It continues to amaze me at how the current COVID-19 pandemic has created such a panic in so many people. Please do not misinterpret this to mean that I do not think that the current pandemic is a global disaster, because it is and I do.
My point is that it is important to reflect on the fact that humans have had to deal with crises many times throughout our long history. In my blog on COVID-19 FACTS, I highlighted some of the epidemics that humans have had to deal with historically. Let me review with you some of the more recent crises.
I remember as a child in the 1950s that the summers were polio season. Many swimming pools closed, theaters emptied and our parents kept us kids isolated from our friends. My mother was especially paranoid as she had a brother and aunt who were severely affected by polio. One died and the other one was horribly crippled. Although the virus infected all ages, it was especially severe in children. It killed some, paralyzed others and crippled many. In 1954, the new polio vaccine that was developed by Dr. Jonas Salk was given to children in Pennsylvania. It soon became available to children everywhere. Then in 1957, Dr. Albert Sabin developed a live attenuated oral polio vaccine; however, he was unable to convince the FDA to allow its use. But he was able to convince The Soviet Union's Health Ministry to conduct field studies that showed that it very successfully prevented polio. In 1961, the US Public Health Service approved the oral vaccine in the United States. At school, the school nurse would line up all the children, and we each received a sugar cube with the vaccine on it. This stopped the polio epidemic, and life went on.
Vietnam was next. Some of my friends lost their lives and others develop PTSD and yet others became heroin addicts. The returning Vietnam veterans were treated horribly. No matter what one's position was regarding the political aspects of that war, the disrespectful treatment of the veterans was shameful. Again life went on and we now are involved in conflict and war in the Middle East. I am proud to say that how we treat our current veterans is far different and far better than the veterans from the Vietnam War.
Then came 9/11. On September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked by the Islamic terrorist group Al Qaeda. There were at least 2977 American deaths and over 25,000 nonfatal injuries and at least $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage all occurring on one day. Additional people have died of dust related cancer and respiratory diseases in the months and years that followed this attack. This was the single deadliest terrorist attack in human history and the single deadliest incident for firefighters, law enforcement officers and other first responders. The United States and New York have recovered from this, but I don't believe there is a single American that does not remember this as one of the most horrific days in modern American history. I remember exactly where I was and exactly what I was doing when I watched with horror as the second plane crash into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
The 2008 financial crash was the greatest jolt to the global financial in almost a century. Some say it was even worse than the Wall Street crash in 1929. It pushed the world's banking system towards the edge of collapse. You couldn't even get money out of cash machines as they were all empty. The banking sectors of the USA and Europe came very close to collapse and had to be rescued by government intervention. However, the enormous bailout by governments pumping billions of dollars into the banking sector had long-term effects. We are over 10 years from that crisis, and we are still plagued with austerity measures, depressed wages and inflation.
This brings us to our current situation. We are in what may become the biggest health crisis of recent history. As of today April 13, 2020, there have been 560,000 COVID-19 cases identified with 22,200 deaths. This is close to eclipsing the numbers of influenza virus cases and deaths for all of last year. These numbers will continue to grow; however, the hope is that we have reached the peak. In my thinking that may mean that we are at the halfway point and the numbers will only double and not become even worse.
Through all of these crises, most people kept living their lives, doing the best they could, working hard, paying their taxes and raising their families. Good times and bad times go, but life always goes on. What we need to do during difficult times is to take stock of our lives. Be thankful for what we have. Don't take good health for granted. Live every day the best you can and during bad times remember that this won't last forever.
New York Gov. Mario Cuomo recently used a quote from Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister, delivered in a speech on November 10, 1942 during World War II. “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
Is this a time to panic. Of course not, but it is a good time for each of us to renew our commitment for social distancing, facial masks or cover, shelter in place (quarantine) when ill and handwashing to do our part in helping to contain the epidemic.
Please stay safe and healthy.