We are at war. The actual combat began in January 2020. A declaration of war was not made by Congress as required by the United States Constitution. But virtually every member of the House of Representatives and the Senate, along with the President, has publicly asserted America is at war with COVID-19. Almost 90,000 of us have paid the ultimate price and almost 1.5 million are causalities. Many more losses are predicted.
While wars of any description are great stressors on people, our enemy in this war is truly virulent. If we were fighting another country we would know where to direct our fear and fire. With the Coronavirus we cannot even identify our enemy without a microscope and it is not wearing a uniform. Further, it often attacks us by attaching itself to casual social contacts, businesses, friends and even our loved ones. COVID-19 is a Mata Hari’s dream. Few are immune from its invidious, silent, unseen and sometimes deadly infection and even those who suffer no ill effects themselves can operate as Typhoid Marys.
Another major stressor people feel from the virus is the uncertainty we experience from the fear there is no end in sight. Most people can muster enough courage to combat major stressors if it is fairly certain they will end, even if that end is far off. However, with COVID our scientists keep cautioning us that we may never find a vaccine. After all, the first polio outbreak in America was in 1894 and we did not have a reliable vaccine until 1953.
In our war against COVID-19 we have already been in live-fire combat for at least two months. An official United States government report on battle fatigue among American soldiers in World War II declared:
“There is no such thing as getting used to combat.
“The general consensus was that a man reached his peak of effectiveness in the
first 90 days of combat [and] that after that his efficiency began to fall off …”
“Psychiatric casualties are as inevitable as gunshot and shrapnel wounds …”
“Most men were ineffective after 180 or even 140 days.”
As cited in John Keegan’s The Face of Battle at p. 335
America’s “Combat Exhaustion” over our war with COVID-19 is manifesting itself throughout the United States. A majority of Americans still fear the virus more than they question our multilayed, hodgepodge governmental response to it, whether federal, state, county or local. However, the stress of only 60 days or so of fighting the virus is already exposing fissures in our good will toward one another. Unless we come up with a successful Manhattan Project type response to the virus fairly soon perhaps we should develop some new strategies.