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Editorial: Recovery

We get better. 

You undoubtedly heard that in July and early August we had a terrible string of record-setting days for new COVID-19 cases. “We” meaning St. Louis County, “we” meaning Missouri, “we” meaning the United States. Case counts exploded everywhere. Did you know that on at least 10 of those occasions “we” also set new records for daily recoveries? As case counts exploded, recoveries exploded, too. It just wasn’t reported as much. 

For every person that has died from COVID-19 worldwide, at least 17 have already recovered.

We get better. We get better at understanding and handling the outbreak. Missouri case counts skyrocketed in July, but the death counts plummeted. According to data from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, in May the state recorded 5,585 cases and 399 deaths. In July, the number of recorded cases ballooned to 28,772, but the death count dropped to just 166. We went from 70 people dying per 1,000 cases to just 5. None of this is meant to suggest that the virus is under control or that the rising case counts are good news. Rather, it is highlighting the fact that we are improving at helping people recover from the illness. We need to be able to hold those two competing thoughts in our mind at the same time – the virus is spreading faster than before and is also less deadly.

We get better. Last week, Missouri jobless claims fell below 10,000 for the first time since March. U.S. jobless claims fell below 1 million for the first time in the same period. Unemployment is a huge problem, and the job market is improving. Both statements can be true at the same time. Right now, the unemployment rate in this country is slightly above 10%, roughly the same place it was during the height of the 2008-2009 financial crisis. That’s bad, but at least it is not unprecedented. There is a roadmap for recovery. Consumer spending has increased for three months in a row.

We get better. According to the Milken Institute, there are currently 316 treatments and 202 vaccines for COVID-19 in development. Dr. Anthony Fauci has highlighted Remdesivir and Dexamethasone as having shown significant benefit to seriously ill patients. As reported by Axios, some laboratory-made antibodies and plasma transfusions are showing great signs in early treatment as they near completion of initial trials. Scientists are working at breakneck speed to solve the riddle of the novel coronavirus. They are learning, experimenting and improving every day. 

We get better. It took our nation until 1865 to abolish slavery. Women couldn’t vote until 1920. Do we still have important issues with race and sex in this country? Of course, we do. But 12 years ago we elected a Black president and this year a Black/Asian-American woman was named as the vice-presidential candidate of a major party. That is undeniable progress.  

We do get better. If you did nothing but watch cable news it would be easy to think that we are always going from bad to worse. If you merely scroll through Twitter, you would be forgiven for believing that the end times are here. Not true. Think of the things we have overcome; wars and droughts and famines and, yes, pandemics. We beat smallpox. We get better, we recover. Improvement is an innate part of our humanity. 

2020 has been a devastatingly difficult year, yet still we get better. It’s important to talk about the devastating reality of this horrible virus. It’s just as important to celebrate our recovery. We get better.

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