COVID-19: ‘It isn’t over ‘til it’s over’

Yankee catcher Yogi Berra was known for his succinct observations; especially well-known is his comment about a baseball game when he noted that “it isn’t over ’til it’s over.”

He saw too many batters hit home runs in the last inning after the fans left in the seventh only to read in the morning paper that a Cleveland batter won the game on the last pitch.

So it is with COVID-19. Many people think the game is over when we’re still in the seventh inning so they’re leaving the game.

Many Yet To Die

Even though the professional health people are still advising masks, hand-washing and social distancing, street knowledge in bars, restaurants, theaters, churches and retailers are contradicting common sense judgment even though the lives of thousands of victims to be snuffed out. While many North Dakotans have bought into the idea that it’s just about over, COVID-19 is full of undiscovered implications. A variety of variants are threatening the vaccines every week and we can only speculate about variants still unknown. Or life-long chronic ailments could still manifest themselves.

Undoing Our Reputation

North Dakotas gained some credibility for a fast start to immunization but that fast start may be neutralized by the resistance of those yet to decide. According to a news report written and carried by the Forum newspapers, southwestern North Dakota may become the undoing of our reputation.

Even though some of the resistance can be charged to the recent presidential campaign in which Trump and Biden made COVID administration a big issue, the underlying character of North Dakota “political culture” is a major factor.

Southwestern North Dakota has always demonstrated the prairie heritage of rugged individualism. With COVID floating in every breath, this rugged individualism has been and will be costing lives.

Maybe it can be described best by considering the balance between the private good and the common good.

We create nations, states and communities to perform the public good – build the roads, enforce the laws, educate the kids, help the needy, etc. etc.

Private vs. Public

In America, the founders decided to have a limited national government, leaving the private sector with free rein in decision-making. In other words, our government stressed the private good over the common good.

Through the years, as the nation evolved the role of government evolved with it so that subsequent legislation tipped the balance toward the common good. However, the system still favors the private good.

Now we come to COVID-19, a national crisis requiring more common good which is difficult to rally when rugged individualists place their private wants ahead of the public good.

Every suggestion to respond to COVID by government action has been condemned as socialism, another catch word that has lost its value as part of the English language.

High Level of Mistrust

The balance between the private and common goods varies across the state, with the counties west of the Missouri favoring the private good at the expense of the public good.

The Forum article reported a high level of mistrust west of the river, mistrust to the level of paranoia. This suspicion has mushroomed in recent years because our public dialogue has been clouded by misinformation. Without grounding in public affairs, many citizens don’t know who to trust.

It has been very difficult fighting the COVID in this atmosphere of doubt and suspicion. To be successful in fighting COVID-19 to a conclusion, it is clear that we will have to surrender some private good to the common good. Without trust, that will be a slow process.

P.S. We owe corporate and business America gratitude because they saved thousands of lives by making facemasks a qualification for shopping. Many of the “individualists” would never have masked voluntarily.

Lloyd Omdahl is a former lieutenant governor of North Dakota and former political science professor at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today