Americans must remain cautious of COVID-19


I heard a guy talking on the phone the other day about the ongoing pandemic.

“I think we’ve grown so afraid of dying,” he said, “that we’ve forgotten how to live.”

He’s wrong about that.

The problem with our nation’s reaction to the coronavirus is not that we’ve taken the threat too seriously, that we’ve done too much to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

It’s that we haven’t taken it seriously enough. Way too many of us have ignored the health warnings and gone about our lives as if there was no threat.

People survive the flu every year, these folks say. We shouldn’t turn our lives upside down for a virus that kills only a small fraction of its victims.

But the toll keeps rising.

Every day, it seems, the United States sets a new record for the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Deaths are adding up at a rate of more than 2,000 a day, and public health experts fear that number could reach 3,000 by the end of the year.

Think about that.

By the end of the year, the coronavirus could be claiming the same number of American lives every day as were claimed by the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The virus has already killed more than 260,000 Americans, and experts say the toll could reach 300,000 by the end of the year.

The number of new cases recorded is approaching 175,000 a day.

And like that guy on the phone, people are ready to be done with it. They’re tired of the masks and the social distancing. They’re tired of the Zoom meetings and the working from home.

They want to go back to the way things used to be.

They want to stand in a crowded arena and cheer for their favorite basketball team. They want to watch a band perform at their favorite bar or actually walk into a crowded restaurant for a nice meal.

But the public health experts say no.

They say we have to keep on wearing those masks. We have to keep our interactions to a minimum, and we need to avoid those large crowds for at least a few more months.

No one is happy about this. The pandemic has disrupted nearly every aspect of our lives. It has upended the way we celebrate. And the way we mourn.

Nine months into this pandemic, almost everyone knows at least one person who has been infected by the virus.

As I write this column, one friend awaits the results of a test while fighting symptoms that seem an awful lot like the coronavirus.

Another lies hooked up to a ventilator, fighting for his life.

Many of us have gotten through this crisis with relatively minor interruptions. We still have our livelihoods and our health, and we’ll emerge from the experience little worse for the wear.

Others have been left without a job. Some find themselves without food on the table or a place to live.

Suffice it to say this pandemic will leave lasting scars. Some have seen their lives forever changed.

The good news, though, is that relief is on the horizon.

Public health officials say we could begin seeing vaccinations by the middle of December.

Not for everyone, of course.

They’ll go first to the medical professionals, the front-line workers and vulnerable populations.

But availability of the vaccines will gradually spread to the broader public, and by spring, if enough people are vaccinated, things might actually be approaching normal.

In spite of our differing outlooks on the pandemic, we can all look forward to that.

Kelly Hawes is a columnist for CNHI newspapers in Indiana. Send comments to [email protected].

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