In early March, I contracted the coronavirus. I was ill for approximately seven weeks. I suffered through fevers that were so intense that paracetamol only provided temporary relief. The chills I experienced were so bone shaking that even multiple duvets and an electric blanket set on the highest level could not warm me. I was so weak that doing simple things like going to the bathroom and taking a shower were exhausting. There were points in which I felt a panic in my chest and body, as if the air was being squeezed out of me. I wondered in those moments if I was going to die.
It was not just me; my wife had it. My parents had it. My mother is a Type 1 diabetic: the virus caused her blood sugar levels to spike dangerously. My father struggled with it: it caused him terrible intestinal problems for weeks. Someone who was close to me died from it.
A coronavirus funeral is a terrible and macabre spectacle. The funeral directors wear masks. As a precaution, it’s advisable to lay your own blankets down on the pews. Even so, a fellow in a hazmat suit with a cannister of chemicals sprays the seats before and after. The service is limited; many of the attendees view online. Then there is the absolute quiet, the few voices filling out the hymns, the limited time one is allowed to linger before the next funeral requires everyone to leave.
The coronavirus is not behind us. Rates of infection have been going up recently throughout the world. It is as deadly as it has ever been. We are being encouraged to return to life’s usual patterns yet the virus is still there. We are entering flu season as well: this may make a second spike even worse. We are informed by our leaders, that there’s a calculated risk involved. After all, cancer kills four times the number of people that the coronavirus does and we don’t shut down the economy because of that.
There is a difference, however: one can avoid cancer through lifestyle changes. It is not transmissible via the air and close contacts. As much as we want the coronavirus to be gone, it lingers, it swirls around our society suffocating it. Until science provides us with a vaccine, it is going to be a fact of life. We still need to protect the vulnerable. We still need to provide sustenance for those who are negatively impacted by the coronavirus’ effects on the economy. We still need to provide comfort via mental health provision for those who have experienced loss.
This is not the first time Western societies have faced a pandemic: the comparison to the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918 is apt. An article in the New York Times showed how individuals are looking in old cedar chests and discovering correspondence from this period. These letters reveal that there was the same fear, the same panic, and because of science’s lack of understanding at the time, even greater death. However, as the letters attest, we survived. We will survive this too: more of us will survive if we ensure that we handle the virus as carefully as we should. This means we do not ignore it, nor we disregard those who fall prey to the virus as somehow being merely a regrettable statistic. Rather, we must strain every sinew to ensure that life is preserved, that life carries on, that we get past this terrible time with as many survivors as we can.