Baltimore Mayor Jack Young is pleading with citizens to stop shooting each other so that hospitals will have the space and personnel available to treat people diagnosed with coronavirus.
Baltimore had five reported cases of coronavirus that have been confirmed as of this morning. Seven people were shot in a single Baltimore neighborhood last night. The Mayor said:
“For those of you who want to continue to shoot and kill people of this city, we’re not going to tolerate it,” Young implored. “We’re going to come after you and we’re going to get you.”
But, of course, this is exactly the way things should be when the city is not in crisis mode. We always should come after people who shoot people. But we don’t and there is an unspoken level of tolerance, inertia and hopelessness.
The Mayor’s words are also meaningless because, face it, law breakers who shoot each other don’t respond to empty rhetoric.
While we have seen so much that makes us proud of our fellow Americans since the coronavirus outbreak began, the virus is also showcasing social dysfunction that we tend to try not to see in normal times.
Baltimore should have done a better job of addressing crime in normal times. Abnormal times make the situation worse:
Young urged people to put down their guns because “we cannot clog up our hospitals and their beds with people that are being shot senselessly because we’re going to need those beds for people infected with the coronavirus. And it could be your mother, your grandmother or one of your relatives. So take that into consideration.”
Commissioner Michael Harrison said the city has seen an uptick in violent crimes since Friday, including a mass shooting Tuesday night — where seven people were shot. Five people were transported to area hospitals via medics and two took private cars to the hospitals for treatment. All seven are in serious but stable condition.
Homelessness on the scale that we now see it, especially in West Coast cities, also makes it harder to combat the coronavirus. We don’t really need to be told this, but The Hill nevertheless has a good summary of the situation:
Those who live on the streets or in shelters are uniquely at risk of catching any disease, and especially one as virulent as the coronavirus, said Maria Foscarinis, founder and executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. And if they do catch an infectious disease, they are likely to spread it more widely than someone who can distance themselves more easily from the rest of society.
“People who are homeless tend to have more health problems because of their homelessness. They are more exposed, so they are at higher risk,” Foscarinis said in an interview. “They are unable to self-quarantine. If you don’t have a home, you can’t stay in it. Therefore, the risk of contracting the disease increases, and people can also be transmitters of the disease.”
In recent years, the cramped quarters and unsanitary conditions in some homeless encampments have led to the spread of diseases that are unheard of in other parts of the country, like typhus and tuberculosis.
Homelessness is another problem thing we have been loath to address. In fact, many activists try to pretend that its cause is the lack of affordable housing rather than social dysfunction caused by mental illness, addiction and criminality. Refusing to see the root of the cause doesn’t help us or the homeless.
Theodore Dalrymple had a fascinating article about how social collapse in a Welsh town had contributed to police corruption and the inability to deal with a murder (itself the product of social dysfunction). Dignity, self-restraint, and self-respect were lacking. Everybody was sleeping with everybody, and even the children knew it.
There is no silver lining to something like the coronavirus.
But when we survive it—and we will—maybe we will have a renewed will to confront social dysfunctions that are making us less safe, in normal and most especially in abnormal times.