The other costs of the coronavirus

May 6, 2020 | 93 comments

By Ray Horsley

As we keep ourselves so well informed, usually too informed, of the number of Covid-19 cases, the tests, and the deaths, maybe we should take a look at the other cost. Actually, the plural as in the other “costs” is more fitting since there are so many.

A lifelong friend of mine who nearly made it to ninety-four years of age died last March (no, not of Covid-19). She and her daughter had planned a “celebration of life” service to be held at the church they had attended for over fifty years. I was upset when it was canceled. My friend’s daughter and her family were devastated. Canceling a funeral might not mean a lot to some, but it did to them, and that’s the point. If it means a lot to them it should mean a lot to all of us.

I graduated from high school with my friend’s daughter, many years ago, but this year millions of young people will be robbed of this honor they’ve rightfully earned through discipline and study. As long as they live they’ll never be able to recover it. But we can’t wait for them to complain. They won’t. Children usually accept whatever we pass to them simply as how things normally are. So it’s up to us to do the complaining, the thinking, the questioning.

Do we really want our teenage girls to work hard at minimum wage jobs, exhibit the self control needed to save some money, only to carefully select an expensive graduation or prom dress which will never leave their closets? It’s more than just a pretty dress. We’re destroying the very work ethic we work at as adults to instill in them. Do our youth even realize what they’re being robbed of? Maybe not, but on the other side of the debate, aren’t our lock-downs a worthy cause? We’re talking about lives here! Let’s look a little deeper at both sides.

When I got my driver’s license, many years ago, our federal government was bullying all fifty states into lowering their speed limits from 70 to 55. Each state still had the authority, technically speaking, to set their own speed limits. But as the game played out, the feds taxed us all, and only returned road maintenance funds to those states who complied with the new 55 mile per hour limit. All fifty governors quickly bent a knee, even remote areas like Montana and North Dakota where such a speed limit was ridiculous.

Many high school students will miss out on graduation ceremonies this year.

The weapon big government wielded in those days was the argument that we were saving not only gas, but lives! My teenage friends were in a hurry to taste 70 miles per hour before Illinois followed suit, but for some reason I wondered why they didn’t lower it to 40 and save even more lives. For that matter, why not lower speed limits nationwide to 15 miles per hour and save as many lives as possible? We might still lose a few to DUI’s, reckless drivers, and of course the elderly, but wouldn’t it still be worth it? Well, we never did lower it to 15. For starters, doing so would have reeked havoc on the delivery of all goods, even the U.S. mail. Fifteen miles per hour nationwide would have also eliminated face-to-face interaction between parents and their children as work commutes were extended by hours.

Non-governmental groups of all kinds (we didn’t use the word non-essential yet) would have discontinued meeting altogether. In short, the freedoms our soldiers fought and died in wars for, our very way of life, would have been sacrificed. Nope. The speed limit never got lowered to 15 miles per hour. It stayed at a reasonable 55. Not so today.

Here’s an eye opening exercise which helps us put ourselves in the shoes of others’. Pick a random point in your life and insert our current restrictions into it. How would you have fared? For me, if I insert today’s restrictions into my life in the 1980’s I might have kept the small income I had as a church organist, but my band would have lost all those wedding gigs all over Chicago, not to mention the loss to the brides themselves. I would not have been able to visit my wife-to-be, working as a nurse in Hawaii. Maybe we wouldn’t have gotten married at all.

If I insert it into the 1990’s, a decade later, our homeschooling would have been severely dampened as we couldn’t have planned outings with the other homeschooled kids, a major part of homeschooling. Insert it into our family life in the 2000’s and neither of our children would have attended summer camps, played the organ in churches, or dated. And I’m talking about just one family here.

It’s difficult to imagine the toll this is taking on families today, everywhere. Whether young people realize it or not, they depend greatly on social interaction with their peers to come of age. Punching little messages into tiny screens is no substitute. But we’re talking about saving lives here. Surely we can dismiss weddings, funerals and a generation coming of age in the name of saving lives, can’t we? Can we not hope that this will only last two or three months, and that we’re not setting some new precedent?

