A news brief in the Wall Street Journal last week was a gut punch.
“Business executives who were bracing for a monthslong disruption from Covid-19 are now thinking in terms of years,” it said. 

“Companies are turning furloughs into permanent layoffs, de-emphasizing their core businesses and downsizing production indefinitely,” said the accompanying front-page article. 

After months of deceiving ourselves, it’s time to get real and treat COVID-19 like the threat it is. 

Much of the rest of the world is already doing that, and they’ve seen declines in infection and death rates. Simply put, they do a better job handling the pandemic than our increasingly dysfunctional government.
In fact, they are so far ahead that several have banned travelers from the United States. It’s a new experience for Americans to be treated like pariahs. Instead of being the one to turn down immigrants and visitors, it is now our turn to be given the cold shoulder.

And who could have ever foreseen places like New York state and Chicago putting travel quarantines on Iowans? 

But they have, and that should be a wake-up call. The United States, and that includes Iowa, is doing something wrong. 

We need to figure it out fast and fix it. 

The first step is admitting how serious COVID-19 is. Step No. 2 is doing something meaningful to combat it, like so many other nations around the world have already done. 

We lead the world in infections and deaths and act like it doesn’t matter. 
It does. By the time you read this, total U.S. deaths from COVID-19 are expected to exceed 150,000. That’s more people than live in Iowa’s second-largest city, Cedar Rapids, and it’s way more than the number of Americans who died in the Vietnam War (58,220) and Korean War (36,574) combined. 
The United States has the most COVID-19 infections in the world, more than 3.8 million as I write this, and we’re adding more than 50,000 new cases each day at a time when Europe’s new cases have fallen to a mere fraction of that. 
Is it any wonder they’ve quarantined us?

Our naive arrogance tells us the way to solve this is with a vaccine. Until that happens, many of us act like the whole thing is an inconvenience.
In the meantime, our children are spreading COVID-19 in gymnasiums and ball fields across Iowa and soon they will be infecting our schools.
 
Young adults continue to belly up to bars, and politically agitated people of both stripes gather in crowds to scream in each other’s faces and spew rhetorical and actual threats, even when they wear face masks.

The end result is that all of the above can and does bring COVID-19 home to health-compromised parents and grandparents, some of whom wind up paying the ultimate price for loving their families. 

This whole thing is a learning curve. We started out not knowing much about the coronavirus, but we learn more every day. 

One thing we learned recently is that COVID-19 produces a lot of Typhoid Marys, people who are asymptomatic but transmit it to others. That makes it more difficult to contain, but knowing that should help us combat it more effectively.   

Another new development is that the amount of exposure may be an indicator of the severity of infection. That’s the presumption of scientists who think they’ve noticed that some people who got the virus from a mask-wearing carrier have milder symptoms. 

Or it could be something else that determines the severity of infection. We truly don’t know yet, but we need to find out. We can’t just pretend it will go away. 

Our knowledge is imperfect but evolving. 
As the Wall Street Journal news brief showed: This really is a serious situation.