A local snapshot of the pandemic
Because this is a worldwide problem, I make no apology for quoting local statistics, as an elderly man with at least one "underlying" condition.
The local number of deaths in Palm Beach County continues to escalate, but according to the statistics experts, Palm Beach County's "rate of infection" at 7.9 percent is well below the "alarm" level, of ten percent. Neighboring Brevard County's rate is in the same range, while the epicenter of Florida infections, Miami, is closer to the ten percent mark.
In Florida, deaths in nursing homes still account for 50 percent of the COVID-19 fatalities statewide, and a whopping 85 percent of the deaths have been among those over the age of 65. Rates among blacks and hispanics are markedly higher among demographic racial groups.
Further, the percentage of those testing positive has plateaued or dropped. Of those who have been tested statewide, only 5.2 percent have received positive results.
The "positivity" rates throughout South Florida, which account for roughly 54 percent of all cases and deaths, have been dropping as well.
Without question, the police brutality demonstrations over the last two weeks have increased the numbers--and no "expert" to my knowledge has posited a guess as to how much.
Overall, in the United States
US Croquet clubs have resumed casual play for the most part, under local safety guidelines, and some are doing their usual tournaments this summer--but not many.
The USCA resumes its schedule of events in the fall at the National Croquet Center. In the meantime, members are free to play (after signing a liability waiver) observing "social distancing" and other rules, and an announcement yesterday was emailed to all members advertising "Thirsty Thursdays." The announcement invited "members only" to resume this popular club event--with drinks and pub food available, only the veranda, not in the clubhouse, which is still reserved for staff. Evening croquet and courts open will be open until seven PM.
Around the country, USCA events don't begin until September, with the Association Croquet National Championship at Chesapeake Bay Croquet Club. In October the National Croquet Center is calendared to resume a full schedule of events, including USCA schools, the Senior & Masters Championship, the Selection eights. Shall life, by then, be anywhere close to normal? We have yet to see.
The US death toll continues to rise unabated, having surpassed 110,000 early this week. On the previous Sunday after announcing that "all houses of worship" should be opened, the US president--a role model for his base, presumably--played golf. He never wears a mask, and always plays to his base of older, rural, less educated voters.
Three months (counting from early March, when the US began to take the pandemic seriously) is a long time, it turns out, for wage-earners on a short leash, as the pressure has built on government at every level to "re-open" public enterprises, private businesses, and sporting clubs.
No events requiring travel are currently planned at the National Croquet Center in West Palm Beach before October, when the normal round of events is expected to attract players from all over the United States, as usual. At the Center--which opened for play in early May--and other northern hemisphere facilities constrained by corporate legalities, players much sign a "waiver of responsibility" before play. Throughout North America, tournaments sanctioned by the USCA will begin in September, at the hosts' choosing. Some local clubs in the US are more aggressive in re-opening than others, including the eight-court Chesapeake Bay Croquet club, site of the USCA Association Nationals in mid-September. As in England, clubs are explicitly giving the responsibility for safety entirely to the players, subject to common-sense agreements. Some will require masks, most don't. All urge "social distancing."
Massive government bail-outs in many countries that are still insufficient to fill the gap. But there is always "the club," and it turns out that golf and croquet are two of the easiest sports to regulate for "safety." They are both already "socially distanced" as part of the rules. Nevertheless, many clubs, certainly including the corporate ones, require elaborate Liability Waivers players must sign before play.
English players allowed to return to their clubs
In England, croquet was one of eight sports given a governmental green light in mid-May, prompting them all--amidst the British version of political turmoil--to figure out what their stages of re-opening will require of members and of the public. Toy set sales in the UK had increased 600 percent in some reports, as many social pastimes are beyond the bounds of stay-at-homes, but croquet isn't, on the family lawn or even on the carpet.
According to the English Croquet Association's marketing director, at least 60 percent of England's croquet clubs were either open or planning to open soon. In America, where localities are deciding and managing pretty much everything as they please, the dominant consideration is the politically correct avoidance of "corporate responsibility" for potential harm.
In the Southern hemisphere, while associated South Africans now play mostly Golf Croquet, New Zealand and Australia have managed the incursion of the pandemic so well that they are considering a temporary "tourist alliance" to stimulate economic activity across the Tasman Sea, while restricting most foreign incoming travel indefinitely.
The Kiwis lead the way in fighting the pandemic
New Zealand's prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced her government would abandon all coronavirus restrictions after health officials confirmed the recovery of the country's last known Covid-19 case just days ago. Border restrictions will remain in place, meaning only New Zealanders and their families will be allowed to enter the country and must stay in government-run quarantine for a fortnight.
Jenny Clarke of the Kiwi United Club reported earlier this week, "I had a meeting in town today, so parked at our United Croquet Club. It was club day today and the place was packed with people enjoying our current covid-free status. Obviously we have to open up to the rest of the world at some stage, but we'll enjoy the current status."
Competitive play at croquet clubs in New Zealand and may be chilly in their winter, but it is now perfectly okay, with safeguards no longer needed.
A much-discussed "travel bubble" between Australia and New Zealand might eventuate in the near future, without quarantining, when the Ozzies achieve "a similar position" to New Zealand, with no active Covid-19 cases.
England loosens restrictions, despite warnings
With politics almost as erratic as the US, the British government is re-opening business and public enterprises in Britain in slow stages.
Kevin Carter announced that the seven-lawn Surbiton club will be resuming its tournament programme in July, with various restrictions in place and much speculation on the Nottingham Board as to whether only local tournaments should be done, to discourage incoming viral consequences. Nevertheless the announcement said, "Our first tournament will be our annual Summer Handicap on 4th-5th July."
