RETROSPECTIVE 2020 and COVID

Pandemic, a new word for most of us.  Cholera, bubonic plague, smallpox, and influenza are some of the most brutal killers in human history. The purpose of vaccinations is to stop these brutal killers, although there are many who think vaccinations are worse than the disease, unfortunately.  COVID, on the other hand has no vaccination at this writing, but one fact is that it has rampaged through senior communities. 

Pandemic, a new word for most of us.  Cholera, bubonic plague, smallpox, and influenza are some of the most brutal killers in human history. The purpose of vaccinations is to stop these brutal killers, although there are many who think vaccinations are worse than the disease, unfortunately.  COVID, on the other hand has no vaccination at this writing, but one fact is that it has rampaged through senior communities. 

I understand the purpose, so I am relatively appreciative of the reason for doing this.  Part of me likes being grounded and if I choose it, a chance to be irresponsible.  The suits say they care about the elderly, but that is not what this is about.  It is like all teachers and administrators saying the most important issue is the students.  Hogwash.  What it is about is lessening the impact of the virus on the health system so it can continue to function without being overwhelmed.  Part of me resents being told what to do and wants me to take up the issue with the local courts.  They can’t MAKE me stay at home, or can they?

I’ve contacted friends asking if they will send me bail if I get arrested running the blockade and end up in grannie jail.  The authorities delivered the notice that we had to stay home as of now – not even 24 hours to get our pantries filled.  I am not a hoarder, so I didn’t hoard, so I’m left with food for about 3 days.  I am willing to stay home from things and cancel things, but I must eat.

I understand why there was no warning.  If we had been warned, being responsible adults and wanting to survive, we would have rushed to the markets to purchase two weeks or more of food.  There is where the carnage would begin – a ballooning old fogie rush to the store causing a terrible scene of crushed wheelchairs, broken canes, and busted glasses, with victims stumbling about their arms full of toilet paper or disinfectant or, without glasses, dog food and Preparation H as EMTs, their faces swathed in Hazmat masks, direct gurneys through the devastation.  Outside ambulance sirens announce health emergencies and police sirens on cars and paddy wagons declare a civil emergency.  It is a good idea they didn’t warn us.

But seriously, what are the plans for feeding old people and others banned from entering society for the duration?  Ah, they can count on their children and their neighbors.  This brings to mind people approaching the door with disinfected food encased in disinfected plastic bags and knocking timidly and then running for cover.  Or they can call orders for food online.  I had a hospice worker once tell me that half her case load lived alone and had no contact with families or neighbors.  Remember we are the old and have outlived everyone we knew and loved if we can remember who they are.  But the issue is really how many people cannot order food online because 1) they have no computers and do not text, or 2) they are not aware of where and how to order what they want but 3) more importantly, they can’t afford to pay for what is available online or the fee to have food delivered.  Can you starve to death in 14 days?  I have popcorn and understand it can be nutritious.  And there is always Moe, my dog, if I get desperate.  But he is muscular and would need marinating for some time.  I don’t have any marinade, oops, plan scrapped and besides, as much as he loves me, he can bite.

Tell me, did you actually think you were going to get away with just a fluff piece on this topic?  I should probably stop here, but there are two reasons I don’t.  Although I enjoyed writing the piece above, there is truth in it.  And I find it insulting that people would say that old people died of their previous afflictions, not of COVID.  First, people living in nursing facilities are not necessarily dying.  Some go there for nursing care because they don’t have it at home and can recover if they get it, regardless of age.  Second, people in old folks’ apartments are not necessarily sick, they choose to live there.  I wonder about the belief that anyone with a preexisting health problem that died with COVID really died of their preexisting condition.  That the number of COVID cases are deliberately ballooned because “the health authorities” want to make people believe COVID is dangerous. If my friend’s teenage daughter who has her asthma under control and has for several years, goes to the doctor for a checkup and comes in contact with a person with COVID, how is it people say she didn’t die of COVID but of asthma?  If a person drives with bad tires and gets inadvertently hit by a bus, are the tires the problem? (My mother was in an old folk’s home and she was dying of colon cancer.  It was a matter of time.  If SHE got COVID, was probably weakened by it, but she died from the cancer.   I’m not stupid.)  A stupid person could not have written the fluff piece.  So, here we go.

COVID is a health issue, but its symptoms include panic which changes people’s behavior.  The most obvious is hoarding water, food, disinfectant and bleach, disinfectant wipes, hand soap, lotion, vitamins and tampons. Cold and flu medicines were completely sold out, and toilet paper.  One psychologist pointed out that toilet paper is often hoarded when people are feeling desperate – the ability to wipe your bum becomes a sign of safety. People are afraid they will be quarantined at home.  Long lines outside Costco, Sam’s, etc. lead to announcements on empty shelves explaining they were waiting for more product and that, if there was product there, it was limited in the amount that could be purchased. Wow!  I’ve never seen anything like it, but most stuff was there.  Hoarding leads to shortages.  Shortages lead to panic.  Panic leads to shortages…

