I don’t often get brutally honest on this blog but events this week compelled I write about it. Hearing friends are sick Monday, and two dying on Wednesday, another on Thursday (all due to COVID), and then attending a zoom wedding on Friday… followed by my own fears given my battles with COPD since 2015, I felt that I ought to express some blunt truths that we are still in the process of fully comprehending.
This is NOT the flu. This is nothing like the flu. COVID-19 is not some glorified version of the flu. The seasonal flu doesn’t perform an all out assault on the body’s respiratory system, and then for shits n giggles destroy other vital organs as well. The flu doesn’t result in mass graves in the Bronx, or require hospitals to bring in refrigerated trucks to store the bodies because the morgue has run out of space. The flu does not by-pass someone’s immune system and make them feel like they’re normal, showing no symptoms, no fever, no cough, no short of breath, all the while they are contagious and spreading it with every breath, every time they talk, every time microns manage to leave a small area of air that their mask doesn’t tightly cover. No… the regular seasonal flu does NOT do these things. But COVID-19 sure does; acting as a silent serial killer that makes anyone and everyone a potential host and spreader.
COVID-19 flourishes whenever there’s a weak spot, an opening where a micron-sized droplet can carry the virus and then be inhaled by someone even 15 feet away. How big is a micron infected particle? 0.14 microns. How big is a micron?
Smaller than a red blood cell. Released every time one speaks, breathes, coughs or sneezes. Even with a mask, the microns escape from where ever there’s an air opening that the mask isn’t covering.
The two friends who died Wednesday had each learned Monday they had COVID. No underlying condition, no immunity compromised, no respiratory issues. One was an essential worker delivering food in the city, another was a medical supply driver. Both wore masks (not the ones I made). Upon feeling fine since all of this started happening in March, they suddenly felt a tightness in their chest which they couldn’t ignore. Upon getting tested and admitted in the hospital, they were intubated and could no longer breathe on their own. By Wednesday their heart’s gave out due to lack of oxygen and what is known as a “cytokine storm”. This is not the flu.
The family friend who passed on Thursday had an underlying heart condition, but had beat cancer twice in the past and still appeared functional to work before applying for retirement next year. He could even play soccer this past summer with his grandkids, something even I can not do. He stayed home, his wife worked at a restaurant, they practiced as much social distancing and cleanliness as possible…. and yet a COVID micron particle got to him. And the assault on his respiratory system and heart was too much. This is NOT the common flu.
What makes this more dangerous is the sheer evil of how this disease operates. It can assault one person and give them every symptom, or appear benign in another while making them think they are healthy enough to go out and about without a care in the world, cleaning hands, wearing masks, and yet they can still let out micron particles in the air, which then travel around until it’s inhaled by someone nearby. It can even linger in the body for days, causing no symptoms, until suddenly, within hours, it can compromise the entire body. The common flu doesn’t do this.
Without a meaningful testing and tracing system in place (which itself can be a topic for another blog post), anyone and everyone can be a host and spreader of this silent serial killer. Whereas we have vaccines and treatments against the common flu, we have nothing to fight COVID-19 once it’s in the body. Preventive measures aren’t enough because the microns in the air are invisible and the average human will not take serious that which it cannot visually see. Even the anti-body tests are not as reliable as thought which is why doctors stress that we continue social distancing even if someone has the antibodies.
My point is… we don’t know who has COVID or not. A place, whether indoor or outdoor, full of apparently healthy, masked, people is no guarantee that there isn’t one asymptomatic spreader in that area. And whereas the seasonal flu can kill dozens of people in the US in a year, COVID has already killed 70,000 within 5 months and the number is still expected to rise, perhaps even accelerate as lockdowns start being rolled back. We have a common flu vaccine… we don’t have one for COVID-19.
While this creates for an uncomfortable and uncertain situation going forward, we ought to demand that our governments do more. They had the legal right to enact the lockdowns, but then they should compensate the people by means of some sort of universal basic income with a system in place that automatically goes to the people. Bypass the banks and their predatory lending schemes (because that part didn’t work out so well for small businesses), and get the money to the people and then fund a proper universal healthcare system so that no one is left behind. What COVID-19 has shown is that all it takes is one spreader to infect a community… and we can’t expect everyone to act in their best interest since all it takes is one careless act in the most minimal and accidental way to let out these micron particles in the air shared by everyone.
However, as dark and dreary as my post sounds, the truth is that this will pass. Eventually. We must abandon the “every man for himself” mentality that capitalism has encouraged. We are all a part of a community, giving and taking, thanking and pleasing, forgiving and understanding. Empathy and cooperation have more lasting value than the chase and race for the material goals that those in power want us to seek. There is nothing worth “keeping up with” if it fosters a sense of harmful competition, where we’re made to feel less if we don’t compare with those who have given in to mindless and short-sighted trends. Each of us is capable of making our own successes, of creating with our hands and minds works and ideas that can benefit others. We’re all together now, globally interconnected and under one atmosphere and upon one earth. Let’s watch out for one another, even if doesn’t immediately feel worth the effort.