基督科学箴言报 The Christian Science Monitor Daily – Thursday, March 26, 2020

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Today, we examine the ethical quandaries of weighing the global economy against public health, who governs U.S. lockdown conditions, El Salvador’s preemptive quarantine, a college senior’s reflections on an upended year, and a new installment of comfort films. But we’ll start with some memories of World War II.

 

The extraordinary changes brought on by the coronavirus have sent me back to family conversations about life during World War II. My grandfather, father, and stepfather served; my mother spoke of volunteer plane spotting and rationing. I decided to ask my stepmother, Nancy, who grew up in upstate New York and now lives in Manhattan, about how understanding the spirit then could help us now.

After all, history can look tidy from a distance. The messiness is there, but it’s eased by our vantage point. But when you don’t know the outcome?

Nancy recalls reports from a family friend, a British refugee whose husband was an officer in North Africa. His grim letters shared that he could see no end in sight. “Because of our friends, and FDR’s chats, and the nightly news, we were very conscious of it all the time,” Nancy says. The uncertainty was palpable. Nancy recalls driving one day with her father and sister as the car radio delivered bad news. The young girls wanted assurance of victory that dad couldn’t provide. “I remember Jill telling me that was the first time it occurred to her that the Allied forces might not triumph,” Nancy says.

But there was the flip side: They helped refugees. They supported donation centers. And on Dec. 8, 1941, the United States went on a full war footing. “In my lifetime, I haven’t seen everyone as united as they were in World War II,” Nancy says. “But now, it’s like what I see in New York. Everyone is in.”

1.As jobless numbers spike, a question rises: When can economy reopen?

Tame the coronavirus, then tackle the economy? A difficult and sensitive debate is emerging over how to get back to “open for business.”

-Amelia

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On Thursday, the U.S. Labor Department reported that 3.3 million Americans filed initial jobless claims, a record in more than 50 years of data and more than four times the previous record.

It’s a sign of how the stay-at-home orders that 21 states will have in place by the end of this week represent a blunt instrument, which may help keep the coronavirus from spreading but is also pounding the economy in unprecedented ways.

Some Americans are chafing already at the restrictions – not least of them President Donald Trump, who this week suggested lifting restrictions at least partially by Easter on April 12 to start revving up the economy. And some economists are also calling for a return-to-work timetable to protect the economy from long-term damage.

Still, the recent focus on containing the spread of the COVID-19 disease could be key to limiting the ultimate costs both to the economy and to human lives.

“We have to stop the threat of this epidemic,” says Sherry Glied, a health economist at New York University. “There’s no point rebuilding while the bombs are still dropping.”基督科学箴言报 The Christian Science Monitor Daily - Thursday, March 26, 2020

SoueceFederal Reserve Bank of St. Louis (with data from U.S. Department of Labor)

 

Jacob Turcotte/Staff

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Some Americans are beginning to chafe under the coronavirus restrictions that authorities have put into place – not least of them President Donald Trump, who this week suggested lifting restrictions at least partially by Easter on April 12 to start revving up the economy.

It’s an ambitious timetable and, to many, a callous one. How dare a president, or anyone, put the health of the economy ahead of the safety of citizens? But the president’s statement highlights another reality that conservatives especially have been grumbling about: The extraordinary stay-at-home orders that 21 states will have in place by the end of this week represent a blunt instrument, which may keep the virus from spreading but is also pounding the economy in unprecedented ways.

The latest evidence came Thursday, when the U.S. Labor Department reported that 3.3 million Americans filed initial jobless claims last week, a record in more than 50 years of data and more than four times the previous record.

A recession is likely, if not already underway. The restrictions on the economy are so far-reaching that businesses have been forced to close, throwing millions out of work, and keeping consumers, a mainstay of the economy, from shopping.

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

Some analysts are predicting that economic activity could shrink by up to a quarter this spring, a terrifying drop that, were there no recovery the rest of the year, would mean economic dislocation on a scale that would outstrip any single year of the Great Depression.

To many experts, the question is not really if authorities will ease the restrictions, but when. In theory, the sooner that happens, the less damage the economy will sustain. But there’s a big caveat. The recent focus on containing the spread of the COVID-19 disease could be key to both limiting the ultimate costs both to the economy and to human lives – including the risk of hospital systems becoming overwhelmed with patients. For now, that focus on containment remains paramount, many say.

“We will get to a moment where there will be [only] so much risk we have to be willing to take, but right now we’re not in that world,” says Sherry Glied, a health economist and dean of New York University’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. “We have to stop the threat of this epidemic,” she adds. “There’s no point rebuilding while the bombs are still dropping.”

In her view, it makes sense to wait for progress on the scientific front, and for the government to be planning now for how it will reopen the economy in the future, while also making sure basic needs like food and housing are met.

Already, nations including Denmark and Britain are trying to cap economic damage by covering a large chunk of worker salaries for businesses that have seen revenues plunge. A $2 trillion relief package moving through Congress Thursday, similarly, throws a lifeline to businesses (loans) and workers (cash payments and stepped-up jobless benefits).