One type of shortage that the public is not responsible for is the shortage of masks, PPE, tests, and ventilators.  (Eventually the shortage included and includes the essential workers who provide the care of the people burdening their hospitals.)  As individuals, most of us cannot provide these necessaries for ourselves and most of us don’t need to.  That need was/is so great that it could not be supplied by any one entity except the government.  This was/is a war.  During and after WWII the U.S. managed to provide the materiel for the war effort and then for the recovery of Europe through the Marshall Plan.  Once our leaders decided that we had a national emergency, they set about enlisting every American.  I suggest you watch “It’s A Wonderful Life.”  (It is the right time of year.)  The movie shows how thousands of young Americans fought the war on the land, sea and in the air.  George Bailey had a bad ear, so he couldn’t fight the battles of the others, but he could be an air raid warden and he could fight the battle of Bedford Falls: rubber drives, paper drives, scrap iron drives.   The government recruited automobile companies and other huge manufacturing entities to switch from building the products that made them money to building the products – planes, tanks, jeeps, ships (you get the picture) to save Americans.  Once our leaders decided that we had a national emergency the entire nation had only one goal, to beat the fascists and to save Americans.  We could have done that with COVID, but our current leadership didn’t have the will to bother to try, although they claim they did.  State governors found themselves working in concert with other governors to form co-ops to negotiate with other nations (including China) for what we needed while the president not only would not tell people to wear masks; he could not seem to take the virus seriously enough to consider it a national emergency, so no one “set about enlisting every American” and every corporation to save Americans.  For all the president says he did, he didn’t, and people died.

Another type of shortage is understanding.  Since we didn’t have a leader who recruited all of us into the battle, it was easy not to understand that information and facts change and those on the pandemic certainly did.  Not because an organization wanted them to, but because the virus was new, and interventions were based on scientific evidence and that evidence didn’t come all at once – it evolved with the spread of the pandemic and attempts to stop it.  The CDC said one thing and later another.  Kaiser Permanente said masks did not protect the wearer because they thought they didn’t.   Then they said that the N-95 masks should not be worn by the general population because they were desperately needed for essential health workers.  Later they said that masks could help the person you encounter and eventually you should wear them to protect yourself.  Finally, the message was that people should all wear masks if they leave their homes (and in some cases within their own homes).  Did Kaiser deliberately, with malice, give out different directives over time.? No.  Did they learn over time through watching the virus how to improve their best practices?  Yes.  Could best practices change?  Of course. 

Another type of shortage is executive honesty, and that executive was/is the president of the United States who refused to warn and enlist the people of the country to use best practices to save themselves and the nation.  That didn’t happen.   The misinformation that the president gave out could fill an encyclopedia, so I will only use an example or two to make clear what I mean.  Frequently the CDC and Dr. Fauci said the epidemic would swamp the country.  Once Dr. Fauci said, on stage with the president, that several states had COVID and people were dying.  This truth was said just after the president said there were only 15 cases and the disease would magically disappear.  Either the president was ignorant, showboating, or misdirecting away from a battle he knew he was incapable of fighting.  It was so much easier to say the pandemic was a Democratic hoax as people died by the thousands.  As he fanned the panic, his followers clung to him as the answer; the one who knew and made them feel safe.  (If the Democrats are powerful enough to perpetrate such a worldwide hoax, why isn’t a Democrat the president?)

His campaign promised to clean the swamp and did so firing all the experts and appointing people with no expertise.  During the pandemic and the economy and the Black Lives Matter issue, no one had a clue what a proper or meaningful response would be.  Better to blame the Democrats who had no input.  So, people died and continue to die.  He got bogged down in a swamp of his own creation.

Perhaps the most dangerous and deadly decision the president made about the hoax was that wearing masks was unimportant.  Real men don’t wear masks.  People should not wear masks because to do so would be to give up their freedom.  I blame the president for his irresponsibility, but I blame those who don’t wear masks for their stupidity.  When Governor DeSantis of Florida was suddenly faced with a surge that he had not prepared for he said that no one had told him that masks were necessary to avoid such a surge.  People died.  Duh, even grammar school children knew the importance of masks by this time. He never did impose a mask order.   So, he was irresponsible, but so are most of those who don’t wear masks.  I find it disturbing that, although the experts tell the people to wear masks as it is the best thing they can do to stop the virus, thousands still refuse to.  I am shocked and disheartened about some citizens of the United States.  We are a nation that believes in personal freedom, but at some point that freedom becomes unhealthy for the general population.  Obviously, we believe that is true.  Our prisons are full of people who behaved inappropriately in many different ways.  If they hurt someone, stole from someone, got caught with drugs – the list goes on – they get sent to jail.  Their personal freedom crossed the line that society deemed final.  Wear masks, stay six feet apart, don’t congregate in large numbers – these are not difficult tasks unless you decide that they are, and you choose to put your freedom before the life of other people.  If the federal minimum sentence for having any marijuana is one year incarcerated, how much longer should you go to jail for deliberately refusing to do that which would keep the people around you from dying? 

