While most of us are worried about our jobs and not being able to go out, Covid-19 devastated Sandy Brown’s entire life in a matter of a few days! She lost her husband, Freddie Lee Brown Jr, on March 26, 2020, and her son, Freddie Lee Brown III, on March 29, 2020. Both died from Covid-19 infections. Yes, their death only three days apart. Freddie Lee Brown Jr, her husband, had received a kidney transplant years earlier and fell ill. He went to the hospital after having trouble breathing and tested positive for the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS–CoV–2), the virus that causes Covid-19 illnesses. Sadly, he lost the battle and passed away at only 59 years old. The day after his death, Sandy Brown’s son who had asthma, got very sick too. His condition improved but then worsened again when he died two days later, at only 20 years old. 1 This plague shows no mercy or sympathy for anyone. Mrs. Brown did not have time to grieve her husband because she lost her son immediately after. The saddest part, in addition to her double loss, was that she could not benefit from the kindness and in-person support of friends and family members because of lock-down and shelter in place orders to prevent further spreading the virus. For those who have a sick family member or who just lost a loved one, the threat of this virus is all too real! There was no large funeral service allowed and for the burial, people had to stay outside by their parked cars. The Brown family and friends could not get close to say goodbye one last time or hug Sandy to comfort her. Most importantly, Sandy Brown was not able to receive support from her family, she was not able to have people tell her everything was going to be okay. If you have lost someone, then you know the feeling, now imagine going through it alone, after losing the two people closest to you within such a short time. These harsh changes to the way we mourn touch all those who grieve someone, whether or not Covid-19 is the culprit. Families are facing similar pain from isolation in grief all around the world. If we could put ourselves in the shoes of Mrs. Brown or of anyone who lost a spouse or child or a parent to this disease, would it make us want to stay home and follow guidelines for taking precautions of not infecting others more seriously? Would we realize that wearing masks in public protects those most at risk? But what if you are neither married nor a parent, and still in college?
Imagine you started a new year: your final semester in college, thinking that this is going to be the best time yet. Graduation was coming up in May. But instead of planning celebrations, you brace yourself to finish your college degree online. Instead of entering the job market at the time of lowest employment in the US, the unemployment rate is now higher than it was during the 1929 Great Depression. This spring should have brought opportunities to strengthen bonds with friends before you each went your separate ways. Then, in the first month of 2020, we heard about a dangerous virus across the world in China. In a matter of weeks, it made its way to the US. At first, not too many people were infected, or so we thought. Then, a month went by and the news described this virus killing people at a fast pace. This virus was now ubiquitous everywhere and death tolls reports took over the media with a warning of a pandemic. In December of 2019, the outbreak started in China, this virus was affecting people aggressively and seemed to be spreading very rapidly. When the news first arrived in the United States at first, some people made jokes on social media. Memes started flowing and news about COVID-19 overtook every online platform. Some did not take it seriously because this was not the first time that in the US there were warnings about a virus. Truthfully, I remember looking at this news and I simply scrolling past it. Most likely, I thought it would not come to the US or if it did, it would not be that bad. However, now we know that SARS-CoV-2 causes COVID-19 which is a very serious illness that leads to death for many. And sadly the US is now in the lead for the most coronavirus cases with over 1.3 million cases.2 Today, almost at the end of May, the death-toll in the US has crossed the 100,000 mark. For some like the Brown family, they have lost more than one person to this disease.
Perhaps, we underestimated this virus because when this happened with previous outbreaks, some people were scared but the US government did not make a big deal about it, so people continued living their lives unaltered. The current US Administration minimized this situation despite warning reports it had received.3 Then, the situation worsened very quickly, according to CDC there have been over 1.6 million cases of COVID-19 in the US alone.4 However, for many this virus has not affected them personally yet, thankfully. We hear of the number of people who are losing the battle with this sickness but for most, these are news about major hot spots, like Washington States, New York, or Louisiana. To those directly affected, great loss brings an unimaginable pain.5 We learned that SARS-CoV-2 initially got into the United States as people were traveling and met up with others. There was no knowledge of the symptoms that people should be looking for, so they continued their daily activities. For others, thinking they just had a cold, they too continued their normal business or travels. Since it was not clear how it could spread, especially from asymptomatic persons, the list of precautions people should be taking to prevent transmission was minimal. Now, of course, we know that the symptoms are cough, fever, shortness of breath, muscle pain, headaches, etc. and they sound similar to those of a cold. This has made it difficult for people to know whether they have gotten the virus or not and testing is still not readily available in most cities.6 Another thing to worry about is that symptoms can take up to fourteen days after infection before manifesting themselves for those who get sick.4 Plus anyone can be a carrier of the virus and never get sick, making preventing transmission exceptionally complicated against this invisible enemy. So this led to many unexpected behaviors.