基督科学箴言报 The Christian Science Monitor Daily - Thursday, March 26, 2020

 

Jacob Turcotte/Staff

In weighing how and when to reopen the economy, part of the conundrum is that no one has fully quantified the risks posed by the virus.

“We don’t have that data,” says Howard Markel, a medical doctor and professor of the history of medicine at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. The number of reported deaths has triggered alarm in the medical community and suggests that this virus is several times more deadly than a more typical seasonal flu. But public health officials have not been able to establish a concrete fatality rate because testing limitations have made it difficult to get a handle on the number of individuals who have become infected and recovered. When will health authorities have a handle on those numbers? “My hope is two to four weeks,” Dr. Markel says.

It’s such timetables that make Mr. Trump’s Easter deadline, just over two weeks away, look unrealistic.

Even with the data in hand, health authorities would have to determine the best ways to ease restrictions. Should they target only hard-hit regions? Or is it better to focus on sheltering the elderly and those diagnosed with other diseases?

“Real damage to people’s lives”

The World Health Organization on Tuesday said the U.S. has the potential to become the new center of the pandemic. Only China and Italy have more confirmed cases than the 69,000 in the U.S., according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

With the House of Representatives taking up the $2 trillion Senate-passed rescue bill, health authorities have some breathing room to determine the best ways to keep the population safe.

The economy can accept a certain amount of risk, and cost-benefit analyses are made routinely, points out Vivian Ho, an economics professor at Rice University and a professor at Baylor College of Medicine, both in Houston. “It’s a tough exercise in this particular situation, but someone needs to put those numbers down. We need to start thinking of maybe we should not shut everything down.”

“You’re talking about real damage to people’s lives, to the 30 million small businesses in America,” says Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington. “People’s lives and dreams are in these small businesses and in their careers. And some of them could be ruined permanently.”

Already, some Americans are beginning to push back on the restrictions, such as by holding social gatherings. A Louisiana pastor continues to defy Louisiana’s ban on gatherings of more than 50 by busing in attendees from five different parishes (counties) for Sunday services with what he claims are up to 1,000 people.

In Texas, public officials have begun to complain openly about the restrictions.

“My message is: Let’s get back to work. Let’s get back to living,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told Fox News in an interview Monday. “Let’s be smart about it … but don’t sacrifice the country. Don’t do that. Don’t sacrifice the American dream.”

In Harris County, home to Houston, Republican state Sen. Paul Bettencourt warned that a stay-at-home order restricting business would be “economically calamitous.”

There’s no real precedent for the economic threat now facing the U.S. The Spanish flu of 1918 occurred in a far different context. The country was coming off a war footing. Restrictions were limited to certain cities.

Even comparisons to sudden recent economic disasters like 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis are off base, says Jonathan Bydlak, director of the Fiscal and Budget Policy Project at the R Street Institute, a free-market think tank in Washington. “We’re dealing with a very unique situation, and there’s not a whole lot in economics books that teach you how to deal with these situations.”

Dangers in reopening too quickly

Nevertheless, many economists continue to stress the importance of taming the virus first before tackling the economy.

“I think the first order of business will be to get the spread of the virus under control, and then resume economic activity,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told NBC’s “Today” show Thursday.

While not opposing that sequence, two high-profile economists called on Monday for a timetable to avoid letting the economy die of neglect.

A quarter of all workers should be back on their jobs within two months, and 75% of workers within four months, wrote Nobel Prize winner Paul Romer and Alan Garber, a physician and economist at Harvard University, in a New York Times opinion column. The return to work would be coupled with ramped-up testing and widespread use of protective gear by workers, which they said should limit the spread of the virus.

Still, even from a strictly economic point of view, trying to reopen the economy before virus cases have spiked could lead to a longer disruption.

“We’re not anywhere near a flattening of the curve” of infection, says Joe Brusuelas, chief economist of RSM US LLP, part of a global network of independent audit, tax, and consulting firms. “Should we move prematurely, it could risk the general spread of the disease that would require subsequent shutdowns.”

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

The Explainer

2.Could Trump end lockdowns? Three legal issues.

Travel bans, quarantines, and shelter in place orders. It's a lot to keep track of! Here, Peter Grier walks us through the laws and regulations underpinning government actions to protect public health. 

-Amelia

基督科学箴言报 The Christian Science Monitor Daily - Thursday, March 26, 2020

Mary Altaffer/AP

 

Pedestrians make their way across 42nd Street with very light traffic, March 25, 2020, in New York City. The state, hit hard by the coronavirus crisis, appears likely to keep restrictions in place for some time.

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On March 16 President Donald Trump issued coronavirus guidelines for the nation titled, “15 Days to Slow the Spread.” Among other things, the guidelines advised working from home if possible and avoiding social gatherings of more than 10 people.

As the 15-day mark approaches, Mr. Trump has become vocal about the possibility of lifting restrictions so as to get the economy moving again. But the president himself has no direct power to turn most of these musings into action. His 15-day recommendations were advisory; it is state governors and city mayors who have used their police powers to issue edicts.

