Prayer, common sense and love

Every morning for the past few days, a thick fog has enshrouded the view outside my kitchen window. The gray skeletons of bare trees seem to be brooding over a dark, cold and very quiet world.

It’s not hard to imagine that the Angel of Death is lurking out there in the mist. It passed over us this time, but who knows what the future holds?

These, of course, are just the melodramatic musings of someone who has been virtually quarantined for the past couple of weeks, tracking the news of the spread of the coronavirus. As I write this, Pickens County has yet to be touched by the virus, but by the time you read it I expect we will have had our first confirmed cases.

I know that many of you have accepted the notion that this pandemic is basically a story that has been hyped up by the media, possibly for political purposes, or just because that’s what the media does.

I can’t speak for the broadcast media because I don’t watch TV news, but I can assure you that the mainstream print media hasn’t done anything but try to inform you about what the experts are saying, and to scrutinize and analyze the data that’s being presented. We didn’t decide to call it a pandemic. That was the World Health Organization.

Some well-meaning people have tried to compare this COVID-19 with the seasonal flu. “More people die from the flu every year,” they say.

Thousands of people do die from the flu each year, and no, we haven’t had that many deaths from COVID-19 — yet. But based on the analysis of this contagion in China and other parts of the world where it has had a chance to spread, the death rate is estimated to be about 1 percent. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s 10 times as high as that from the flu, which is around 0.1 percent. And it’s a lot more contagious.

Don’t take my word for it. That’s the word of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases, one of the president’s chief advisers on the issue.

Then you have to consider that we’ve had many decades of experience with the flu, and every year a vaccine is developed that cuts down the rate of infection. We don’t have any vaccine for this coronavirus.

There are just too many unknowns for us not to take the advice of public health experts seriously.

And it seems that even our president has received enough advice from highly credible experts that he has come to the realization that we’re in for something unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. Rather than downplay the threat for weeks, we should have moved more swiftly as soon as we saw what was happening elsewhere in the world.

But it’s a shame that we couldn’t have been better prepared for something like this before this virus ever made its appearance. We should have known that another pandemic, like the “Spanish flu” that killed my great-aunt Virgie and millions of other people around the world in 1918, would strike eventually.

We may have the greatest health care system in the world, but it’s very cumbersome and unevenly distributed. I’m not sure what the solution would be, but after this, I think there will at least be some serious thought given to how we can adapt quickly to contain contagious disease threats and treat vast numbers who get sick.

In the meantime, I’m trying to look for any good that could come out of this.

One positive outcome should be a greater realization that we are all citizens of the same world and not really so different from each other, whether we live in China or in Pumpkintown. A virus doesn’t treat one differently from another, at least not based on nationality.

Maybe this new virus can break down some of the psychological walls between the peoples of the world and tone down some of the virulent nationalism that has taken hold in recent years.

And maybe this will make people less likely to believe conspiracy theories that proliferate when things like this happen, when they are so quickly proven to be wrong. I’m sticking with the theory that the soap and hand sanitizer industry is behind this, although I doubt that it’s true.

Finally, this bug has forced a whole lot of closeness on families across the country and right here in Pickens County, with kids home from school and many parents working from home. That can be a good thing. Or not.

“I imagine it might be pretty stressful for a lot of families to be cooped up for weeks like this,” I told my lovely wife, Kathy. “But not us, right?”

She smiled and rolled her eyes.

“Yes,” I continued, philosophically, “this is a time for us to all practice greater tolerance, patience and kindness with each other. Especially kindness.”

“You’re making me nauseated,” she replied.

I’m sure it was just because of her stomach problems that she felt that way. At least that’s the way I’m going to take it, because she knows I’m right. We’re gonna get through this. With a little prayer, a little common sense, and a lot of love.