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?