Of course, there are other coronavirus issues where Washington does have direct power. On Jan. 31 Mr. Trump barred entry into the United States of any foreign national who had been in mainland China in the prior two weeks. The White House has since issued similar edicts involving Iran, continental Europe, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

Also, Washington has the power to quarantine people to block the spread of communicable disease from other nations or between the states. But for most Americans, the shelter-in-place orders issued by state or local authorities will be far more important than such action taken by the federal government.

DEEP READ

Could President Donald Trump, in the name of restarting the economy, repeal the lockdown or semi-lockdown conditions that now exist in much of the United States, with nonessential stores shuttered, large groups prohibited, and many places of business closed?

The answer to that question is almost certainly “no.” From Connecticut to California, it is state and local officials who have ordered most of the nation’s current restrictions on daily life. Mr. Trump could direct federal workers to return to their offices, and order some businesses to produce certain items under the Defense Production Act. But in terms of direct action, that’s about it.

“While the federal government has authority to authorize quarantine and isolation under certain circumstances, the primary authority for quarantine and isolation exists at the state level as an exercise of the state’s police power,” concludes a 2014 Congressional Research Service (CRS) summary of U.S. public health powers.

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

Government actions to deal with the spread of COVID-19 have taken place under the aegis of a variety of laws and regulations. Here’s an explainer on some of the legal underpinnings of steps taken so far:

Travel bans

Mr. Trump’s first big move meant to counter the coronavirus crisis was a travel ban. On Jan. 31 he issued a presidential proclamation barring entry into the U.S. of any foreign national who had been in mainland China at any point in the prior 14 days. (U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents and their relatives weren’t covered by this ruling.)

His authority to issue this order derives from the Immigration and Nationality Act, which in its current form dates to 1965. Section 212(f) of the law authorizes blocking “alien” entry on grounds of public health, among other things.

In subsequent weeks the White House issued similar edicts banning foreign nationals who have recently been in Iran, the Schengen Area of the European Union, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

This is the first time this particular slice of U.S. law has been used to try to halt the spread of a communicable disease, according to a CRS legal sidebar dealing with COVID-19. But it also underpinned the Trump administration’s early travel ban barring entrants from a number of majority-Muslim countries. After several modifications to account for First Amendment concerns, that ban was upheld by the Supreme Court. The high court majority held that Section 212(f) “exudes deference to the President in every clause.”

Quarantines

For most Americans, the coronavirus crisis’s shelter-in-place orders issued by state or local authorities will be far more important than such action taken by the federal government.

Washington has the power to quarantine people or take other measures to block the spread of communicable disease from other nations or between the states. Authority to enforce such actions comes from Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act of 1944, according to CRS.

Those quarantined have some rights, however, given that involuntary detention is a deprivation of liberty. Under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, the federal government must test detainees within 72 hours and define the length of their quarantine from the outset.

A well-known 2014 test case of the government’s quarantine powers involved Kaci Hickox, a nurse who was involuntarily detained at Newark Airport after arriving from an area of West Africa where she had worked with Ebola patients. Legal action by Ms. Hickox eventually established that arriving passengers have the right to appeal quarantine decisions and seek legal advice.

States may isolate or quarantine people deemed public health risks under policing powers derived from the 10th Amendment. But their mandatory quarantine laws vary widely, with some vesting powers in health authorities and others requiring court orders for such a move. The national security legal blog Lawfare has compiled a useful summary of quarantine and isolation authorities in each state.

The use of state and local authority to enforce widespread self-quarantines in the face of a health threat is a new legal frontier. To this point enforcement has seemed relatively light-handed, with police breaking up large groups of people and asking them to return home. Mass arrests would be counterproductive to a need for social distancing.

But in some cases, police are using tougher measures. In Kentucky, a man who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus checked himself out of a Louisville hospital against doctors’ advice and told police he would not follow orders to self-quarantine at home. The Nelson County Sheriff’s Office posted armed guards outside his door.

Economic lockdowns

On March 16 Mr. Trump issued coronavirus guidelines for the nation titled, “15 Days to Slow the Spread.” Among other things, the guidelines advised working or engaging in schooling from home if possible, avoiding social gatherings of more than 10 people, avoiding restaurants, and limiting travel as much as possible.

As the 15-day mark approaches the president has become increasingly vocal about the possibility of lifting these restrictions so as to get the country back to work and the economy moving again. A deep recession could be worse than the spread of the coronavirus, he said on Tuesday in a Fox News “virtual town hall.”

It would be better to “have the country opened up” by Easter, Mr. Trump said.

Many public health officials have argued strenuously against such loosening, saying the coronavirus is far from under control. But the president himself has no direct power to turn most of these musings into action. His 15-day recommendations were advisory; it is state governors and city mayors who have used their police powers to issue edicts giving them teeth.

Every state, territory, and the District of Columbia has declared a public health emergency, according to lists compiled by the National Governors Association. Twenty-one states and the Virgin Islands have issued stay-at-home orders, according to the NGA (not all these orders cover state territories in their entirety). Most have set limits of various levels on the size of permissible public gatherings.

