I cannot say that the possibility of being alive during a time of pandemic had never crossed my mind prior to the arrival of covid-19. I remember watching the movie Outbreak in 1995 when it came out, (okay, I probably remember watching it when it came out on video… my kids were little then and I didn’t get out much), and I remember thinking, “Hey, this is kind of scary. But you know what? After there being a movie like this surely the government will realize the potential devastation and will have a plan in place should something like this step down off of the Silver Screen, or, in our case, off of the VHS box.” And of course that’s exactly what happened.
And that certainly wasn’t the first time in my tenure on the planet, that I saw humanity challenged by some frightening disease. Until this one, however they’d all remained relatively “minor.” (I make a point of highlighting the word “minor” because, perhaps counter intuitively, I want to stress that no disease that claims lives is “minor” at all.) What I mean, of course, is that the loss of life was far lower than we are seeing with this one. Legionnaire’s was the first time I remember hearing about a “new” disease. AIDS was the next. The American response to AIDS was typical. When we thought only the gays were contracting it, no big deal (outside of the medical community which immediately sprang into action… no I can’t even finish that line of crap). However once heterosexual folk started dying we got to work. Of course there is still no cure for AIDS, no vaccine for HIV. Just a lot less people who have it are dying of it now. But let’s be real. We still pretty much don’t give a shit about the 32 million who have died of that particular malady, because they’ve have the good taste to spread it out over 40 years.
Now, Ebola! Let’s talk about that!
Everything about Ebola scared the shit out of me. It appeared to be very contagious, and it appeared to be very lethal. My introduction to it was probably in fiction, where some other author was just as scared of it as I was. Anything that eventually causes you to just start bleeding is going to freak someone like me out. You know. Someone who’s not down with spontaneous blood loss. The average fatality rate is over 50%, and in some outbreaks, it has been as high as 90%. But when that virus came to the United States in 2014, none of the people who contracted it, (by treating a patient who eventually died of the disease), perished and it did not spread. It did not become an epidemic.
I’m not trying to make any sort of commentary on how we reacted as a nation or of how the administration handled things by contrasting all of the previous actual or potential epidemics. Because certainly our handling of those diseases has far less to do with dodging the pandemic bullet than other factors such as mode of spread, (in the cases of HIV and Ebola direct contact with infected bodily fluids is required – although Ebola has also been known to spread via items contaminated with the bodily fluids of the patient.) In an odd paradox, Ebola’s extreme mortality rate is part of the reason it doesn’t spread faster. It tends to kill the host so quickly that there is less time for him/her to spread the virus.
What I’m trying to say is that this virus was far better suited to spread at the rate it did in all the places it has reached. Really it’s far easier to list the places it hasn’t reached. It could be passed by a sneeze or cough, certainly not something anyone but the most devoted germophobes though about much before the pandemic. And again a paradox: the fact that it manifests in such a wide variety of severity, it is probably more likely to be spread by people who are not showing symptoms, and who, in fact may never show any. People who to all appearances are perfectly healthy have and continue to spread the virus.
And so for all of our range of responses, for all of the variations on “reopening” the truth of the matter is we just don’t know if things are going to continue follow the early signs of recovery we’re hearing about, or if an acceleration is just around the corner.
I am aware that I have no answers
I have never been one to pontificate. I have a friend who is far more qualified for that job than I, and he is, of course, Pope Francis. It’s built right into the job title on his business card. “Pontiff.” (I heard he made himself some gag business cards that say “Mary Kay Representative,” but I cannot confirm.)
There’s no way I’m not going to start preaching today. What I’m going to do instead is tell you is that I plan to continue wearing a mask. I’m far less concerned about losing whatever freedom it is that wearing a mask apparently causes, (freedom to act like a douche on TV if the evidence of my eyes is to be believed), and far more concerned about losing the right to be alive. That is, after all, the first of the “big three” that are mentioned in a certain document, (Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness).
I am going to realize that as the death toll in the U.S. nears 100,000 (and let’s be real, we know damn well it’s already there and then some), the fact that it’s not 1 million instead has a lot to do with people like me who didn’t scream and rant about the loss of our liberty and our ability to be more easily infected or far, far worse, to spread the virus to others. Others who haven’t chosen to dip deep in the well of negative karma.
But I’m not going to tell you to wear one.
I’m just going to hope you’re not an idiot and that you will do it anyway, without me or anyone else telling you. I’m hoping the fact that you read my blog indicates your intellect is elevated to the point that you understand that the bottom line is keeping us alive in mass quantities.