Reflecting on the Pandemic, 3 Years Later

by admin | April 6, 2023 5:52 pm

Three years ago, at Easter, my Beautiful Mystery Companion and I sat down to a fancy lunch fashioned from frozen Christmas dinner leftovers. We propped an iPhone against the table’s centerpiece and watched famed tenor Andrea Bocelli perform Music for Hope along with an organist, in an empty cathedral in Milan, Italy. The streets were largely empty as well, in Milan and across the world. The COVID-19 pandemic had forced much of the world to shut down, including us, of course. We were fortunate enough to be able to work from home, to order groceries picked up curbside, to be sequestered in a beautiful home with all the amenities. Many, many people were not as blessed, from first responders and health-care workers to grocery-store workers, and the people who put the groceries we ordered online in the back of our SUV, while we remained masked in the front seats.

Bocelli’s beautiful voice and the haunting images that accompanied this video still move me. I have watched it at least a half-dozen times in the past three years, including this week. It still brings tears to my eyes.

I look back on those months when we were in full-blown pandemic mode, until the first vaccines were administered here in February 2021, with sadness and perplexity. Sadness for all the deaths and serious illnesses, the sacrifices made by health-care workers, far too many of whom also contracted the virus and died, the families sitting down this Easter with an empty seat, maybe two, at that dining table. The perplexity comes from how COVID-19 further divided a country already in deep schism, into those who chose to follow the advice of Dr. Anthony Fauci and other scientists, and those who scoffed at these intrusions upon their “freedom,” such as being required to wear a mask.

[1]That division continues to this day. There are actually people still holding up signs saying “COVID-19 Was A Hoax.” I saw a photo of one the other day, in April 2023. A recent Ohio State University study [2] concludes that belief the pandemic was a hoax is a “gateway” to believing other conspiracy theories, such as stolen elections.

For more than two years, in the weekly Capital Highlights column I write for the Texas Press Association, which runs in about 100 newspapers across the state, I reported the state’s COVID-19 statistics, as compiled by the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University and the Texas Department of State Health Services. Both those entities largely stopped reporting cases in March, meaning the pandemic has now become an endemic, thanks to the 13.338 billion vaccines[3] administered across the globe. As a result, I stopped reporting the cases as well, but I went in search just now to see where we stand.

COVID-19 is still with us, more than three years later. The worldwide death toll is nearly 7 million. In the United States, 1.1 million people died from COVID-19. Even today in Texas, nearly 5,000 cases were reported in the past week, with 79 fatalities, according to DSHS[4]. Fortunately, for those of us who have been vaccinated and/or received the booster shots, the symptoms have been relatively mild and short-lived.

I personally knew at least five people who died from COVID-19 during the past three years. I grieve for their loved ones and am grateful that nobody in our families became seriously ill, though several of us, including me, tested positive at some point. I truly believe the vaccine kept our cases from becoming much worse. I believe in the science.

On this Easter, besides celebrating the resurrection of Christ, I hope we can take some time to reflect on the toll this virus had on so many people — not just in health but the economic and psychological toll. There are many people still suffering from the long-term effects of the virus. Yet, so many of us go on about our business as if the worst pandemic since the 1918 influenza outbreak never happened. A catastrophic event that began just three years ago seems like ancient history. Such is the nature of our collective short-term memory loss, I suppose.

My prayer is that we will learn from this deadly lesson. There will be other pandemics. That is nearly a certainty. How we react to them can mean the difference between life and death for millions of people.

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