Either statewide or locally directed school closures have occurred in all states. Thirty-six states and Puerto Rico have limited the operations of nonessential businesses.

Mr. Trump, of course, commands a lot of attention. He has the bully pulpits of the White House and his Twitter feed to make his desires known.

But many governors, particularly in hard-hit states such as New York, do not appear at all inclined to loosen regulations yet. A number of the governors at the forefront of closing down schools and businesses are Republican, such as Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. They don’t seem inclined to follow the president’s wishes, either.

Governor Hogan, current chair of the NGA, said on Monday, “We don’t think that we’re going to be in any way ready to be out of this in five or six days or so.”

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

3.In El Salvador, quick COVID-19 response fuels fears of an iron fist

People around the world have praised quick action on the coronavirus, even as they've worried about leaders exploiting power down the road. It's a particular concern in countries that have experienced authoritarian rule.

-Amelia

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Earlier this month, Latin American leaders seemed to be looking the other way when it came to COVID-19.

But not El Salvador. The Central American country, about the size of Massachusetts, took strong action before it had registered a single case. More recently, the nation has implemented a nationwide quarantine, and the young president threatened that citizens breaking it would be brought to “containment centers.”

Many insist that today’s tough decisions to fight the new coronavirus, led by President Nayib Bukele, will put El Salvador on the right side of history. But in a region with a history of authoritarian governments, such moves have also provoked concern about how officials could stretch their power.

Mr. Bukele won office last year as an anti-corruption outsider, and has gained a reputation for intimidating critics and the media. In early February, he had a showdown with lawmakers that further fueled distrust: Frustrated with legislators’ delay to approve an international loan, he entered the chamber along with dozens of armed soldiers dressed for battle.

Now, El Salvador is in good company, as neighboring nations catch up on anti-coronavirus measures. But in a region with recent memory of abuses, some critics eye those actions warily as well.

DEEP READ

While much of the world has been busy closing schools, clearing grocery store shelves, and calling for social distancing, gripped by the spread of the new coronavirus, Latin America has been slow on the uptake.

For weeks, leaders of the region’s largest economies, Brazil and Mexico, carried on with crowded political rallies, shaking hands and doling out hugs, despite warnings from the public health community. A large rock concert took place unimpeded just last week in Mexico City.

But one Latin American nation took an early stand in the fight against COVID-19. El Salvador, about the size of Massachusetts, barred entry to nearly all foreigners, required a 30-day quarantine for Salvadorans arriving from other countries, suspended schools for three weeks, and halted gatherings of 500 people or more – all before it had registered a single positive case.

The early March moves gained international attention, with many praising El Salvador for recognizing how severely the pandemic could hit its underfunded health care system. But for others, the extreme measures – which went on to include restrictions on freedom of movement and assembly – are cause for concern.

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

Latin America has a long history of authoritarian governments clamping down on personal freedoms and human rights. And although Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele won office as an anti-corruption outsider, he’s sown seeds of distrust among parts of the population. That sentiment was underscored following an early February showdown with lawmakers, in which he brought the armed forces into the Legislative Assembly to pressure legislators to approve an international loan.

Mr. Bukele and his supporters insist today’s tough COVID-19 decisions will put him and El Salvador on the right side of history, but critics worry they’re witnessing a testing ground for how far the government can stretch its power now – and possibly in the future.

Setting the stage

Back in February, long before most people had an inkling the novel coronavirus ravaging parts of China would end up on their doorstep, Mr. Bukele made a risky bet. The young leader, who previously served as mayor of the capital, San Salvador, was growing frustrated with the National Assembly’s inaction on the loan. On Feb. 9, he entered the Legislative Assembly along with dozens of armed soldiers and police officers dressed for battle, demanding the loan’s approval to carry out crime-fighting initiatives.

The stunt triggered a nation that lived through a brutal 12-year civil war and years of autocratic leadership. Lawmakers on both ends of the political spectrum denounced the move as an attempted coup. It wasn’t Mr. Bukele’s first experiment with Latin America’s infamous “iron fist” approach to governance – already he’d gained a reputation for intimidating critics and the media – but it was his most extreme. And it set the stage for a more skeptical El Salvador when he announced action against the coronavirus.

“Today we all lost,” tweeted Salvadoran lawyer and anti-corruption researcher Wilson Sandoval on March 14, after the Legislative Assembly approved restrictions on some constitutional rights, like freedom of assembly, to fight COVID-19. It did not approve requests to limit freedom of expression, however. “The worst thing is not the virus, it’s the next few years that will come from an authoritarianism that will gradually destroy our rights and guarantees.”

Mr. Sandoval acknowledges that a government should have some wiggle room when confronting a historic emergency like COVID-19 – particularly in a nation where health resources are scant.

“It’s almost trial and error,” he says of many world leaders’ approaches right now.

When Mr. Bukele, for example, first announced the quarantine for Salvadorans returning from abroad, there was a rush to find housing for them. Initially citizens of all ages were sheltered together, which public health officials criticized as inappropriate for those deemed at higher risk, like people over age 60 or with preexisting conditions. Journalists are still struggling to get concrete information from the government about shelter locations and procedures.

