So, it turns out that COVID-19 isn’t a hoax.
It isn’t a Democratic Party or media conspiracy to make President Donald Trump look bad.
It isn’t something we just can wish away.
That’s the real lesson from the news that the president and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive for Covid-19 and now must quarantine for 14 days.
Before I go any further, there are two things that must be said.
The first is that we all should wish President and Mrs. Trump a safe and speedy recovery. I have family members who have spent time in the hospital battling the disease. I know people who have died from it. It is not an experience one would wish that anyone would have.
The second is that these well wishes must be extended to everyone with whom the president and the first lady have come in contact. Everyone who got close to the first couple — or who got close to someone who had been close to the first couple — now is at risk.
That’s the deadly thing about this disease.
It does not respect boundaries or social status. It goes where it wants, and it kills whomever it can.
The fact that the most powerful person on the planet has been hit by the virus makes clear that the time for playing games is over.
President Trump has been criticized — justly — for minimizing the threat posed by the coronavirus. A study has found that he was the greatest source of misinformation regarding the coronavirus in the country. By his own admission, he downplayed the dangers of COVID-19, primarily for political reasons, even though he understood just how dangerous the virus is.
In doing that, the president failed to meet one of the principal duties of his office.
He didn’t protect the American people.
But it’s not entirely fair to blame Donald Trump alone for the predicament America is in. His distortions and outright prevarications wouldn’t have found such a willing audience if there wasn’t something in the American character eager to embrace the fantasy he peddled.
It is part and parcel of our faith in American exceptionalism, the belief that the rules that apply to other people don’t apply to us. There is a strain of American thinking that asserts that we never will be subject to the forces of history — that we can master and control events, rather than endure and respond to them the way other human beings must.
It’s a dangerous myth.
In this time and these circumstances, it’s also a deadly one.
Such thinking animates, for example, the nonsensical argument that requiring people to wear masks in public places somehow violates their constitutional rights. The folks who advance such notions clearly haven’t given their positions even a nanosecond’s thought.
If we can’t be required to wear masks for public safety reasons, then public decency laws cannot require us to wear pants, dresses, shirts and other forms of clothing. If saving lives isn’t sufficient justification for mandating certain articles of apparel, then preserving notions of dignity, propriety and morality certainly can’t be, either.
The fact is that the coronavirus presents the greatest danger to this nation and its security we Americans have faced in some time. We will not eliminate the threat without making sacrifices.
The choice between battling the disease and opening the economy is and always has been a false one. The only path to economic recovery lies through defeating the coronavirus first.
We cannot function as we should as a society, as an economy, as a nation, if we cannot protect ourselves from the devastation and depredations of this deadly disease.
The fact that the most powerful and the most protected citizen in the land — the president of the United States, our commander-in-chief — can be attacked by COVID-19 demonstrates just how far we are from protecting ourselves from the threat that faces us.
It’s time — in fact, it’s long past time — that we put foolishness aside.
And realize that we’re in the fight of our lives.