In other words, attending mass through virtual reality enables one to join digitally with others for spiritual nourishment. The danger here is the distractions posed by

Will life in America return to normal by Memorial Day this year?

See this map;

See all the red areas. Those are the places where people were not practicing social distancing last week. Living life as usual and acting like nothing was wrong.

Covid-19 is in all of those areas. The numbers are low now but Covid-19 is a stealthy virus. People typically become infectious within 3–5 days of infection and if their symptoms are mild or nonexistent they are infectious for up to 27 days. People who have serious cases typically don’t show up in a hospital for 12–14 days after being infected. This virus really spreads beneath the surface and then flares up with massive numbers of sick and dying people.

The John’s Hopkins Coronavirus map shows how the virus is spreading across the country along the interstate highways and the state highways and roads. Everyplace there is a gas station or an open diner is seeing cases show up. Once it gets into an area it will start spreading, the only question is “how fast” or “how slow”. If people in your area, are really good about practicing social distancing, it will be a slow burn of cases and your local hospitals might be able to handle the load. If social distancing fails then the health care system in your area is probably going to become dysfunctional for awhile.

Right now, the areas that people were moving around “like normal” are about 30 days behind where New York is now. The dying from this has barely started. There is no possible way this is going to be over by Memorial Day.

Update April 8th

Here are two additional maps indicating how the virus is spreading across rural America.

This is the reported cases by county on March 26th, the same week that the map above measured people’s cell phone locations to assess where people were staying at home and moving around.

The orange counties in Idaho, Utah, and Colorado all represent outbreaks in counties with skiing resorts. A ski event in Idaho earlier in the month resulted in more than a hundred attendees and dozens of health care workers falling ill.

This next map shows the number of reported cases April 6th, 10 days later.

As you can see, Covid-19 is spreading rapidly across rural America. The coronavirus has officially reached more than two-thirds of the country’s rural counties, with one in 10 reporting at least one death.

With 42 states now urging people to stay at home, the last holdouts are the Republican governors of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Arkansas. Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota has suggested that the stricter measures violated personal liberties, and she said her state’s rural character made it better positioned to handle the outbreak.

Coronavirus illnesses and deaths are still overwhelmingly concentrated in cities and suburbs, and new rural cases have not exploded at the same rate as in some cities. But they are growing fast. This week, the case rate in rural areas was more than double what it was six days earlier.

Keep in mind that there is a 10–14 day lag between people getting infected and showing up in a clinic or hospital. After they are tested (if they are tested, the testing kit shortage is still acute) there can be up to a 10 day wait to get results. So, these numbers actually represent a snapshot of what was happening in rural counties about 3 weeks ago.

What that means is that cases in rural counties are likely to soar for the next 10–14 days before the widespread adoption of social distancing and business closures begins to show up in the curves. A case study of the virus’s spread is Mangum, Okla., a town of 6,000 in the western part of the state. In Mangum, it all started with a visit. A pastor from Tulsa appeared at a local church, but got sick shortly thereafter and became the state’s first Covid-19 fatality.

Then somebody at the local church started to feel unwell — a person who eventually tested positive for coronavirus.

“Then it was just a matter of time,” said Mangum’s mayor, Mary Jane Scott. Before realizing they were infected, several people who eventually tested positive for the virus had moved about widely through the city, including to the local nursing home, which now has a cluster of cases.

Over all in the town, there are now three deaths and 26 residents who have tested positive for the coronavirus — one of the highest infection rates in rural America.

A number of the comments posted have suggested that the physical distances and low population density found in many rural counties would prevent Covid-19 from gaining a foothold in these areas. The data indicates that this may have been wishful thinking. What is needed now is a massive surge of federal support into these areas. Because, while these areas may not have the number of cases and deaths per 100,000 that are being measured in urban areas, the healthcare resources are often minimal. Only 10% of America’s doctors practice in a rural area. They are about to be overwhelmed.

The WH Coronavirus model may be indicating that the death toll is likely to be less than expected but a lot of that is due to the success of the “shelter in place” policies in CA, WA, and NY which seem to be working. It is starting to look like fewer people may die than the “worst case” numbers of a few weeks ago but this is hardly over. All of the places that were slow to adopt lockdown and shutdown policies are just starting to see the ramp up in cases and deaths. Plus, locations that ease up and try to “reopen for business” may see the virus come surging back.

So, even with the hopeful numbers in the estimated final projected deaths I still do not think this is going to be over by Memorial Day.

FINAL UPDATE: April 27th

This will be my last update on this question because in a few more weeks the answer will be obvious to everyone.

Amazingly, there are people who think that we are almost finished with the Covid-19 pandemic. Vice President Mike Pence said he thinks the U.S. coronavirus outbreak could be over by the nation’s Memorial Day holiday on May 25.

