front-page L. A. Times article asks whether the discoverers of the a COVID-19 vaccine will suffer from the resulting celebrity as Jonas Salk did when he developed polio vaccine. A few pages later, a story reminds us that there is no assurance we’ll even get a vaccine. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and CNN take a more positive view on the news about the clinical trials. The good-news winner for today, though, has to be USA Today. asking “When we get a vaccine, who will get it first?” and following up with an optimistic report on the trials of the Moderna vaccine.
The second coronavirus focus du jour is on reopening. Two months ago we were looking at lockdowns, what events were cancelled and for how long. Would we be back to normal by Easter, by Memorial Day, by summer? Would they close schools, cancel concerts, postpone the Olympics?
Now the news swirls around who is reopening and under what conditions. What are the safest ways to see your friends? asks the L.A. Times. The New York Times darkly warns that reopening will look good at first, but remember that there will be a lag before we start seeing new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. The WSJ tells about how Europeans might manage reopening with the new smartphone apps from Google and Apple.
Comparing reopening between countries and between states is an area of lively interest right now. Who’s opening hair salons, malls, or indoor restaurants? Are kids going back to school in Germany, Sweden, or Italy? How are they doing it?
It’s May, so the change of seasons brings timely speculation. The Los Angeles Times speculates today that summer may make things worse: “Extreme heat may worsen the death toll,” whereas the BBC considers that things will get worse in the fall and winter.
And then there’s the economy. What’s going to happen, we wonder. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell summed it up in four little words on 60 Minutes last night, “We really don’t know.”
When you live through a time of historical change, especially long slow upheavals like the Great Depression or World War One, there are long weeks where nothing seems to change. Later, historians look back and analyze the causes, the outcomes, and the turning points in between. They give lectures, write books, create narratives. Looking back we wonder why those people didn’t see it coming. It was so obvious.
What we don’t know is, will May of 2020 be part of the beginning, the middle, or the end?
Today’s Notable Headlines
“Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine just showed signs of success in a preliminary study, raising early hopes in the fight against the pandemic,” Business Insider, May 18, 2020.https://news.yahoo.com/modernas-coronavirus-vaccine-just-showed-113600257.html
“Apple, Google Start to Win Over Europe to Their Virus-Tracking Technology,” Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2020. https://www.wsj.com/articles/apple-google-start-to-win-over-europe-to-their-virus-tracking-technology-11589716800
“Fed’s Jerome Powell Says Economy Faces Long, Uncertain Recovery,” The Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2020. https://www.wsj.com/articles/feds-powell-says-economy-faces-long-uncertain-recovery-11589734446
Why am I doing this?
The coronavirus pandemic will be indelibly written on our memories just as the Great Depression or the Battle of Britain left their mark on past generations. It is my intention to journal the events of these days from three perspectives: as a retired medical technologist, a historian (Ph.D., 2014), and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary crisis.
You are on History’s Edge.