Make no mistake. COVD-19 kills.

I was sitting at my computer, sifting through ideas for this column, when the phone rang. It was a call no one ever wants to receive.

A warm, kind, generous, vibrant and talented acquaintance just lost her battle with the virus. As with so many COVID victims her last days were in a hospital bed with a ventilator down her throat, isolated from family and friends. It is a true blessing that she apparently was in a coma at the end, unaware of her surroundings.

Yes, COVID-19 kills.

This was a person I always was glad to encounter, invariably upbeat, always smiling, always moving on to the next thing. The world was a better place with her, and is less of a place after her passing. She had so much life left ahead of her, precious years stolen from her and her family.

COVID-19 indeed kills.

I’m stunned. I’m numb, I feel helpless, I feel my spirit sinking deep inside myself. Yet as I struggle to put my thoughts into words I also feel an intense rising anger and disgust.

You will be striking a raw nerve if you blurt some nonsense to me that this virus is no worse than the flu. How dare you say it’s only the old and sick who die. And certainly don’t stoop to claiming it will go away right after the election.

The virus has nothing to do with the election or politics. It doesn’t care if you are a Republican or a Democrat, or if you have nothing to do with politics at all. It won’t magically just go away, although the pandemic eventually will pass – but only after it leaves an ever growing trail of death and suffering in its wake.

It is true that a COVID-19 diagnosis is not an automatic death sentence. Some who contract the virus actually show no symptoms at all. Others become mildly ill, or become very sick but do not require hospitalization. Even if you require hospitalization odds are you will survive.

But make no mistake, many who do survive are left with permanent damage, from loss of limbs to severe lung and heart problems. And according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center, 2.9 percent of those with COVID 19 do indeed die. If you are 65 or older your odds of hospitalization or death are many times higher – and that’s just based on age, not considering other underlying health issues.

And don’t be fooled into believing youth is a guarantee you won’t get very sick or die. Many young people have succumbed, and that toll will rise.

Those are the facts, folks – no politicalization, no dressing up of figures to support a point of view, just the cold, hard facts as agreed to by the vast majority of scientists in the field. And as unpleasant as they may be, masks and social distancing are the best defenses against the virus that we have.

If you refuse to wear a mask because it restricts your freedom, please feel free to avoid crowds and indoor public places. If you plan to frequent an indoor public place without a mask, please also consider the freedom of others to avoid needless death or suffering. I have my spiritual life in order, and I realize death eventually comes for us all. But I don’t want to die anytime soon, especially because someone doesn’t care enough to wear a mask.

I like the analogy of bowl of 100 candies. If three of them contained a lethal level of poison, and another three pieces enough poison to make you deathly ill, would you grab a handful and wolf them down? Would you offer the bowl to your mom or dad, your spouse, your kids, your friends? My guess is no.

So wear a mask. Practice social distancing. Show respect.

Like I said, COVID-19 kills.

Don Allison is an author, historian and retired editor of The Bryan Times.

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