“How big of a margin should they get?” Mr. Sandoval asks of leaders working in emergency situations. One step that would give him more confidence is if the president put technocrats as the face of the response instead of politicians, he says.

“The government is taking advantage of an emergency and that will affect democracy now and later,” he says. Mr. Bukele has sky-high approval ratings, hovering around 90%. A central concern is whether, if the president can curtail rights without much pushback today, he could take that as a green light for other extreme steps in the future. Neighboring Honduras and Nicaragua have moved toward removing limits on reelection in recent years.

On March 21, following the confirmation of the first positive coronavirus case, El Salvador implemented a national quarantine for 30 days. Only one person per family will be allowed to leave the home to shop. Doctors, journalists, the military, and other critical public servants and merchants will be exempt.

“We are going to make some quick decisions that are going to include mistakes, that are going to cause discomfort, that are going to have incredible costs for our economy,” Mr. Bukele said in announcing the quarantine.

Understanding – and fear

El Salvador has always been polarized, says local reporter Julia Gavarrete, who has been covering the nation’s measures around the coronavirus. However, the coronavirus has been something of a uniting moment for Salvadorans, who seem to recognize its many risks for the nation’s public health system and the economy.

“The population is being really realistic,” regardless of political leanings, says Ms. Gavarrete, who writes for the website Revista GatoEncerrado. “Many are conscious that it’s better to try and work together and stay home so that the virus doesn’t spread.”

However, “people are really afraid,” she says. And “fear is part of the president’s discourse.” An avid Twitter user, the president called out legislators earlier this week for trying to block measures he believes are necessary to fend off COVID-19. “DON’T KILL OUR PEOPLE, I BEG YOU” he wrote in all caps.

He’s also threatened citizens that if they violate the country’s quarantine, they’ll be taken to “containment centers” for 30 days.

“It’s important for the president to raise awareness, but we could get to the point where it drives panic,” Ms. Gavarrete says. When the first COVID-19 case was confirmed last week, Mr. Bukele openly criticized the patient, who he says likely reentered the country illegally after traveling from Italy. His supporters on social media began calling for this patient’s head, demanding the government release the patient’s photo.

Not just El Salvador

Although El Salvador led the way in tough measures against the coronavirus in Latin America, many neighboring nations followed suit. Over the past week, governments have restricted international flights and canceled large gatherings. On March 16, Honduras suspended some constitutional rights, like freedom of speech and movement, for a week. Guatemala ordered a weeklong curfew between 4 p.m. and 4 a.m. A handful of Central American countries – excluding El Salvador – signed on to a regional action plan against the virus’s spread.

El Salvador’s leader isn’t the only one whose coronavirus measures have been eyed with suspicion.

“The whole Northern Triangle, as a region, came out of civil wars and recent histories of human rights abuses and autocratic governments,” says Geoff Thale, president of the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights advocacy organization. “They have all been moving slowly to rebuild democratic institutions and exercise checks and balances and political restraints.”

He says it’s “troubling” to see measures that look like the autocratic, unaccountable governance of the past, even if they may be necessary from a public health standpoint.

At this moment, the key is for governments to make their decisions “in the context of transparency, responsibility, and respect for democratic norms.”

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

Essay

4.Graduation, interrupted: A senior reflects on college’s abrupt end

No final lectures. Rushed farewells. No graduation – for now. For this college senior, it was jarring. But he's finding new lessons to be learned. 

-Amelia

基督科学箴言报 The Christian Science Monitor Daily - Thursday, March 26, 2020

Courtesy of Josh Eibelman

 

A graduating senior at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, Josh Eibelman recently moved home after most students were asked to leave the dorms. He is waiting for online classes to begin soon. The university says graduation is postponed, but it will happen.

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Snow was on the ground and graduation something to look forward to in May. To Josh Eibelman and his classmates at Cornell University in upstate New York, news of a coronavirus emerging in China this past winter seemed very far away. Suddenly, today the dorms are closed and students are scattered across the globe.

“An important and formative stage in my life had come to a sudden halt,” writes Josh. Some students heeded calls to socially distance almost immediately. But many, especially certain seniors, partied as hard as ever. Perhaps they refused to accept this new reality. Perhaps they grasped it faster than most and decided to put up one last fight against it.

As with many organizations and governments, the varying pace and degree of high-level decisions is resulting in lots of uncertainty for everyone else. “But then I reflect on the inspiring stories of health care workers putting themselves in harm’s way,” Josh writes,” dealing with medical supply shortages and unimaginable pressure. And I realize that there are heroes instilling in all of us a lesson in courage and kindness we would otherwise not get to learn in the lecture hall.”

DEEP READ

When I first read about the novel coronavirus in early January, it barely registered. As a graduating senior enjoying my final months at school in the small city of Ithaca, New York, I never imagined that a virus in China could affect me. But two months later, the pandemic brought my time at college to an abrupt end.

