Let that sink in. Two hundred thousand lives lost to Covid-19. Multiply that number by the friends, families, co-workers, and community members who knew each one of those people, and the number goes into the millions of lives not just touched but devastated by something that could have been controlled, even stopped, had it not been for the wanton ignorance and willful cruelty of those who had the means and the knowledge beforehand to do something about it. Those who made it a political issue, a “civil rights” issue whether or not to take the same basic precautions someone takes when getting a medical exam or even changing a diaper. Those who think that “thoughts and prayers” is as good a barrier to the plague as it is to a school shooting. And those who mock the living for thinking the dead might have lived had not there been such negligence.
If 200,000 is too much to contemplate, let me bring it down to just one. When my father came down with it, my mother could not be with him through his last weeks, and at 5:30 a.m. on May 25, he died alone. My father is not a statistic.
Other countries have controlled it, and even stopped it. They are returning, however cautiously, to normal or what passes for normal now. And we, allegedly and in our arrogance, proclaim to be the greatest country in the history of the world, are indeed the leaders in infections and deaths per capita, and the predictions are that we are going to look back on this number as just one painful marker on the way to the end.
This number also reflects the loss to our way of life and our economy in numbers far beyond our ability to calculate just in dollars. Businesses large and small, international and local, have been devastated, and with it the loss of livelihoods and stability for the people who work in them and rely on the benefits that come with it, including heath insurance. Schools are shuttered, putting at risk not just the health of the students, teachers and support staff, but the learning process itself. How will that impact the colleges and universities, themselves under the same heel of the disease, or even survive to keep our country running?
I think that it is safe to say that this pandemic will have the most profound impact on the nation since World War II, not just in the loss of life but in the foundational changes it will have on everything we do. Even with a vaccine and even if we all become somehow immune to it, we are in a different world than we were on January 1, 2020. And I think it is safe to say that much of this loss can be laid at the feet of one man whose sole mission through it all was to keep his job.