First recorded by Roger Boyle, the Earl of Orrery, in his 1677 writing A Treatise of the Art of War, the phrase “front line” referred to the forward most part of an army, at which point it might be engaged by the enemy. The term was made gruesomely popular by the trench warfare of the First World War.

We are used to seeing photography from the frontline of a war zone. We feel a personal connection with our troops, even though they are thousands of miles distant. This bond exists because of our belief that their fight keeps us safe.

Battling COVID-19 as it spreads across the globe has been referred to in terms of war. But public reaction to that analogy is as failed as the American strategy for dealing with the health crisis. In military terms, the Trump administration’s failure to act and subsequent lies and disinformation about the emergency have been a bigger disaster than Pearl Harbor and 9/11 combined. The sheer denial and lack of action would put it as a military campaign at the level of the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Milwaukee is no different than any city in any other part of America, the impact of the problem only becomes real when friends or family get infected. Until then, it is a distant problem for someone else. Except, the coronavirus is humanity’s problem. Because some states refuse to issue sheltering orders, the populations of other states suffer as a result. Florida, for example, let Spring Break continue and only recently closed its beaches, but not before allowing countless visitors and tourists travel across the country and spread the contagion.

The problems at the epicenter in New York have not yet been felt in Milwaukee. If we are lucky, the city will be spared that level of disaster. But already local residents have paid a hard price with lives lost. The sooner that hotspots around the country are brought under control, the less of a threat there is for the spread to continue.

However, instead of working together, our national leadership has set states in competition with each other. On an international level, that is familiar as nations compete and protect their populations against other nations. But the United States of America are supposed to be United. Lacking that cohesion, who are we as a country, or a people?

The enemy in this battle is a virus, but also American society and human nature – including our own lack of enlightenment. The true frontline has become anywhere there is a concentration of COVID-19 patients, whether it is St. Francis Hospital in Milwaukee, or the city of St. Francis in Wisconsin, or São Francisco, in Northeastern Brazil.

The military tactics of the First World War, saw the terrible consequences of old strategies colliding with new technology. Young boys charged on horseback against rapid fire machine guns. So too is the current thinking about the global health crisis. At political and social levels, leadership is engaged in outdated thinking that have left innocent people scattered across the battlefields of our local communities.

This collection of images was taken by Francisco Àvia. The photos show the frontline of this viral battle, and foreshadows the worst that could hit Milwaukee – or what we can possibly avoid by some miracle.

The pictures were taken at the beginning of April between the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, Spain and the Hotel Catalonia Barcelona Plaza. The four-star hotel was turned into a temporary hospital where coronavirus patients were treated by medical staff. Located in the heart of the city on Plaza Espanya, it is one of five hotels in Barcelona to open its doors to COVID-19 patients.

Milwaukee’s Pfister Hotel will be spared such a transitional condition, because Wisconsin State Fair Park has been designated as a treatment and overflow site. But the heroes will remain the same: the medical workers fighting against infectious influenza and political ignorance in order to save the lives of our local community and national soul.

© Photo

Francisco Àvia

The Milwaukee Independent began reporting on what was then referred to as the mysterious “Wuhan Virus” in January 2020. Other local media did not picked-up on the story until many weeks later. Our early features focused on the economic impact, social issues, and health concerns long before other Milwaukee news organizations even mentioned the coronavirus. Over the following year, we have published hundreds of articles about the pandemic and how it has affected the lives of Milwaukee residents. This extensive body of work can be found on our COVID-19 Special Report page, a chronological index of links by month. Our editorial voice remains dedicated to informing the public about this health crisis for as long as it persists.
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