The response to Covid-19 affects everyone in many different ways depending on their life circumstances. Some went shopping to stock up on major commodities because of the rumbles of major impending lock-downs. Initially, those who started planing and preparing worried grocery stores would run out of supplies, despite the CEOs of these grocery chains confirming that their suppliers were still working.8 Some of this initial hoarding took the elderly by surprise and left store shelves empty of standard staples. People with a compromised immune system who had a greater need for some items, such as sanitizing and cleaning products faced shortages. For some odd reason people were buying and overstocking on toilet paper, they wiped every store shelf clean of it! Since there was no more toilet paper, people started shopping for baby wipes. Young moms were panicking and breaking down because they could not find any more wipes for their babies. Even baby formula was bought not for themselves, but some saw an opportunity to sell it online for hundred dollars a can (or ten dollars per scoop) -quite a hefty profit. People were selling toilet paper for over two hundred dollars a pack, or fifty dollars a roll. This was getting out of hand. Where was their humanity? Why abuse one another? Our world will never last if we do not work together and empathize with one another. There is panic because there have not been any signs of hope or effective treatment found over 6 months after the start of this pandemic. We do not know when this will end or whether it will only get worse.9 Indeed, so much worse for Sandy Brown who lost her husband and son in the span of three days?
Beyond the loss of life, the loss of work and income is the next devastating effect of this pandemic. Guidelines for sheltering in place meant losing jobs for all those who cannot work from home. And for those lucky to be able to work from home, it also came with the imperative of homeschooling their children. Edicts for social distancing require stores to limit the number of people who go in at the same time, creating long waiting lines outside of grocery stores. This world pandemic has devastating and inevitable effects for everyone. Let’s not forget those at the epicenters of outbreaks: the hospitals in New York, nursing homes in Seattle, or in African American neighborhoods in Louisiana. With now over one point six million cases, the United States being the country with most reported cases; plus it is still unclear whether one can get reinfected.10 People who work in hospitals, first responders, delivery drivers, grocery store clerks, and all others deemed essential workers have had to risk their lives and that of their families for others. Working outside one’s home during this pandemic, especially for those who work in the medical field often means no longer hugging their own children when they get home from work. Another heartbreaking impact is for women who are giving birth alone and only have a a few hours with their partner and their baby.11 The list continues; it ranges from students having to switch to online courses which are seriously impeding those with many with learning disabilities, Many amid so many changes are struggling to finish school. For those graduating, participating in commencement ceremonies is no longer an option and so they will not be able to cross the stage, an important symbolic and joyful milestone. No matter whether online or car parade graduations do not quite provide the smae experience. For single parents being forced to take their children with them to buy essential items is risking their lives because in the United States one cannot legally leave children under twelve years old home alone or unattended. Schools in the US not only provide education but also provide meals for the students. However, district food distribution requires the child -or children- to be present with the parents to be able to pick up these free meals. So despite many best efforts staying home has not been an option for everyone. Social distancing is continuously challenged by these rules. While we have surpassed the number of deaths in Italy, the US has not really seen complete lock-downs. New York is the state that needs the most help.12 In crowded states, social distancing seems rather impossible in subways or buses. However, even in states that are not as crowded, such as in Texas, we must stay home. There is a shortage of rooms in hospitals, not enough tests, therefore, no need for people to dye alone in hospitals. Current restrictions means no family by one’s side to make them feel comfortable or take care of them. Bringing a loved one to the emergency room means leaving them at the entrance. Sp unless the person heals from the disease that the family will never see them again. This is the breadth of the impacts of this pandemic. Now, the focus is switching from sheltering in place to reopening the economy. it is still unclear how quickly this can or should be done in light of continued shortage of testing material and Personal Protective Equipment.
The most frightening change comes as we still await a cure or vaccine but Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, announced on April 27th that businesses such as restaurants will be opening up in phases starting on May 1st. He also mentioned that other businesses such as bars, salons, gyms, and barbershops will re-open mid-May.13 As nice as it sounds for this quarantine to end, we also want to make sure we are safe and continuing to take necessary precautions. Citizens should follow the guidelines provided by their state, for example, Texas has a website we can visit. The website provides information such as who is more at risk, what to do when you are starting to feel ill, including a self-check exam.14 We also have to consider that even if we are not high risk or someone with a weak immune system, the virus might not be as deadly. However, healthy asymptomatic carriers who unknowingly get near someone at high risk can lead to death, hence the need to remain cautious. One should wear masks in public, frequently and thoroughly wash hands, and minimize daily exposure. But Memorial day Weekend saw a very alarming increase of people ignoring safe social distancing, refusing to wear mask, and being s cavalier about possibly dying of this or something else. This pandemic does not present an individual choice, I protect myself I stay well, I break rules I get sick. Instead, not using masks and washing hands are meant to protect both the person and the entire community in which he or she lives, shops, works, etc. So defiant behavior is attune to selfishly deciding the elderly, the young and sick, and anyone with a compromised immune system does not matter and should die so one is not inconvenienced with wearing a mask in public.
Is losing a loved one worth it? Will it be worth it for those two hours of fun? Is sitting in a restaurant eating something you could eat at home worth risking someone’s life? One precaution that can significantly impair the spread of the disease is to wear masks. We must approach the situation wisely, we need to inform the younger generation because although they are not at as much risk, they need to know why it is important for people to stay home and follow safety procedures when going outside.15 Understandably, some people need to work to buy food or get the medications they need. Unless your trips are essential, it would be smart to minimize exposure and keep our distance until we are in the clear with a way to stop the virus. Not everyone can get tested which makes it hard for people to know who should stay home and who should be able to go out. Nonetheless, we can only hope for the best and remain optimistic because that is the only way that we will get through this. We have to give each other hope even though it is the hardest choice at the moment.16 Ultimately once we get past most of this pandemic it would be great to know we did everything we could to avoid unnecessary deaths of spouses, sons, daughters, partners, parents, friends, coworkers, and of others part of our communities.