Yeah, there's other stuff going on in the world right now other than the coronavirus. But since my mind is filled to overflowing with thoughts about this rapidly evolving tragedy, I figure I might as well do a brain dump into this blog post. So in no particular order...
(1) Feel for us old folks, America. My wife and I are both over 70 by a year or two. So we're doomed! If we get infected. Well, maybe not mortally doomed, though this is possible, but likely we'll suffer more than younger folks. Yet the empty shelves of hand sanitizer, both in stores and online, face young and old alike.
I completely understand why a 30-something parent wants to stock up on hand sanitizer to protect their children and other family members.
But just as public health experts are saying everybody at low risk should wash their hands regularly to reduce the chance they could pass the coronavirus on to someone high risk -- like my wife and me -- maybe it makes sense to reserve some supplies of hand sanitizer for those with compromised immune systems, other serious health problems, and the elderly.
(2) Trump supporters need to wake up. Last night Trump gave a speech designed to reassure a worried nation. It had the opposite effect. Which isn't surprising, because Trump can be guaranteed to tell lies, falsehoods, and half-truths at every opportunity. His failure to mobilize the federal government in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak has made a bad situation way worse.
Other countries have tested vastly more people than the United States. Thus our country is flying blind when it comes to knowing the real extent of how many are infected with the coronavirus. The lack of testing kits is a clear case of presidential malpractice. Unfortunately, those who will become seriously ill because of our Idiot-in-Chief won't be able to sue him. We can vote him out of office this November, though.
(3) Investors are acting wisely. It's painful to see the stock market crashing. But a (small) bright spot is that investors are recognizing with great clarity that the crap Trump has been spewing about the coronavirus outbreak can't be trusted. This morning I read a great Bloomberg piece that explained why the market crashed after Trump's speech to the nation.
Basically, the reason is that Trump's ideas for bolstering the economy were feeble and made little sense, while what is needed to calm the markets is a strong, fact-based, scientifically sound approach to dealing with the coronavirus. Other countries have done this with considerable success. Until the Trump administration changes course and admits it is on the wrong track, the stock market is gong to keep saying, do something different.
(4) Life does seem a bit sweeter. Quite a few years ago I read a piece in Parade magazine by an Iraq war veteran (if I recall correctly) that contained a gripping line: "We all need something in our life that can kill us." Of course, that would be life itself. But what this guy was getting at is that life feels more lively when we know it could end at any moment.
I've been dealing with pretty severe pain in my right leg for about a month. But today was sunny here in Oregon, and it's supposed to rain tomorrow. So I got out my DR Field Mower with the lawn mowing attachment and attacked the grass in our large rural yard. As I was mowing, I kept thinking, "If I were to die from the coronavirus soon, at least I'd leave behind a good-looking lawn."
Somehow that was comforting. It got me focused on the here and now, with a dose of there and then. Namely, the prospect of my eventual death, which obviously isn't a matter of "if" but "when." Sure, it is unlikely that the coronavirus will do me in. But something will, one day, and it felt good to be reminded of how precious every moment is, given that we can't be sure how many moments remain to us -- a lesson that the coronavirus outbreak is teaching all of us.
(5) Sports... who cares? Today it was announced that March Madness, the NCAA basketball tournament, won't happen this year. Likely the rest of the NBA season is headed for the same outcome. I was looking forward to watching the Oregon teams in the tournament, but this was a wise decision by the NCAA.
Let's imagine that just one person in the whole United States contacted the coronavirus and died as a result of March Madness. Would that make the tournament worthwhile, a whole bunch of basketball entertainment in exchange for one death? I don't think so, because there isn't any way to weigh the value of a single life versus millions of satisfied fans. Sports are just a small part of life. Life, on the other hand, is life.
(6) Our health care system is teetering. What's deeply concerning about the coronavirus outbreak is how it is going to cast a spotlight on the shortcomings of our health care system. Democrats in Congress are correctly proposing ways to ensure that everyone who needs medical treatment gets it, whether or not they have insurance. But this should be a permanent given, not an add-on in a public health emergency.
Also, I'm feeling mildly guilty about my days in the 1970s and 80s when I was a health planner here in Oregon. One of our jobs was to regulate hospital and nursing home expansions and purchases of expensive medical equipment like CT scanners. The goal was a lean health care system with little excess capacity.
But now it looks like a lot of excess capacity would be highly desirable. Likely hospitals are going to have to choose between treating seriously ill coronavirus patients, and people with equally serious other problems, such as heart attacks. Bill Gates and others have been warning that a global pandemic was coming. It's too bad that our nation's leaders didn't take those warnings seriously.
(7) Seniors, the homeless, and other vulnerable people deserve to be Job #1. Most Americans are going to get through the coronavirus crisis just fine. Yes, we might have to ration our toilet paper and hand sanitizer, along with finding other things to do than watch sports. But mostly hidden from our view will be many other people who will suffer much more.
Reports already are coming in of seniors who are afraid to go shopping because they might be infected. I hate to think of elderly people sitting at home, isolated and fearful. The homeless also are going to be affected by the outbreak. How do you "socially distance" -- keeping six feet away from other people -- when you're living on the street, or in a homeless shelter?
Then there's those with lung, heart, kidney, and other health problems. My wife has asthma. She likely would be at greater risk than I am from the coronavirus, since it attacks the lungs. And there's millions of other people in this county in a similar situation: having to deal with an immune deficiency problem, or some other serious medical condition.
I just wish we had a president right now who could speak as Joe Biden did today. Compassionately, competently, caringly. The coronavirus could be a way for our county to come together and face this problem as one people, bound together by a common enemy.
It still could happen. But not because of Donald Trump. Rather, in spite of him.