Those of us who aren’t old enough to remember the fear and uncertainty, the rationing, and all the shortages and economic changes during World War II, will probably see the COVID-19 pandemic as the nation’s greatest crisis. The last U. S. figures I saw showed 277,205 cases and 6,593 deaths. We are told that these numbers don’t include cases and deaths we don’t know about and that they’ll go higher. We’re also told that a vaccine is probably at least a year away.
Historians are comparing this pandemic with the 1918 influenza pandemic that impacted 500 million people throughout the world, 50 million deaths worldwide, including 675,000 deaths in the U.S. That’s not reassuring even though it sounds long ago and far away with no one alive with personal memories of it.
I’m reminded of the polio scare in the 1950s, with 57,628 cases in 1952. The Salk and Sabin vaccines generally put an end to the outbreaks, but prior to that, there was a fair amount of fear and unease about the safety of one’s children. (My younger brother had a mild case.)
Whether they’re joking about it or trying to deny the real danger to themselves, my sense from news reports and social media is we’re seeing off-the-scale unease, uncertainly, and frustration that exceeds the 1950s polio scare, one that has captured the country’s consciousness like the national efforts to mobilize on the homefront for World War.
Cases and deaths are spreading across the country for a disease with no cure but to try to simply lessen one’s chances of getting it and to endure it if one does get it. The economy is, of course, a resulting tragedy as stores and other venues close, travel is restricted, and employees are furloughed, and businesses facing bankruptcy. The pandemic seems like a sword with multiple sharp edges.
The Internet is filled with ideas for things to do while quarantined. These ideas probably help, but I doubt they’re a real substitute for unemployment, disruptions in products and services, and concerns about any flu-like symptoms one has had. It’s nice to see news stories about people pulling together: they offset some of the stories about the political squabbling as well as the crazy people who ignore guidelines and/or purposefully try to infect others.
My younger brother and his wife were planning a European trip. My wife and I were planning a trip to Maryland to see my daughter, her husband, and my two granddaughters. These trips have been cancelled. Thousands of people are probably having similar experiences.
Day to day, I’m impacted by news stories and the latest lockdown style regulations and lack of many grocery items in the stores. I try, though, to focus more on the book I’m writing, the TV shows we watch, our two cats, and life around the house rather than becoming obsessed with the pandemic.
How about you? How are you feeling and how are you coping?
2 thoughts on “How are you feeling?”
My life isn’t very different from the way it always was. Unlike you, I had no travel plans to be overturned. I’d already backed away from some of my social engagements for various reasons before all this started, and my life has been pared to the essentials for a long time. I do spend more time on Facebook, though I shouldn’t. Not so much because of the constant barrage of virus-related posts, though those do get old, but because sitting for long periods is bad for my knees.
Mostly, it all annoys me — it doesn’t seem like much of a pandemic, considering the huge percentage of people who died in previous outbreaks of various diseases. Unlike most people, I think some of the measures are rather draconian. If certain segments of the population are at risk, such as the immuno-compromised, the chronically ill, or the old elderly, they should be the ones taking care to stay away from others. To shut down the whole economy and put millions of people out of work to save a few thousand lives seems a bit too much. Unless (being the conspiracy novelist that I am, my mind tends to go in this direction), this is the whole point.
And then there is the whole demand for vaccines aspect. There might come a time when we are forced to get a vaccine, but that’s where I draw the line. I was forced to get the swine flu vaccine in the 1970s, which caused all sorts of severe problems, and I will never again be forcibly inoculated. It could be a problem, but I’ll deal with it then.
As authors, we tend to live our books, so maybe I am way too blasé about the whole thing because I have already lived through much worse, not just previous outbreaks of various named flus and viruses, but because of my own creation, the red death.
Sometimes our own novels and short stories are worse than the reality we face; you, of course, have written about a pandemic. I’ve never had a flu shot and don’t intend to start now. I did have the Salk and Sabin vaccines during the polio scare, but that was my parents’ decision and turned out okay. Like you, I worry about the workers who have been furloughed and now have no salary as well as the businesses that have closed and still have to pay the rent and utilities. I wonder if we’re destroying the country in an attempt to save it. Stay well, Pat, and thanks for your comment.
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