As the pandemic has unfolded in the US, and many millions of people are under stay-at-home orders, I think we all need to step back and take a breath and recognize that not everyone is having the same experience.
There are protests in the news in the last couple of days. Some people are beginning to push back against the measures that have been put into place to protect the population from a virus we have no immunity to, and that can be deadly for a portion of the population. Certain groups are ready to get back to normal and let the chips fall where they may. The argument is that wrecking our lives is worse than a small percentage of the population dying.
That argument can only be made by people who have not been affected by the virus itself. Maybe their experience is one of financial disruption, which is a dire situation if you have no reserves and need to feed your family. Not knowing where to turn or how to get the financial assistance you need can lead to desperation, and that is not good.
There are also those who feel the government has overreached and is playing Big Brother with their lives. How dare the government tell us what to do?
But I am willing to bet not one of those protesters has lost someone to the coronavirus.
Many healthcare workers have died from Covid-19, and many others are sick. They are on the front-lines and are putting themselves at risk daily. Those who are directly affected by the virus are pleading with people to stay home, follow the social-distancing rules and keep others safe.
But these safety measures mean hardship for some.
Women and children are trapped in their home with their abusers. Working parents have no childcare, or are working at home but now have their kids there with them all day everyday. Elderly people are living alone with no one to shop for them. Caregivers are caring for a loved one with dementia with no outside help or support. These and many other scenarios are playing out during this crisis. People are suffering.
For others, it’s not so difficult. People who have not lost their income, who have emergency funds available, who have access to outdoor spaces, who are not caring for small children or elderly family members may not be suffering greatly. You can’t count not getting a haircut and a manicure, or lunching with friends as suffering.
But just because some are not suffering as much as others does not negate the suffering. Just because the protesters are demanding we throw caution to the wind and get back to normal does not mean there aren’t those who will suffer greatly in the weeks and months to come.
When people are forced to continue working because their jobs are considered essential, they are being exposed to the virus every day, and we have to care.
At a Smithfield meat processing plant in South Dakota, a state where no stay-at-home orders have been issued, there was an outbreak that resulted in 644 positive coronavirus cases among employees, and those associated with them, before the plant was closed. One has already died.
If the protesters were working at this plant, or had a family member that was working there, would they still be screaming for us to rush to open everything back up?
A 28 year old nurse who was 8 months pregnant died of the virus in England. Her baby was delivered by emergency cesarean and is doing well. But now, her young husband has a baby and no wife, because of a virus that she was exposed to every day at work.
There are stories of those who felt — like the protesters — the coronavirus is being overhyped. It’s not so bad. No worse than the flu. Other diseases kill more people.
One of those people who believed that there was unwarranted “hysteria” about the virus, and that it was a political ploy to harm President Trump, contracted the virus while at Mardi Gras, and died before he could make it back home to Virginia.
A prominent evangelical preacher in Richmond, VA, who defied orders to limit gatherings to 10 or less, held church services on March 22 saying “God is larger than this dreaded virus.” He was shaking hands and hugging congregants, per his usual habit.
He is now dead from the coronavirus. His wife is infected, and who knows how many of his parishioners will test positive in the days to come?
Maybe some of us have not been hit hard by this “dreaded virus.” Maybe we don’t know anyone who has been. Maybe we live somewhere that the case numbers are low or non-existent. If that’s you, you are lucky.
But the thing that some people are failing to register is this: We have no immunity to this disease. There is no vaccine. It is highly contagious, and if the Smithfield plant and Mardi Gras are any indication, large groups of people in close proximity to each other are the perfect conditions for it to rage like a wildfire.
What they are not thinking about is that if we go about our business like there is no virus, many millions of people will die from it and you, or someone you love, may be one of them.
There is no doubt that those who have lost their jobs, and are afraid they will lose their homes or go hungry, are suffering. But so are all those who are being affected by the virus directly. We have to find a way to meet in the middle, opening the country back slowly enough to limit the outbreak, while enabling people to get back to work.
But even if we were to open the country tomorrow, no holds barred, everything business as usual, things will never be the same. Contrary to what Trump said, the virus will not one day “just disappear like a miracle.” It will continue to spread and wreak havoc until we find a vaccine or a cure. Scientists are not even sure that having the virus once will prevent you from getting it again.
Please, try to be patient. We can’t negate the severity of the crisis just because it has not affected us. Try to make the world better during this time by using your energy to look for ways to help. We have to find a way to assist those who need assistance, to care for those who need care, to have compassion for those who are suffering from the consequences of something no one planned for, whether it’s illness, financial catastrophe or the death of a loved one.
Right now, we are in the underground storm shelter, waiting out the storm. When we open the door and emerge, things will look different. At that point, it will be up to all of us to get busy and shape a new world. It won’t ever look like it did before. But that does not mean it can’t be better. It will take all of us, and this is a good time to lay aside our “us” vs. “them” mentality and say “We, the people.”
We are all in this together. Let’s try to work together to get through it with the least amount of suffering we can. May we do unto others as we would have others do unto us.