Living in Society

A Year With a Pandemic


On Feb. 6, 2020, a 57-year-old California woman died suddenly after feeling ill for several days. She was the nation’s first known victim of the coronavirus.

Since then, more than 462,000 U.S. residents died from the virus, including more than 5,000 Iowans. Despite modern communications and improved record-keeping we don’t know the exact number of COVID-19 deaths. Causes of death can be complicated in normal times. Suffice it many have died of the virus, or complications from it, and it seems likely we will surpass the number of deaths during the 1918 influenza pandemic.

The combination of physical isolation and communication via social media has made the last year a weird one. Because of the isolation, especially by exiting my retail jobs, I felt healthier during this time than I have for a while. Social media, on the other hand, seems populated by people with their hair on fire about one or another aspect of the pandemic and government response to it. Of things I can control, turning social media off most of the time is one of them. The reduced diet of noise has been better for me. I recommend it.

A year after a national public health emergency was declared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Jan. 31, 2020, the death toll climbs, unrelenting. After surging, the number of hospitalizations were recently down in Iowa, which contributed to the governor’s decision to relax her recommended restrictions, according to news reports. Frequent email reminders from the state government, to take a survey and get tested for COVID-19 if needed, ceased some time ago.

In our area the senior citizens group is organizing logistics to do a mass vaccination (300 doses) at the Catholic Church in partnership with the local pharmacy. The idea is to help seniors with limited mobility get vaccinated. When doses of vaccine will be available is unknown. I signed up for the vaccine and to volunteer.

Friday afternoon, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds issued a new proclamation of disaster emergency. Because of our age, we fall into the category “vulnerable Iowans.” Here is the governor’s guidance:

I continue to strongly encourage all vulnerable Iowans, including those with preexisting medical conditions and those older than 65, in all counties of the state to continue to limit their activities outside of their home, including their visits to businesses and other establishments and their participation in gatherings of any size and any purpose. And I encourage all Iowans to limit their in-person interactions with vulnerable Iowans and to exercise particular care and caution when engaging in any necessary interactions.

Governor’s proclamation of disaster emergency, Feb. 5, 2021.

This is Iowa. No mandates here. People are on their own. Just do the best you can.

The coronavirus pandemic is unlike anything I’ve known. So far, so good, despite a lack of political leadership in preparing for a potential pandemic, or, after it arrived a year ago, in mobilizing national resources to combat it. Iowa and the nation are playing catch-up.

For people in our group — financially stable, without major health risks, and able to live without working a job for pay — it is easy to figure out what we can be doing to stay healthy. Neighbors who contracted COVID-19 have recovered, except for those who died. There is no sense of everyone pulling together to get through the pandemic, which is disappointing.

We have become isolated in society, waiting to see the existential facts of what the virus is and what it does to us. It’s a sad day for a nation that mobilized to enter and win World War II. I suppose too many people don’t remember the people who fought that war to make the analogy meaningful. I remember and am doing what I can to help.