On the first day of school in Guilford County, the countywide software solution to distance learning crashed when everybody tried to log on at 9 a.m.

In Chapel Hill, clusters of COVID-19 outbreaks in dormitories and a fraternity — all but two of the Sigma Nus in residence tested positive, according to the Daily Tar Heel — necessitated an emergency meeting on Monday, with the rest of the semester hanging in the balance. All classes have moved online. Another cluster at an NC State off-campus residence put that school on notice.

COVID-19 is ravaging our jails and our assisted-living communities. It’s running through our factories, our restaurants, our churches. It comes with a cost.

We have given up so much this summer: live music, movie theaters, block parties, street festivals, family reunions, travel, weddings, live sports… all those things. It’s affected how we live, but also why we live, as those things we enjoy so often involve being around others.

It’s disrupted everything. And if we’re being real, we must acknowledge that there’s no end in sight.

But how did this pandemic catch us so flat-footed? It was almost as is no one ever asked the question before: What if we get a super-virus that causes a global pandemic? What then?

Seriously, there’s got to be at least 50 movies and hundreds of pieces of post-apocalyptic fiction that posit this very premise. Surely some government agency somewhere on the planet made a playbook for this. Right?

The short answer is: Yes. New Zealand had one and famously defeated the virus a couple months ago, going 102 days without a new case — until this week, when a new cluster of cases was discovered in Auckland.

The United States had a plan, too. Barack Obama created a Pandemic Response Team and a playbook for just this sort of thing, which the current administration totally ignored.

Still — that doesn’t explain the lack of preparedness in local government, higher education, manufacturing and even healthcare, which has been strained for resources from the beginning.

We weren’t set up for this, because so much of what we do involves being together in large groups. We weren’t ready for this, which has been obvious from the start, because we never allowed for the possibility.

And now, five months into the global coronavirus pandemic, a vaccine far on the horizon and our battle losses mounting, we still don’t know what to do.

Join the First Amendment Society, a membership that goes directly to funding TCB‘s newsroom.

We believe that reporting can save the world.

The TCB First Amendment Society recognizes the vital role of a free, unfettered press with a bundling of local experiences designed to build community, and unique engagements with our newsroom that will help you understand, and shape, local journalism’s critical role in uplifting the people in our cities.

All revenue goes directly into the newsroom as reporters’ salaries and freelance commissions.

⚡ Join The Society ⚡