“I truly do believe that if we all continue to do that kind of social distancing and other guidance broadly from federal and state officials, that we’re going to put this coronavirus in the past,” Pence said on Geraldo Rivera’s radio show this past Friday. “I believe by early June we’re going to see our nation largely past this epidemic.”

It’s not clear what data this statement is based on but it reflects the fervent hopes and desires of millions of Americans who have shelter at home fatigue and are in economically dire straits. In state after state, Governors have decided to act as if this is true and begin reopening their states for business. Although they universally have piously stated, “that anyone who doesn’t feel safe should stay home”. The reality is that once the statewide shelter at home orders are lifted workers will not be eligible for unemployment benefits if their employer reopens and calls them back to work. Which means that for millions of Americans in those states the choice will be between staying home with no government assistance or risking infection for a job and a paycheck.

So, what’s really likely to happen. Is this going to be over by Memorial Day?

Lets look at the state of Georgia. Their governor was very slow to impose a “shelter at home” mandate and, in his plan to reopen businesses this week, is being very aggressive about getting people back to work. Is this decision justified? This map of the continuing spread of Covid-19 in the state would seem to indicate that it is not:

Clearly, Covid-19 has spread to almost every county in the state over the last six weeks. Covid-19 is not “contained” in the state of Georgia, it is everywhere. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, the rate of new infections has also not declined;

Which means that social distancing practices in Georgia have still not reached the level required to “flatten the curve” and bring down the daily number of new infections. Experts have argued that the target for relaxing statewide shutdowns should be about 20 new daily cases for every million residents. This is regarded as a “controllable” level that won’t force a state back into shut down mode. Over the past week, Georgia has had an average daily rate of 74 new cases per million residents.

Governor Kemp’s rush to reopen is especially puzzling given that Georgia was one of the first states to have a “super-spreader” incident of the coronavirus. On Feb. 29, hundreds of people gathered in the city of Albany to remember Andrew Jerome Mitchell, a retired janitor. In the following weeks, it became clear that someone at the funeral had been a carrier of coronavirus. Entire families fell ill and dozens died as the infection spread through the area. In some of the counties surrounding Albany, almost as many people have died from coronavirus since mid-March as died from heart disease, cancer and all other causes combined over the same period in 2018.

Even worse is the growing realization of what are the mortality risk factors for Covid-19. While public health officials and researchers still haven’t nailed down exactly how underlying conditions can make Covid-19 infections more dangerous, studies have pointed out the large numbers of gravely ill patients with underlying health problems. The Georgia Department of Public Health in fact lists diabetes and heart and lung disease as potential risk factors for dying of Covid-19.

Georgia looks like a giant hotspot on maps of all three of those conditions, with communities in the southern part of the state showing especially high incidence rates. The state ranks 19th in share of adults with lung disease, 15th in heart disease, and roughly 1 in 8 have diabetes;

If Covid-19 continues it’s spread throughout the state thousands will be risking infection and possible death in the next month.

Many have argued, “my body, my choice” and tried to spin this as an issue of “personal freedom”. However, Covid-19 is extremely infectious. It is becoming more and more clear that it is at least as infectious as smallpox and possibly as infectious as measles, some of the most infectious viruses known. If you work in an enclosed environment long enough, with someone who is infected, you almost certainly will get infected. Masks will slow it down but for something this infectious they will not stop it. Unless you are in full protective gear (face shield, mask, gloves, and gown) if you are exposed to enough Covid-19 carriers you will get infected.

Covid-19’s “best case” mortality rate is about 0.5% or five times worse than the flu. Which makes it much deadlier. I want to emphasize that this is a new virus and we know very little about it and conversely the virus knows nothing about us. We are a completely new host for it and it is showing itself to be a “rough beast” of a virus. It attacks the human body in a lot of ways. Here’s a graphic I found in Science showing the various ways the virus can affect a person:

I have noticed that there is a certain amount of fatalism among people under 40 that their odds of dying from the virus are low. So perhaps it is better to get it and be done with it, rather than practice social distancing and accept the changes in their lifestyle that causes (no sports, no restaurants, no movies, etc). With so little known about the virus this is really dangerous thinking. Maybe you have a “mild” case and don’t even notice it, but maybe you are unlucky and have a serious case that causes you permanent lung damage. We don’t know what the real risks of this virus are now and over time. You could be “fine” for months and then drop dead from a massive stroke because a recurrence of the virus caused a blood clot six months later. Do you really want to be a Guinea pig?

So, what’s likely to happen in Georgia between now and Memorial Day? Despite what VP Pence and Governor Kemp say I don’t think there is any possible scenario where this is over and in the rear view mirror by then. I think there is going to be a massive uptick in new cases and deaths in Georgia and in all of the other states that are loosening restrictions and prodding people to “get back to work” right now. In a few weeks we will know.