The coronavirus tragedy is still ravaging its way around the world as I write this — especially here in the United States. Two million people have been struck by it so far, and 120,000 are dead. The USA’s 560,000 cases are three times more than any other nation. And the 22,000 who have died in America also exceeds the number of victims in any other country. How on earth did this happen?
Many people have shared their tragic personal stories on the Internet as this silent killer has spread: Watching a dying father through thick glass, unable to hold his hand. Grieving for a mother who passed away and must be sent directly to burial or cremation, with restrictions on gathering to mourn. Aching for a son who partied with friends because “this was just an old person’s disease.”
But the worst tragedy was that so many of these deaths could have been prevented. In the USA, the country’s Administration ignored the warning reports coming out of China and other stricken countries. Americans were assured the few cases would soon be gone. There was nothing to worry about.
Those unfortunate delays cost far too many lives. When the cases and deaths began rising sharply, there were not enough test kits, respirators or protective clothing. Social distancing was only slowly and grudgingly implemented. And all the while, the death toll mounted. Decisions were agonizingly made over who went onto a respirator and lived, or had no equipment and died. Doctors and nurses lacking protective clothing came down with coronavirus. And too many of them died, while trying to help others.
These terrible events call up memories of Michael Crichton’s novel The Andromeda Strain in 1969 about an extremely deadly, fast-spreading virus. He was in medical school at Harvard when this came out and it was his first bestseller. But even Crichton’s fertile imagination could not picture the sudden coronavirus pandemic which has struck us now.
The real stories of so many people’s tragic losses are part of a historic disaster which should never be forgotten. Certainly it should be remembered on November 3, 2020. That is the national election day. And it is our chance to honor those who have died, by guaranteeing that different officers are chosen to steer our ship of state through the next terrible storm.