Hikers walk up a hill in Griffith Park, Friday, March 20, 2020, in Los Angeles. California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide stay-at-home order Thursday for residents to venture outside only for essential jobs, errands and some exercise. Health experts advise that business should remain closed for several more weeks to slow the spread of the virus, advising the worst is yet to come in the U.S. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Hikers walk up a hill in Griffith Park, Friday, March 20, 2020, in Los Angeles. California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide stay-at-home order Thursday for residents to venture outside only for essential jobs, errands and some exercise. Health experts advise that business should remain closed for several more weeks to slow the spread of the virus, advising the worst is yet to come in the U.S. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

March 24, 2020

Some of us just don’t care

That a significant number of Americans flout CDC recommendations for how to act during a global pandemic is indicative of both their refusal to look beyond our own borders to the larger world and consider the health and well-being of others at home.  

~

By Carmen Gentile, Cofounder & Editor // Photograph by Chris Pizzello 

The severity of the situation in which Americans currently find themselves is clearly not resonating with some of us. 

Packed beaches in California and Florida are obvious indicators that some Americans are not heeding CDC guidelines for how to behave to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. 

It also illustrates just how little some of us apparently care about the well being of others, a frightening indicator of the indifference some of us have to potentially life-or-death consequences. 

Meanwhile, in Postindustrial America, some states’ leaders have issued more severe shutdown orders than others, while testing capabilities for the virus vary greatly from one state to another. There is a glaring lack of cohesion from state to state for tackling a pandemic that doesn’t care a lick about crossing state lines. 

Health experts agree the United States is at a critical stage of coronavirus spread. Social distancing and other measures are particularly crucial now, as far more Americans likely have the virus than the 43,000-plus we currently know about.

Still, some people refuse to do their part, asserting that the flashing red warnings by health officials repeated in print and on TV news media is a sensationalist bid to undermine the president and once-vibrant, now stagnant, economy. 

Fox News personalities have since changed their tunes once the president started taking coronvirus seriously .. at the prompting of all people, a Fox News personality. 

But many health officials say that the president’s flipped script — from calling the virus a “Democratic hoax” to referring to himself as a “wartime president” — was too little, too late. The fallout from his failure to act in a timely manner, when he was first warned about it months ago —will be deadly and economically devastating. 

Other elected leaders like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are among those failing in his duties to serve and protect his constituents (prompting one paper to ask the governor to act like he “gives a damn”), opting to keep beaches and businesses open instead of shuttering both during spring break. 

It’s now clear that some Americans are neither accustomed to, nor inclined, to make even the most reasonable of sacrifices for the greater good. The “everyone pitch in and do their part” mentality that defined the Greatest Generation during World War II is not in the DNA of this current crop of some Americans too concerned with their own pleasure to consider the fate of others, even if those pleasure pursuits will ultimately lead to the deaths of elders, the infirm and even the previously healthy. 

It’s not like there isn’t ample evidence of the cataclysmic error of our ways. Look no further than the horrors unfolding in Italy, where the death toll has spiked in recent days. Doctors there are making life-and-death decisions about who, unfortunately, lives or dies

I spoke to a couple of journalists in Italy covering the coronavirus outbreak in the country that recently surpassed China’s death toll from the virus despite having a population of 60 million compared to China’s 1 billion. 

Their pessimism about America avoiding the same fate as Italy, whose leaders also didn’t take the virus seriously as first, was palpable and chilling. 

“It’s too late — the cat’s out of the bag,” said John Fiegener, a journalist producing stories for CNN in Rome. 

“Italy isn’t going to get control of it (the virus) because we don’t have the bed and the facilities. And the U.S. is going to find out the exact same thing.”

I met Fiegener years ago in Iraq, where we worked together covering the war. As someone who has seen the worst humanity has to offer, he is not prone to hyperbole. 

So when he says: “What’s happening in the states (some not social distancing) now reminds me of what was happening here a month, month and a half ago,” you ought to pay attention because the casualty rate spiked in Italy, leaving thousands of people dead, and counting.  

“The (current) Italian restrictions, which are now among the harshest in the world, are the only way to fight the virus, in my opinion,” said Andrea Spinelli Barrile, an Italian journalist who spoke to me at length about the restrictions on movement now in place across the country. 

Italians have been ordered to stay at home until further notice, the only exceptions for venturing outside being for food or healthcare. 

Restrictions like these weren’t heeded at first by Italians, resulting in the horrifying and ever-growing body count there. 

America faces a similar fate if we don’t wise up and take a moment to consider the wisdom of needlessly venturing out and congregating with friends. 

We need to modify our behavior now to protect ourselves and others, if it isn’t already too late.

Carmen Gentile

Carmen Gentile has worked for The New York Times and CBS News, among others. His book, "Blindsided by the Taliban," documents his life as a war reporter and the aftermath of his brush with death after being shot with a rocket-propelled grenade while embedded with U.S. Army forces in Afghanistan.

More Stories from Postindustrial