According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this year’s influenza killed an estimated 62,000 people in the U.S., at the most. That’s a whole lot of people and typical for flu season.
As of Tuesday, July 28, COVID-19 has killed an estimated 147,672 in the U.S. and the bodies keep piling up with no relief on the horizon. COVID-19 is not, it turns out, the flu.
COVID became personal for me last week when I learned a favorite uncle died of the disease a day or two before he turned 79. Lon died alone. Prudy, his wife of 60 years and my mom’s sister, was not allowed to visit him. His children Pat and Brenda could not visit him. Nobody could say goodbye and nobody could gather for a funeral and nobody could hug and offer tears of sympathy.
Lon was always good to me. He treated me like I was a full-grown man when I was just a little kid. Like I was the most important person in the world. Years later, I realized Lon treated everyone like they were the most important person in the world. That was his nature.
What makes his passing more difficult to endure than it needs to be is due to COVID-19 and how we all don’t agree how serious is this pandemic, whether we should wear masks, avoid crowds, try to stay healthy.
Some of the relatives have called COVID a hoax. Others consider the mask mandate government overreach instead of neighborly behavior. And some of those relatives haven’t taken the time to look in the mirror. “COVID got in the way, but COVID didn’t kill him,” said one, desperately clinging to hope she wasn’t as callous as she sounded.
Truth be told, I can’t argue against that stance – and I wouldn’t even if I had a pocket full of truth. I know when to keep my mouth shut. Most of the time.
Lon had a couple of strikes against him. His age, obviously, but he was also in the fourteenth month of a battle with stage 4 prostate cancer. That insidious disease robbed him of the vitality he otherwise might have had to fight off COVID.
I suspect many more of us will have similar tales to tell before this pandemic comes to an end. The question is, will this pandemic come to an end – or will it end us?
The labor market temporarily rebounded in June when more than 4 million jobs were filled, but that was before cases began surging again after states like Utah began to reopen. Who knows what July’s jobs report will be. Here in Moab, hundreds remain out of work – and some employers say they can’t hire anyone because they’re making more on unemployment than they would if they returned to work.
There’s also the fear of getting sick. While COVID might not kill you, the cost of treatment for someone without health insurance, or health insurance that’s useless due to exorbitant upfront costs – such as a $10,000 deductible – could be financially devastating.
I’m also concerned about children returning to school. Just like the decisions to reopen were based on political calculations instead of sound science, the push to open schools throughout Utah and elsewhere in the U.S. at the same time cases are surging seems to be a recipe for disaster.
This lunacy brings to mind Jonathan Swift, the 17th century Irish satirist best known for writing “Gulliver’s Travels.” Swift in 1729 also wrote, “A Modest Proposal,” which addressed the problem of starving Irish children whose poor parents couldn’t hope to feed or keep clothed.
His solution? Fatten up the kids and feed them to rich land owners.
He was being satirical, of course. Nobody would seriously consider feeding poor children to rich people. But apparently, nearly 300 years later we are adamant on sending our children into harm’s way so we could … what?