The crisis seemed to draw closer early this month when an outbreak erupted in Westchester County, New York, home to many fellow Cornell University students. Online classes were just a rumor among us at the time, as other colleges made the move. Then on March 10, Cornell announced a gradual transition to remote learning. Three days later came the shock that classes would be suspended immediately for three weeks, and students were asked to go home as soon as possible. I called my parents and we agreed they would pick up me and my four years of accumulated goods that Sunday.

Then it hit me: No graduation ceremony this spring. I had likely seen my friends, classmates, and professors all together for the last time. An important and formative stage in my life had come to a sudden halt.

[Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.]

Most students grieved, albeit in different ways. Some heeded calls to socially distance almost immediately. But many, especially certain seniors, partied as hard as ever. Perhaps they refused to accept this new reality. Perhaps they grasped it faster than most and decided to put up one last fight against it.

As with many organizations and governments, the varying pace and degree of high-level decisions is resulting in lots of uncertainty for everyone else. Selma Helal, a senior from Alexandria, Egypt, majoring in psychology, depends on her job as a laboratory research assistant to pay her living expenses and remain in Ithaca. The university suspended nonessential research activity last week.

“It has been especially confusing since it has been emphasized that it is not safe to travel at this time,” says Ms. Helal. “Not only am I afraid to further spread the virus to my family and others, but I am also running the risk of not knowing when or if I’ll be able to return to the U.S.” Thankfully, she says, Cornell has begun working with her so that she can keep her job.

While some students felt safer remaining in Ithaca, others wanted to return home. Adam Shapiro, a senior from Canada in Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, worried about a lockdown in Ithaca or the closing of the U.S.-Canada border (nonessential travel was indeed banned on both sides last Wednesday). “While I undoubtedly wish I could have spent the next two months in Ithaca as a senior, I am thankful to be in good health and comfort back in Montreal,” he says in a text message.

Students are able to see the bright side. Elise Viz, a senior mechanical engineering major from a suburb outside Chicago says that “other than being sad, confused, and a bit disappointed, I also found myself strangely excited. I was happy to go home to my family because I am very close with them and living so far away from them at Cornell really weighed on me at times.”

On my last Saturday in Ithaca, a friend and I toured Cornell’s beautiful campus for what’s likely to be the last time in a while. We went inside the gorgeous Sage Chapel, with its Tiffany stained-glass windows. We crossed the main quad and took some final photos. I said goodbye to the view of Ithaca from Libe Slope. At an outdoor a capella concert, my friend and I agreed to meet when the pandemic is over.

基督科学箴言报 The Christian Science Monitor Daily - Thursday, March 26, 2020

 

Alfredo Sosa/Staff/File

 

Students walk in the Cornell University campus on Aug. 29, 2017, in Ithaca, New York. Like many college students, Cornell's will be finishing the semester remotely.

Now, more than a week after much of the student body has dispersed around the world, students are bound by their shared struggles.

Aidan Mahoney, a sophomore studying atmospheric science, is staying in Ithaca because his hometown in Westchester County is experiencing a major coronavirus outbreak. “I sing with the Cornell Glee Club, which is now silent for the first time since World War II,” he explains. The club’s only academic year hiatus was 1943-45. “Our rehearsals and concerts were platforms to share music with the Cornell and Ithaca communities, but most importantly each other,” he says.

Back home, I am happy to be able to social distance with family. But before online classes begin, I’m thinking about the senior year memories I will never get to make. About my grandparents, who are particularly vulnerable now. About the tanking economy and my future.

I learned recently that the class of 2020 would, indeed, have a college graduation in Ithaca. No one knows whether those celebrations might have to be postponed for months, or years. It is hard not to be discouraged.

But then I reflect on the inspiring stories of health care workers putting themselves in harm’s way on the front lines of this pandemic, dealing with medical supply shortages and unimaginable pressure. And I realize that there are heroes instilling in all of us a lesson in courage and kindness we would otherwise not get to learn in the lecture hall.

Josh Eibelman is a senior at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. You can follow him on Twitter at @JoshEibelman.

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

On Film

5.Children’s films to delight the whole family

Sharing more screen time with family these days? Film critic Peter Rainer offers his latest list of comfort flicks, reminding us in the process that movies meant for kids can also charm the young at heart. 

-Amelia

基督科学箴言报 The Christian Science Monitor Daily - Thursday, March 26, 2020

Films Monsouris/Newscom

 

"The Red Balloon" (1956) directed by Albert Lamorisse.

DEEP READ

The best children’s movies work equally well for grown-ups. Almost nothing is more inspiriting than seeing a great movie as a wide-eyed youngster and then, years later, rewatching it as an adult and experiencing the same joy all over again. The experience is validating, as if, despite all we may have lived through, there remains within us that same astonished child. For this latest column of comfort movies, I thought I would single out three of my favorites, all readily accessible, that both fulfill the children’s movie genre and triumphantly transcend it.

[Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.]

“The Red Balloon”

Albert Lamorisse’s 1956 “The Red Balloon” is so firmly entrenched in the timeless classic category that it may come as a shock to revisit it and realize it’s every bit as marvelous as you remembered. To see the film in the company of a child who has never seen it before is a special blessing. Few children’s movies have elicited as much instant love. In fact, I suspect “The Red Balloon” is one of the rare movies that could justifiably lay claim to creating movie lovers for life. (“E.T.” is certainly another one, and I’ll get to a few of the others in a moment.)

