It's the end of the third week in July and summer has finally arrived.
While the first part of this week was just hot, the second half of the week and especially this Shabbat weekend will turn noticeably hotter. It will be a good time to get wet and stay wet, although there will be some observing the Nine Days prior to the 9th of Av who won't go swimming no matter how hot it is. These folks will need to stay in the shade or indoors. Fortunately, the heat is expected to break Wednesday night of next week, as the fast commences.
It's been a busy time here in Israel, if not elsewhere, where the number of Coronavirus cases has more than tripled over the last month. How did it happen?
Speaking from my experience here, I can tell you that the increase in cases occurred for the following reasons.
1) People did not wear masks nor keep their distance from others.
2) The new government opened schools, did not require that masks be worn at schools during the week of the heatwave in May, and did not enforce mask wearing thereafter.
3) The police did not enforce wearing masks.
4) The new government allowed crowds to fill buses.
5) Large public gatherings were allowed and private parties were held.
6) Government ministers did not set good examples for mask wearing and for not attending large social events.
7) But most of all, people did not wear masks nor keep their distance from others.
On my recent trip to the mall, I did notice a very large fraction of people properly wearing masks (covering their noses and mouth). However, there were some eating without masks (hard to eat with one) and some just not wearing their masks at all. Since the mall is a closed area, these people (parents and children) are likely to get sick, and then get those at home sick as well.
Now, as noted in the summary of Health Ministry statistics "Who has the virus and where did they catch it?," most people caught the virus at home, from another family member. Hence, the most dangerous place to be is the home! While technically true, one should keep in mind that the virus is not hovering like the boogeyman waiting to pounce as we're sleeping.
Rather, the virus takes advantage of stupidity (or just plain carelessness or bad luck). For instance, the statistics reported that 9.5% caught the virus at schools and 5.6% at event halls, followed closely by religious establishments at 4.8%. One can also become sick eating in restaurants and visiting bars (4%). The flip side, then, is that being outside or going to the pool or sports field are safer activities, with the sports field being the least safe of the three.
To repeat, how did we and other countries, such as the U.S., get to this situation? By not wearing masks and not keeping social distance. In fact, of those you see most often not wearing masks: 40% of those sick in Israel are between the ages of 10 to 30, and they also are making up a higher percentage of severe cases as their relative percentage of the total sick grows.
In contrast, the number of cases in European countries are way down. This is attributed to the continued banning of large gatherings, consistent testing and tracking of individuals,both while wearing masks and keeping social distancing. In Israel, the government focused its efforts on handing out extra ministries, giving our Prime Minister a tax break, blaming the populace, rather than its policies for a lack of economic and health planning.
So please, don't go out without a mask on — the life you save may be your own.
Dr. Lynn is a lecturer at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Earth Sciences Department. He is also CEO of Weather It Is, LTD, a company that specializes in reducing weather risk. Click here to read more of this writer’s work in The Jerusalem Herald.