Work, perspective ahead as ‘pandemic’ moves beyond 1,000 days
You remember COVID: the virus responsible for wiping out 6.9 million lives across the planet to date. The one that exposed the best America. The disease that found us woefully unprepared for a pandemic. The distemper that changed us and our world. The wave of death that illuminated a dark, disquieting corner of America where science is ignored, institutions mistrusted and any notion of sacrifice for the common good neglected. That COVID.
As of 10 days ago, 4,915 Nebraskans had died of COVID. A good track record, all things considered … such as a pandemic that to date (and no longer called a pandemic) has killed more Americans (1,150,567) than all the wars Americans have fought and died in combined except the Civil War.
New evidence reported this month concluded that the coronavirus likely started in an open market in Wuhan, China. That research came just after the U.S. Defense Department and the FBI concluded the virus leaked from a lab in the same city. And so it goes, tracking down the inception of such a prolific killer.
No one knows for sure where and how COVID began, although opinions and speculation abound, from skilled and experienced epidemiologists to gasbags at bars and coffee shops. Nor should the hunt for its origins be abandoned. Knowing COVID’s beginnings is crucial in mitigating or preventing the calamity we’ve watched run rampant in every corner of the globe.
Our response to COVID was initially ennobling: praising doctors and nurses, some of whom died trying to save lives. In New York City, every night at 7 p.m., people opened their windows or took to their balconies to cheer health care workers, a symphony of applause and exaltations punctuated by ambulance sirens ferrying the sick and dying to hospitals.
We also honored “essential workers” who kept us in food, pharmaceuticals, deposits, withdrawals, goods and services, much of it delivered by both pros and a citizen army of drivers. We struggled to “home” school our children, marveling at the work of teachers. Facing a scary world, emergency and public safety workers showed up each day on our behalf.
And, despite a president clearly unable or unwilling to grasp the severity of our situation, his administration gets credit for fast-tracking a vaccine that has saved millions of lives.
Then we stopped. We’d had enough, we told ourselves. Yes, we were whipsawed, initially told to bleach everything, and then told it didn’t matter. To not wear masks, then to wear them. But the epidemiologists and other researchers who became pariahs to many were, in large part, applying their processes to an unknown quantity: the coronavirus.
A number of troubling trends developed. Some began taking medical advice from radio talk show hosts, Facebook and a variety of ill-informed elected officials.
Those determined to ignore what COVID demanded, insisted they be given back their old lives. Things turned ugly, too, as camouflaged cosplay commandos toting big guns started showing up at state capitols to “encourage” governors and lawmakers to set them free from what they considered the bondage of masks and lockdowns.
American esprit de corps waned. Whether or not you wore a mask, for example, which is said by most medical metrics to reduce the spread of COVID, became a political statement. Public servants like Dr. Anthony Fauci and those doctors and nurses we praised began to get death threats. Teachers, too, became targets of fomented indignation.
Meanwhile, COVID marched on. It changed the world. It changed us. Three years later, we have a different relationship with the coronavirus, which we recognize as something that will probably always be with us. It’s still taking lives, too, but if we trust science — which thankfully also moved ahead — our chances of surviving a case of it are far better. All of which means we must continue to research and act, eschewing the misinformation and nonsense of unqualified know-it-alls.
We have work ahead, especially addressing the clear mental health effects that COVID and its consequences have had on our children, both in and out of the classroom.
Some perspective is in order, too. Fathoming the collective grief of losing over a million fellow Americans in little more than a thousand days is daunting. COVID’s long wake of death has surely touched the country’s soul. How we do it can be debated, but the time has come to properly remember and memorialize those and what we have lost.