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Social Commentary

Meditation on the Coronavirus Pandemic

Fresh arugula from our garden.

“PPE is the scariest part,” an emergency room physician said during a conference call yesterday.

They wear an N95 mask until it wears out. They use one isolation gown per shift, introducing a risk that COVID-19 is transmitted from patient to patient by attending medical staff.

It is unbelievable that in the United States, during a pandemic, medical staff in a local hospital cannot get adequate personal protective equipment.

Where are our priorities?

I understand “flattening the curve.” It was an easy decision for the two of us to stay home as soon as the president and governor called for us to do so. If we don’t get sick, more hospital beds, ICU units, and ventilators are available for others. It’s not a long-term solution to the pandemic but it prevents hospitals from becoming swamped with patients, especially if more people do it.

As pensioners our lives are financially predictable and likely better for having to leave the property less often. The coronavirus pandemic became the tipping point in my career as I phoned the home, farm and auto supply store last Tuesday while on a COVID-19 leave of absence to announce my retirement. While we worked hard to get to this point in our lives, we don’t take it for granted. The challenge is determining how else besides sheltering at home we can contribute to society.

There is politics. We must summon the political will to change our governance to address not only the pandemic with its health and economic disruption, but the climate crisis, environmental degradation, economic injustice, an expensive and inaccessible health care system and more. That means all of us contributing to electing candidates with the backbone to do more than current office holders have. Political change is always an uncertain endeavor yet I feel a wind beginning to fill our sails.

How long should we shelter in place? It’s hard to say because of the opacity of the federal government. In March, administration models for the pandemic indicated between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die. The Washington Post yesterday indicated that’s about right. If we don’t address spread of the disease more than we have it could be worse.

The IHME model projects 1,513 Iowa deaths from COVID-19 by Aug. 4. The May 3 report was 188. The same model projects 134,475 U.S. deaths by Aug. 4. It’s no consolation to know the 1918 influenza pandemic was more severe with an estimated 675,000 U.S. deaths over its course.

Yesterday Steve Mnuchin announced the U.S. Treasury Department plans to borrow nearly $3 trillion between April and June to bankroll the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. While the number is bigger than I can imagine it’s no surprise this increase in our national debt was coming. It makes me wonder about the stimulus bills.

These were junk bills, hastily created and influenced too much by lobbyists. They provided little real hope for people impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. I’m not impressed that we received an “economic impact payment.” I’m even less impressed that the president wasted resources by sending me his explanation of what’s going on during “this time.” Further into the descent of lesserdom, I’m not sure taking out a large loan was a good idea. The only conclusion I can draw is the politicians don’t know how to help real people.

My intent is not to complain. I present above a positive image of our garden arugula. Planted March 2, it is the best crop I’ve yet grown in terms of quality and quantity. Salads, pasta dishes, and arugula pesto are in process before this patch is finished. I have another batch of seedlings growing in the greenhouse for the next wave. Typical of these times, the best work we do is on our own. That’s not good enough to get ourselves out of the societal pickle we’re in. We will be stronger if we can come together in building a better future after the pandemic.

Yesterday a fight broke out near a liquor store in India as the government lifted stay at home restrictions. There is also pent up demand to do things here. My prediction is when the U.S. opens up, and people believe it is safe to return to normal, tattoo artists will be very busy.