In order to appreciate the gravity of this loss it helps to consider, in the example at hand, that we do not spend decades coming of age. It can almost be measured in months. Missing just two or three of them is actually a large percentage of the experience. As another example, many careers are more easily measured in months than in years. We all love to look at young faces. This leaves us with dedicated actors, tourism professionals, even sex workers (all jokes aside, they’re precious people, too) with far less than a career of over forty years. All of these people have professional lives measured more easily in months than in years. Athletes play only seasonally. Their careers are often over by age thirty. Do we really want to reward their incredible dedication and self discipline by cheating them out of their prime?

Who is measuring these other costs? How long will it be before we have these statistics, and how will they be measured? Will we tally up the increase in suicides, failures to launch, spikes in alcoholism, drug dependency, even an overall decline in the health of the next generation? Wait a minute. That last one, a decline in our health, doesn’t that bring us full circle? Is our police state actually doing more harm than good to the very thing it’s supposed to protect? Our health? Now that we’ve looked at so many areas, the loss of which we’re justifying in the name of “our health”, let’s come full circle and look at, well, our health.

The list of harmful changes is frightening: missed allergy shots, medical examinations by phone only, cardiac rehab appointments canceled (cardiac rehab!), medical staff unavailable, empty hospitals as they wait for the predicted wave of Covid-19 patients, those in need of non-Covid care afraid to get it, delayed cancer treatments, canceled clinic visits, unnecessarily rationed blood banks, Alzheimer facilities refusing to let the elderly visit their confused spouses, mental health care totally on hold, hospitals refusing to let family members visit dying relatives, closed dialysis clinics.

All of these are waiting for that wave of Covid-19 patients that has failed to materialize. One of our most internationally respected health care institutions, the Mayo Clinic, has now suffered a loss which is measured, not in the millions, but in the billions of dollars. How many lives does that equal? How many millions of quiet people are truly suffering from all this foolishness? It’s serious, and it’s seriously under-reported as it pales in comparison to each new sensational Covid-19 statistic. Whales, England suffered six thousand “above average” deaths for early April. Not one was from the Covid-19 virus. Few sources report on these other costs, but here’s one of them.

The true cause of all this harm, suffering, and death is not microbial. It’s us. It’s our blind obedience to authorities intoxicated with newly found, unprecedented powers of near total control over millions, powers we’re giving them. But in all fairness, we can not blame our leaders. If you or I were given such powers we’d abuse them the same as our leaders have since day one. Most recently Bush Junior spoke of “the mushroom cloud” and Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction which, just like the predicted wave of Covid-19 patients, failed to materialize. He did his best to scare us into submitting to a most ridiculous system of red, green and orange alerts. I can’t remember how he got out of it while saving face. Today it’s incredible that a tiny invisible virus, just like weapons of mass destruction, could be used for the same purpose; to replace our most basic civil liberties with some wacky system of colored “traffic lights” dictating what we can do with our lives.

Broadening the question, are we this easily panicked because we have such little faith in our own immune systems? Are we really that afraid we’re going to end up in that 0.00x percent of those who die from this thing; mainly drinkers, smokers, and over-eaters who already have a foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel? Are we really willing to sacrifice life as we know it just to save the same tiny percent that dies annually from the flu anyway? Or is it something else? Maybe we’ve just neglected to really think this thing through. Maybe it’s nobody’s fault other than our own that we’ve descended so quickly into this new police state. When you can still own a car but the government dictates where and when you can drive it, neither very far nor very often, we’ve got both a problem and a responsibility to address it. No creature from another universe is going to appear to bring our leaders into line. It’s up to us.

When I was 18 years old, many years ago, my age alone was reason enough for authorities to arrest me. After all, what right did I have to walk down the sidewalk instead of fighting in Vietnam for a “worthy cause”? Next week my age alone will once again be reason for authorities to arrest me. After all, what right do I have to walk down the sidewalk? I’m over 60! Maybe we’ve been caught off guard, but it’s not too late. We need to seriously question what’s going on here. What on earth is an “essential” business anyway? A hair salon is an essential business for the people who work there! ALL businesses are “essential” and we need to reopen ALL of them. We need to get our kids back in school and we need to tear those stupid “danger” signs off swing sets in public parks and let them play outdoors once again. We need to let private charities like Helping Kids in Ecuador get back to helping kids in Ecuador. We need to let pregnant mothers buy maternity clothes and hold baby showers. Access to health care needs to come out of its holding pattern and be made available again to those in need. In short, we need to return to life as we knew it at the beginning of 2020, and let our leaders worry about how to save face.

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