At a brisk 34 minutes, with almost no dialogue, “The Red Balloon” manages to encompass a vast swath of childhood experience without seeming in any way overladen or overblown. It has the logic, and the lyricism, of a fanciful child’s dream, and yet the film is rooted in the very real world of post-war France – specifically the gray, drab neighborhood of Ménilmontant on the outskirts of Paris.

The plot, at least in the telling, is simple: A little boy of perhaps 6 (played by the director’s son Pascal) is mysteriously befriended by a big lollipop-red helium balloon that floats above him everywhere. Its shiny redness rebukes the neighborhood’s grayness. It follows him to school (the headmaster is not amused), to his home (his mother is even less amused), and to church (where boy, balloon, and mom are shown the door). In one of the film’s most magical scenes, the boy passes a little girl on the sidewalk with a big blue balloon and, for a brief, romantic moment, both balloons enact a little midair duet. (An added grace note: The little girl is played by Lamorisse’s daughter, Sabine.)

Lamorisse doesn’t deny the frights of childhood. When a gang of schoolyard bullies brings down the balloon, the scene for me was as sorrowful as that moment in “Cast Away” when Tom Hanks is irreparably separated from “Wilson,” the soccer ball that is also his sole desert island companion. But all is blissfully righted in the final scene, as thousands of balloons are suddenly released into the air, wafting the little boy high into the sky. It’s a poetically perfect ending to a perfect movie. (Unrated)

“The Black Stallion”

Equal in entrancement to Lamorisse’s masterpiece is Carroll Ballard’s 1979 “The Black Stallion,” a ravishing rendition of the Walter Farley novel. Kelly Reno plays Alec, who is shipwrecked on a deserted island with the magnificent Arabian stallion he dubs “The Black.” The oceanside scene where they warily warm to each other, shot by cinematographer Caleb Deschanel in glimmering shafts of reflected light, is peerless. Rescued, brought back home, boy and horse are inseparable. A retired jockey, played by Mickey Rooney in his finest performance, sets them up for the heart-pounding big race that closes out the film. From first image to last, Ballard sustains the story with surpassing grace. No other film has captured quite so well the transcendent bond that can exist between people and the animals they love. (Rated G)

“A Little Princess”

I would be remiss if I finished out this column without mentioning “A Little Princess,” Alfonso Cuarón’s 1995 adaptation of the Frances Hodgson Burnett novel that had earlier been filmed with Shirley Temple. On its simplest level, it’s about little darlings in a Victorian gothic girls’ boarding school in 1914, but it soon turns into a resplendent fantasia. I championed the film when it came out, writing that “the filmmakers want us to perceive the fundament of magic in the everyday, and how that magic can sustain one’s spirit.” For children of all ages, there is no better time for this film than now. (Rated G)

These films are available for rent from Amazon’s Prime Video and iTunes. “The Black Stallion” and “A Little Princess” can also be rented from Google Play. “The Red Balloon” may also be borrowed through some public library systems with Kanopy.

The Monitor's View

Trading handguns for hand wipes

TWO WAYS TO READ THE STORY

QUICK READ

In a plea last Monday, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres asked armed groups around the world to call an immediate cease-fire in their hot conflicts. “The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war,” he said. Indeed, the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic does put a clarifying perspective on all human differences.

By Thursday, rebel forces in at least four countries – the Philippines, Syria, Yemen, and Libya – had heeded the call. The coronavirus has reached most conflict zones in the world’s poorest countries, putting everyone on a level playing field.

In effect, these militia groups decided to trade handguns for hand wipes and don humanitarian hats for military helmets. Some also welcomed outside medical aid for both themselves and the noncombatants around them.

At a deeper level, the change of heart reflects what Mr. Guterres calls “a clear conscience emerging.” By continuing to fight, armed groups are aiding the spread of the virus. The health emergency compels a “lockdown” on war, he said, so that everyone can “focus together on the true fight of our lives.”

DEEP READ

 

In a plea last Monday, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres asked armed groups around the world to call an immediate cease-fire in their hot conflicts. “The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war,” he said. Indeed, the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic does put a clarifying perspective on all human differences.

By Thursday, rebel forces in at least four countries – the Philippines, Syria, Yemen, and Libya – had heeded the call. The coronavirus has reached most conflict zones in the world’s poorest countries, putting everyone on a level playing field.

In effect, these militia groups decided to trade handguns for hand wipes and don humanitarian hats for military helmets. Some also welcomed outside medical aid for both themselves and the noncombatants around them.

At a deeper level, the change of heart reflects what Mr. Guterres calls “a clear conscience emerging.” By continuing to fight, armed groups are aiding the spread of the virus. The health emergency compels a “lockdown” on war, he said, so that everyone can “focus together on the true fight of our lives.”