Much to my surprise and against my religious training, apparently the Lord only loves his children if they meet in church in large groups where they can share the virus.  It is a First Amendment right to pack into church regardless of the conditions in the society.  Praying in a large group is more important than saving lives of the people in the congregation.   Interesting that the only other First Amendment right that makes it legal for people to pack into a given area is protesting the government.

The CDC begged people not to congregate at Spring Break events and to wear masks and social distance if you must go.  The CDC begged people not to congregate at 4th of July events and to wear masks and social distance if you must go.  The CDC begged people not to congregate at Thanksgiving events and to wear masks and social distance if you must go.  Some people did go, and they followed protocol.  However, we saw hundreds of people in bars and at social gatherings who followed none of the protocols.  For ten days more than 250,000 motorcycle enthusiasts gathered in Sturgis, SD for the yearly motorcycle rally.  Rarely a mask there either.  Of course, the U.S. president had rallies with thousands of followers all laughing at the idea of wearing a mask.  Yet, each of the events lead to more cases of COVID, which now, in mid-December, are decimating the population.  It is as though only part of the country wants to get well and the other part doesn’t care.  With that sort of response, businesses will continue to open and close, unemployment will continue to climb, essential health workers will continue to beg for help and people will continue to be hungry and to panic. 

I believe in boycotts.  I believe that businesses that have no more regard for their customers than those individuals who don’t wear masks, deserve to be boycotted.  In May I began writing letters.   “I’m one of those cranky old people who don’t want to be a death statistic.  I’ll be back when there is a vaccine.” 

Malaise, that is how I felt in July.  I wrote, “It is very strange.  I “should be” schooling Moe.  I “should be” doing the taxes.  I “should be” reading.  No matter how much I plan, all I want to do is walk and write.  It is like the world is going to end, so why bother to do these other things.  I had to get myself together.”  Some people ate.  Others succumbed to romance movies on the Hallmark Channel. (I did manage that.)  My friend, a high school teacher, said she felt like she was living in an SNL skit.

However, that skit was not humorous to the population as businesses and even national sports closed.  I am thankful for many things, but one thing I am most thankful for is that I am no longer in the education business.  How educators should deal with COVID boggles my mind.  I wrote a blog about questions school administrators should be able to answer before reopening the schools.  Most of the questions were basically do you have a process in place to determine what to do if…?  Regardless of the virus, the list illustrated all the spokes that revolve around the hub of a school.  I learned a lot.  I was in the biz forty years and in that time never considered the web of responsibilities that make up a school.  Personnel: teachers, secretaries, teachers’ assistants, nurses, special ed aides, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, maintenance, custodial, grounds keeping, and the list goes on). Equipment: digital and analog, buses, desks, computers, printers, network servers, kitchen facilities, lawnmowers, and all that equipment I haven’t space to name down to brooms.  There’s responsibility to the community: providing babysitting services, getting students to school, providing schedules parents can plan around…   You get the point and I have only begun to list what all an administrator is usually asked to do under normal circumstances.  These aren’t normal circumstances and schools are only one system brought to a screeching halt by the epidemic. 

The first two or three months the teachers I know remote taught and their own kids were taught digitally.  Some schools closed for a week, others for a month.  What do parents do with their children if they work?  Since old folks are the ones who need to avoid the disease most, they can’t be babysitters.   Returning to school brought the issues of providing a place for students six feet apart in classrooms that often have desks only a few feet apart and scheduling that allowed for some students to come on one schedule and others on another.  Then there were schedules where kids learned remotely part of the day and traveled to school the other part of the day.  My friend Danielle of SNL fame taught at school, but she used Zoom to teach so that the kids at home could learn at the same time as the kids in the classroom who hated being taught on Zoom if they were there.

Tech problems!  Having had tech problems all the time when I had a lab and I had computers in my classrooms, the promise was, “Call the help line and someone will be here by the end of the day.”  Didn’t say which day or week, in some cases month.  That was for requests marked “urgent.”  Well, how is tech going to work if you have to process the school computers but also the individual student computers.

It seems to be true that students under high school age do not seem to get the virus nearly as often as adults.  They can still transfer it though, and teachers started to react.  A pregnant teacher in our district was refused a leave of absence as were teachers with their own kids who had special needs or health issues.

Our county and therefore our district believe in the hoax explanation for the virus.  Teachers have been offered a cleaner to use on student desks IF THEY WANT TO.  A teacher might clean between each class, but the students may be coming from the class of teachers who don’t.   The county school board doesn’t have to be there in the room with the kids, but the teachers do, and they are taking exception.  The Board is about politics, the teachers are about survival.

In dealing with the pandemic mistakes were made.  However, it seems that much of what went wrong, much of what put us in a survival mode was ineptness supported by politics.  The virus was a hoax, masks were unnecessary, vital medical supplies weren’t made available and many people simply didn’t want to cooperate with experts because they felt their freedom was being taken away from them.  So rather than lose their freedom, they chose to take a chance on dying or having someone they love die.  Guess that is the new American way.  It says a lot about who the American people are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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