The Nottingham Croquet Club appears to be among the most ambitious re-openers, and plan a previously calendared mid-July event which, however, does not have a flood of entries. James Death announced "availability" on the Nottingham Board on June 2 "We are aiming to run this event but we are currently short of entries. Nottingham GC C level 16th July 2020....Those interested with a GC handicap of 7+ drop me a line or enter via the CA site." The English Croquet Association's excellent and unusually active and successful "marketing director" estimates that "croquet tournaments can resume from July," alongside the expectation that the trend of lockdown easing will continue to early July.
The mask has become a political statement
The wearing of the mask has become an emblem of "liberal" politics in the US, with a president who adamantly refuses to wear a mask in all his encounters. While expert opinion varies on whether and when wearing the masks significantly affects the spread of the virus, experts confirm that the wearer uses the mask to protect other people. Which means that NOT wearing the mask can be interpreted as a sign of contempt, in a society now deeply polarized around apparently simple issues.
This writer has witnessed a couple of heated exchanges between mask-wearers and people who seem to regard wearing a mask as the act of a wimp. By declining to wear a mask in all his interactions, the country's chief executive encourages Libertarians as well as small-L libertarians to assert their god-given freedom by following his example.
And this despite the current evidence that the United States has counted more deaths from this virus than any other country in the world, as of early June. Epidemiologists say there is no question that the close proximity of thousands of bodies marching and chanting will produce a spike in the numbers. The only question is how big the spike will be.
Close proximity is only the beginning, according to one prominent epidemiologist: "They're yelling, screaming, and, of course, droplets are flying everywhere." Though most protests have been peaceful, some have entailed violent encounters with law enforcement. Tear gas and pepper spray make you cry, "they cause your nose and mouth to secrete mucus—all of which exacerbates spread of the virus. Tear gas can collect on masks, making them unbearable to wear. Some protesters are arrested and taken to jail, where rates of viral transmission are astronomical. Others wait at crowded bus stops or take the subway home, where the virus spreads to friends, neighbors, and family members."
Add all the polarizing political issues to this mix and you predict the additional danger that protesters will be blamed for the spike.
By the numbers, national and global
The statistics on the site we use lists countries according to their total number of reported cases, and begins with the United States, followed by Brazil, Russia, and Spain, in that order. (Many suspect that the "death" count in Russia, so out of proportion with the parallel statistics, is under-counted.)
The confirmed global coronavirus death toll surpassed 410,000 on Tuesday, June 10. The United States, with more than 2 million infections, accounts for more than a quarter of the official global death total, with more than 110,000 since the outbreak began.
The United Kingdom has the second highest fatality count at more than 40,000, followed by Brazil, Italy, and France. Case counts continue to climb steeply in several other countries, including Russia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Brazil is now adding around 25,000 new confirmed cases a day, more than the United States. Russia and India are not far behind, with 8,000 or so apiece.
All told, poorer countries account for some three-quarters of the 100,000 or so new cases detected around the world each day, and those poor countries are precisely the ones who cannot afford comprehensive testing. In Ecuador, when the system was overburdened, bodies were left in the street.
The politics of the virus
The Los Angeles police officers whose 1992 beating of Rodney King was clearly shown on video were acquitted, sparking an outrage in the largely black and Korean neighborhood soon to be vandalized. King's plaintive quote, "Why can't we all just get along?" remains as a tagline for an event repeated time after time in the US since then, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Trayvon Martin, shot in 2012 by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman; and recently a black jogger in Georgia. In each case, the damming evidence was video NOT shot by the police, but by a civilian spectator.
All of this happened at the apex of a pandemic sweeping the globe to which the US did not respond with alacrity.
In the United States, President Trump has been criticized by the Democrats for waiting much too long to take the virus seriously into account, and his recent behavior seems not to have benefited his poll numbers. Several incidents have highlighted the political divide, especially the "photo op" in front of a closed church, bible in hand. Later he appeared, most bizarrely, to invoke from heaven the favor of George Floyd, on "the fantastic job we're doing" with controlling the virus.
Prominent American conservative commentator George Will declared in a widely-published editorial that "Trump needs to be gone" from power, along with his "congressional enablers." But most Republican politicians at every level appear to be terrified of Trump's power to exact swift vengeance for any move that seems to run even slightly counter to his intentions.
Your response depends on who and where
How each person behaves in this pandemic will affect the eventual resolution of this unprecedented "emergency." No one will predict with certainty when an effective vaccine will emerge, but most experts say "not until 2021" at the earliest.
In the meantime, unless they are restrained by an outside force, many human beings will choose to re-enter the world they remember, take their chances, and behave approximately as "normal," while the most conservative of us will maintain indefinitely a stance of "safety" above all.
It could be that eventual "herd immunity" will occur, but no expert can say precisely when they would be or precisely how it is achieved.
Elderly people have the easiest choices, perhaps: They are the most vulnerable and can choose to sequester themselves indefinitely--prefereably in their own homes. In any kind of profit-making elder care facility in the United States, their lives are at huge risk.
Given all the uncertainty, many will say to themselves and explain to others, "I might as well play croquet."
The writer of this article was born in the Deep South in 1939, a white son of special privilege. His family's black servants behaved, along with his own family, he later realized, as they thought they needed to behave. In this famously "closed society," he never heard of "civil rights," and the sermons in his all-white church told him that god intended for the black man to serve the white man; and that slaves were intended by god to obey their masters. At the age of 13, he came to realize that the system he lived in was terribly skewed. He became a Radical Atheist and deeply questioned "the way things are," in both religion and in society.
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