 

U.N. humanitarian programs reach some 100 million people, many of them stuck in conflict areas and living in crowded camps. Arranging local cease-fires is part of the job of international aid groups so they can deliver food, water, shelter, and health services. The U.N. call for a global cease-fire in all conflicts may be a first. It reflects both the widespread health threat and an international norm to protect innocent life in the midst of war.

Armed groups often must bend to the ideals of the people they claim to represent. A poll of Palestinians, for example, shows that two-thirds support cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In Gaza, Hamas has released a video of its fighters using hoses to spray disinfectant.

Besides seeking a cease-fire, Mr. Guterres also asked wealthy countries to provide $2 billion to aid in fighting the virus. In addition, the crisis has led a few countries to temporarily set aside their differences. Colombia and Venezuela had the first official contact in over a year during a teleconference on a joint health response. The United Arab Emirates has airlifted aid to hard-hit Iran. President Donald Trump has offered aid to North Korea.

“The scale of the outbreak creates room for humanitarian gestures between rivals,” states a brief by the International Crisis Group. Or as Mr. Guterres put it, a clear conscience is emerging among people bent on conflict.

A Christian Science Perspective

Certainty in uncertain times

QUICK READ

When life’s storms roar, sometimes it can seem the only certainty is uncertainty. But turning to God, the unchangingly loving Principle of the universe, opens the door to progress and healing.

DEEP READ

I’ve heard it said that the one thing you can count on is that you can’t count on anything. The changing uncertainties of human existence would tend to support such a sentiment. But are chaos and variableness really the foundation of existence, or is there another, more reliable Principle we can base our lives on?

I grew up singing a hymn from the 1932 “Christian Science Hymnal” that has pointed my thought to the divine Principle that is God. The hymn begins:

In heavenly Love abiding,
No change my heart shall fear;
And safe is such confiding,
For nothing changes here.
The storm may roar without me,
My heart may low be laid;
But God is round about me,
And can I be dismayed?
(No. 148, Anna L. Waring)

At first glance this may just seem comforting, but I’ve found the message is so much more than that – it’s affirmative and powerful. What a startling concept: “no change my heart shall fear … for nothing changes here.” Where is this “here” where nothing changes? The hymn states it right up front: “In heavenly Love,” which is another name for God.

Christian Science explains that God isn’t a person who sits on a throne in the clouds picking and choosing who to listen to and what to fix. God is the Principle of the universe – fixed, stable, perfect, and constant. The Bible assures us of the allness and onlyness of God. The whole of existence is one infinite Principle, divine Mind, and its manifestation: man and the universe, not based in matter, but entirely spiritual and flawless. Mary Baker Eddy writes in the textbook of Christian Science, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “The Christlike understanding of scientific being and divine healing includes a perfect Principle and idea, – perfect God and perfect man, – as the basis of thought and demonstration” (p. 259).

But what about life’s storms that roar around us? We can’t be simplistic about this. And it’s not appropriate to pretend nothing needs to be solved when humanity is crying out for healing. But dealing with problems, no matter how huge they might seem, does not require us to ignore divine Principle. Actually, an even greater reliance on this unchanging Principle opens the door to progress and healing.

 

What I am learning is that such situations don’t actually present another version of truth or reality, but are distortions or misinterpretations of the one and only Truth, or God. All the while, the spiritual reality is what is seen from the standpoint of divine Mind, God, rather than from the limited viewpoint of our physical senses: life as entirely spiritual, and God’s care for His spiritual sons and daughters as unlimited and eternal.

Applying these truths in our daily lives takes a willingness to give up our own view of things and to let God be the interpreter of God’s own universe. Science and Health explains: “The divine Principle of the universe must interpret the universe. God is the divine Principle of all that represents Him and of all that really exists. Christian Science, as demonstrated by Jesus, alone reveals the natural, divine Principle of Science” (p. 272).

I have had countless examples of the healing effects of prayerful yielding to God’s viewpoint. One such occasion was years ago when I was experiencing pain in my chest. As I prayed over several days, affirming that God is the immortal Life of all and each of us is the spiritual expression of that Life, the pain lessened.

But one afternoon the pain suddenly became intense. At that moment I felt a great mental shift, a clearer recognition of God as Life. I was filled with a certainty that God alone causes and takes care of life. The pain stopped instantly and never returned.

What certainty and comfort there is in realizing that what we see through physical sense is not the fixed fact about God and God’s children! Yes, we may have to practice yielding to God’s view of the universe in order to more consistently see evidence of divine harmony, but we always have a God-given capability to do this. Our lives and our livelihoods are immovably fixed in Principle, divine Love, whose goodness is unshakable. With this knowledge (even in small degree), we can be up and running to meet life’s challenges with grace and healing humility.

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Some like it hot

基督科学箴言报 The Christian Science Monitor Daily - Thursday, March 26, 2020

 

Laurent Gillieron/Keystone/AP

 

Heaters keep apricot trees in blossom warm in the middle of the Swiss Alps, in Saxon, Canton of Valais, Switzerland, March 26, 2020. When the temperature drops below freezing on cold spring nights, fruit trees are sprayed with water to protect them.
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