I GOT a reminder of how long this pandemic has gone on this week when I received a notice that it is time to change my work computer password.

The last time I did that, all of our staff was working in the newspaper office in Central Park.

That means two months have passed since I wrote columns like this one from a desk at work instead of from an upstairs bedroom here at home.

In that time, it feels like the world we used to know has imploded, leaving behind a place where everything—from the economy to daily life to our very sense of security—has been changed by a virus we can’t see.

I’ve been comforted during this time to hear from the real experts in the field of pandemics: doctors, public health officials, scientists and other experts who’ve spent their lives learning how to fight and treat something like COVID-19.

Not so comforting during this scary time is watching politicians and those clearly ignorant about it trying to use, distort and weaponize everything from its severity to what needs to be done to fight it and minimize the death toll.

Let me be clear: There are many folks with legitimate concerns about the toll caused by the virus and the shutdowns it prompted.

If your job has vanished and you have no money for food or rent, calling for smart ways to restart the economy aren’t just idle comments. They are desperate pleas from people who need help or change to stay solvent and alive.

I’ll listen to those folks and their concerns all day long, and hope somehow smart ways to address them follow.

What I’m more than sick of are comments from people who think their boredom and self-centered interests are worth putting others at risk.

The other day, on Facebook I saw a guy light up a the comments of a post by saying, “I don’t wear a mask because I’m not sick!”

Well, Mr. “Who needs a stupid mask”? must not have been paying attention every single day when medical experts have pointed out that you can be infected and pass on the disease for days before showing symptoms.

So, yes, he very well could be sick and out spreading the disease willy-nilly before he knows it.

To me, these folks are off the mark when they complain that they’re being denied personal freedoms.

Crowding onto beaches, sitting elbow to elbow at local bars and standing shoulder to shoulder at malls or on downtown sidewalks are not guaranteed freedoms in the midst of a pandemic, because nothing outweighs the freedom to stay alive.

These folks neither acknowledge nor take responsibility for actions that threaten others while deaths are still rising.

Even folks who claim the coronavirus is overblown or a politically motivated hoax should at some point be moved by some small sense of self-preservation. Ignoring safeguards means they could well fall victim to the horrendous disease or take it home to their children or elderly relatives.

And, hey, I get it. I’m sick of hanging out at home and would love to get out and go to a graduation (just missed one for a family member), a dinner out or a wedding.

But when we leave our homes for anything these days, ignoring or mistakenly neglecting a precaution can cause or bring home a world of hurt.

Any who doubt the severity and toll taken by this disease should get off social media and talk to a doctor or nurse on the front lines. They’ve seen the pain and horrific suffering, people who struggle for days just to draw breath, then go on ventilators and never make it off alive.

And yes, that’s happening not just in New York, but around the corner and to someone near where you live. There’s no way to paint that as Fake News when it’s someone you know: your uncle, your teacher or the nice lady down the street.

Yes, we have to move smartly to reopen our world, but not until there’s enough testing, tracing and, frankly, more buy-in from people who selfishly want everything they want the second they want it.

We can plan to responsibly reopen and help the small business owner and those who badly need paychecks. But we all need to realize that we can’t go from zero to 60 safely right now, and that we may have to find ways to take care of folks who need help as we safely edge back to a new normal.

As we do that, it should never be acceptable to factor in a certain amount of death and suffering, especially just to satisfy folks who want everything back like it used to be. Any thought of “acceptable deaths” in this calculus is morally reprehensible.

We’re better than that and can put our big boy pants on to wait for crowded ball games, visiting packed churches and Friday night visits to crowded local bistros: anything it takes to save even one more life.

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415

rhedelt@freelancestar.com

Recommended for you

Load comments