The novel coronavirus has changed our lives. And the changes keep on coming, daily, almost by the minute.
How to analyze this?
Take a deep breath, and look at the big picture. That seems to be the best approach.
No one wanted the NCAA basketball tournament to get shut down. No one wants restaurants to close, offering only takeout and delivery. No one truly wanted schools to close for an extended period. Worship services, gym classes, libraries … all closed.
Why now? Why not during previous pandemics?
Contagious and deadly
Perhaps the nation wasn’t ready for such a response previously. Or, perhaps, earlier pandemics didn’t have the potential far-reaching consequences. For example, during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic:
From April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010, CDC estimated there were 60.8 million cases (range: 43.3-89.3 million), 274,304 hospitalizations (range: 195,086-402,719), and 12,469 deaths (range: 8868-18,306) in the United States due to the (H1N1)pdm09 virus.
From what I can tell, the COVID-19 virus is much more contagious and deadly than H1N1. If 60.8 million people get the coronavirus this spring, our hospitals would get overwhelmed, and some people could die waiting for care.
Also, according to the same CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) article, most of the H1N1 sufferers were younger than 65, which “differs greatly from typical seasonal influenza epidemics, during which about 70 percent to 90 percent of deaths are estimated to occur in people 65 years and older.”
The fact that the COVID-19 virus appears to inflict minimal damage on children is crucial. Schools were closed to prevent young people from becoming carriers of the virus to the rest of the population, as well as to keep them from getting it.
Senior citizens older than 70 and those of us with medical conditions are at greatest risk from suffering and/or dying from the new virus. Although I am healthy, I am not allowed to visit my parents, ages 86 and 83, because two weeks ago they moved into a senior living facility in Michigan, which now is under quarantine.
How do I know I’m not a carrier? From what I can tell, we can be carriers for several days, perhaps up to two weeks, before any symptoms show.
This is why nearly all public gatherings – of any size, now – are being canceled. We unknowingly could transmit the virus to each other, spreading it further around the country.
The hope is to isolate the virus, that it will die because it’s not being transmitted anywhere. That’s why we are asked to stay home or practice “social distancing.”
Is this overreaction? Maybe, but probably not. If very few people die in the United States because of all the shutdowns, then it will have worked.
Some will say that would prove the shutdown was overkill. Actually, that proves the opposite. Look at Italy, which did not meet this virus head-on early and is suffering escalating casualties:
Italy on Sunday reported 368 new deaths from the coronavirus outbreak as the country’s death toll hit 1,809 while the number of positive cases rose to 24,747 from 21,157 on Saturday, the country’s civil protection authority said.
In China, where isolation measures have been implemented, very few new cases are being reported now:
Hong Kong (CNN) – For the first time since the novel coronavirus was first identified last year, there are now more reported cases outside of mainland China than inside, marking a new milestone in the evolution of the global pandemic.
On Monday, China’s National Health Commission reported 16 new confirmed cases and 14 deaths, as of end of Sunday, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 80,860, of which more than 67,000 patients have recovered.
This is our hope: By isolating the virus, we can reduce and eventually eliminate its severe impact on society.
Time for …
How long will that take? It’s anyone’s guess.
In the meantime, many of us have a lot of free time on our hands. No NCAA basketball tournament – the best television of the year, in my opinion – means the TV is turned off. I volunteer at a food pantry – it’s closed, because many of the clients (and volunteers) are vulnerable.
What are our priorities in life? Sports? Politics? Family? Faith?
This virus is testing us, big time. Strip away most of what we do with our lives, and what’s left?
In my regular Bible reading, I’m going through the Old Testament minor prophets these days. Yesterday I read Haggai, both chapters. My study Bible offers this commentary on the prophet’s message:
We find ourselves rushing through life, attending to the necessary, the immediate, and the urgent. Too often, the important is left in the dust. Our problem is not the volume of demands or lack of scheduling skills, but values – what truly is important to us.
That commentary was copyrighted in 1989. Haggai itself was written in 520 BC. The prophet Haggai chastised the Israelites who had just returned from exile to a destroyed Jerusalem and were building their own houses and living it up while ignoring God’s temple, leaving it in ruins.
Your priorities are wrong, Haggai told the Israelites.
They got the message and rebuilt the temple.
How about us? What are our priorities? We may not have to rebuild a temple, but are there family or friends we should reconnect with?
Crisis shows our heart
This is not about politics, but real life. President Trump hasn’t done much to stop the spread of the virus, but the governor of my state of Ohio – also a Republican – has. Indeed, Mike DeWine was first in the nation to close public schools, and was first in the nation to close bars and restaurants (except for takeout and delivery).
Are DeWine’s orders extreme? Maybe, but other states are following suit quickly. So, perhaps he’s just being proactive.
DeWine has no desire to shut down the state of Ohio. He does have the desire to halt the spread of COVID-19. His top public health official is a medical doctor, and she’s playing an active role in state policy.
The sooner public gatherings are stopped, hopefully, the sooner they can resume – without a huge number of illnesses and deaths. This is the goal.
It’s not politics. It’s real life.
Rather than fight it, we need to respond to it. Schools and pantries are closed – how will children and families get fed? How will parents go to work when their children, normally in school, now are home? How will bartenders and waitresses, gym workers and others provide for their own daily needs without a paycheck?
We are at war with a deadly and very contagious virus. Each of us must play our part in fighting this battle.
When we come out the other side, I think we will be a better country for it.
We find out what our true values are in a crisis. We’re in one now.