BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Here we are, a little over three months since counter-disease-spreading measures were implemented in the U.S. (of course some countries started sooner and others later) to stem the tide of the COVID-19 virus. Now, with an increase in the number of cases worldwide (in the U.S. some part the uptick is attributable to the demonstrations that were held after the police murder of George Floyd, but too much should not be made of this factor relative to the insufficiently cautious re-opening of the economy).
Unfortunately, developments since then have been decidedly mixed. Some people have over-reacted – e.g. driving around with a mask on while ALONE in their cars. A “middle” group doesn’t seem to understand fully what they’re supposed to do and why, e.g. having a mask on with only the mouth covered but nose exposed. Others have under-reacted, choosing to believe this threat to humanity is a “scam-demic”. The latter category of people, understandably so, are much more lax when it comes to implementing precautionary measures – masks, social distancing, proper attention to hygienic practices (hand-washing, cleaning/disinfecting), etc. But in so doing, they are endangering lives, in particular those of people in the groups at highest risk: the elderly, immuno-compromised, obese, various pre-existing conditions.
Unfortunately, this reckless behavior extends to our homeland in a BIG way. For this, I can only place blame squarely on the government for not acting in a way that conveys to the citizens the threat they face. While the initial step of closing the border with Iran was a good one, since then, the record has been spotty. People in the Republic of Armenia are have not grasped the severity of the situation. Proof? Take a look at the accompanying table. The RoA has the eleventh highest infection rate (in per-capita terms) in the world! In the table, which reflects data through June 18, I’ve included our neighboring countries and a few others with large Armenian populations, along with the highest and lowest “title” holders. This is embarrassing and deadly for us. It’s time to shape up.
Once again, the ARF-family of organizations is coming to the support of our homeland. This time, it is the Armenian Youth Federation leading the charge with a fundraiser called “CovAID Armenia” which will deliver necessities to the villages of the country suffering from the pandemic. Please make a contribution.
An extension of the lack of caution in the homeland is evident in our communities, too. If in Yerevan interviewees asked about their thoughts regarding the pandemic respond with pointless macho bravado about their mis-perceived invulnerability, in Glendale, the usual crowd hanging out at the Starbucks on Glenoaks Blvd. abutting the Jons supermarket are equally (masklessly) foolhardy. On one occasion, I remarked to them that they should be ashamed of their behavior since we don’t need another genocide, this time self-inflicted.
On the positive side, our organizations continue to NOT meet in person and are using online platforms, video/audio conferencing. These are annoying, but necessary, although they tend to exclude our oldest compatriots whose technology-savvy is not up to the task.
Personally, as a Los Angeles city employee, I have been called up as a “disaster service worker” (it’s part of the job that one accepts along with employment). I have worked at a converted recreation center that housed homeless people, later in various motels/hotels also housing the homeless during this period, and most recently at a COVID test site (Dodger Stadium). The work isn’t rocket science by any measure, but it is important to help reduce the impact of the pandemic.
On the outdoors front, when various park agencies reopened their lands about six weeks ago, the trailheads were incredibly full. Everyone seemed to have cabin fever. This seems to have abated in the last two weeks. It’s good to see people getting out, and for the most part practicing the necessary safety measures. I go to places that receive very few hikers/riders. For example, my most recent hike, I saw all of to other people over the course of the 11-ish miles my friend and I hiked!
Please continue to take the simple, yet extremely necessary, precautionary measures necessary in these pandemic times and also, don’t forget to support the AYF’s CovAID Armenia effort.
In the companion article in Asbarez, http://asbarez.com/194833/fighting-covid-19-in-armenia/, author Raffi Kendirjian says “a major factor in the rise of COVID-19 in Armenia is behavioral, as the average citizen seems to have only recently realized that the virus is real, and despite this realization, many continue to ignore the authorities’ calls to wear masks and ignore social distancing guidelines that are essential to slowing down the spread of the virus”. This is the exact same behavior we see her in the Glendale stores, where a polite request for someone to raise their mask may be met with scorn or an argument, or a diatribe about 5G towers.
As Armenians, we have to realize that this is our make-or-break moment. We have to put aside politics as usual and rally around the science. No one will save our country if political infighting causes gridlockck in the streets or fistfights in Parliament, or if digs by opposition parties undermine the government’s efforts. The Turkish wolves remain at the door and our (currently) healthy armed forces are the only thing that stands in the way.