That we, as a nation, are overreacting.
But what if one of those 95 happens to be your brother? Your spouse? Your best friend?
What if you have grown accustomed to late night phone calls to talk about life, or became overjoyed watching someone you love just love others? What if that person is now taken from you by a global pandemic?
That number changes its meaning dramatically.
Last week, after the president of the United States said publicly that the high numbers of COVID-19 cases are because the country is doing the most testing and that if we didn't test so much it wouldn't be as big of a problem.......... sorry I need to take a moment here to try to wrap my brain around this logic.
Anyway, I made a tongue-in-cheek post about his faulty logic. I jokingly praised him for curing COVID-19 when scientists all over the world could not. It was an obvious joke and a jab at our commander-in-chief. (This is still America where we can do that right?)
What happened next put my heart in my throat and made me cry for an old friend. She was my boss as I was a student at Edinboro University. She took care of me when I needed someone to take care of me.
She commented the following. "Well, dang, Richard... wish he'd thought of this before my brother passed away from Covid last week. No joke."
But he is not a number. He is a husband, and beloved uncle, a community member and my friend's brother.
He was only 62.
Patti is pissed, that might be an understatement. Her brother, taken from her too soon, has her beside herself in grief. "I'm so angry. I'm angrier than I've ever been my whole life, but I don't know who to be angry at," she said. "I have to point my anger at this [inanimate] thing called COVID."
How he contracted the virus is still unknown, but is under investigation. He worked at a prison in Conneaut, Ohio, which has had some positive cases. His wife Vee also tested positive after she learned her husband had.
None of this matters as far as bringing back their loved one.
His name is Terry. Or Sparky the Clown to some. He loved to entertain children and families. He was a good person. This was a person who shouldn't have died. He isn't just a number. Not to his family and friends.
It has been hard to wrap our brains around what this virus is, or how to deal with it. Politically folks are claiming overreach of power, while others are saying we're not doing enough. In the middle are the ones dying, or recovering, or out of work, or on the front lines battling, or the naysayers.
Yet, this virus is real and it kills.
Loomis said to me that, if nothing else, this is a chance to tell everyone this is not a hoax. That this is far too real. When we look at numbers, we see what we want to see, but when Loomis sees numbers she knows one is her brother.
Let me share with you her email to friends after her brother died.
"I think I’ve heard them all – Covid-19 is just media hype. It’s not real. We live in a small town, we’re safe. It’s a hoax, more fake news. Well, let me tell you. It’s as real as it can possibly get. My brother, Terry, passed away yesterday after battling Covid-19. He endured a four-week rollercoaster ride in ICU … from induced coma to ventilator replaced by tracheotomy, IVs and monitors, induced paralysis and dialysis. And then his heart just gave out. He never woke to see his wife the one time she was able to visit him dressed in medical garb. And now, we can’t have a funeral service of more than 10 people at least six feet apart. We can’t bring his nephews home because it isn’t safe to travel. We will have a Zoom family 'celebration of life' for my brother. I consider you my friends, and I beg of you… please take this seriously! Wear masks, keep your distance, sanitize. I would really hate to see you and your families go through the hell we’ve been through. Of course, I’ll never see you suffer – no one will. You’ll be alone. Yes, we all want life to be “normal” again, but I honestly believe the country – including our little town – will never go back to the way it was. I thank God every minute that Terry had no idea what he was going through. But his friends and family did. And we will never be the same."
This is how fast it happens
On May 14, Terry Loomis wasn't feeling well and tested positive for the coronavirus. He was sent home from work. He informed his wife, who then also tested positive. She had no symptoms other than a bit of a cough.
Terry was miserably sick. His temperature was 101 and he had severe flu-like symptoms. A week later his kidneys were shutting down, his heart was weaker and his lungs all but quit working. He was put on a ventilator and coma-induced.
He was very sick.
His wife Vee was still asymptomatic. After 14 days, she was tested again and was still positive. Fourteen days in Terry was in a coma and alone in the Cleveland Clinic.
After 31 days, Vee finally tested negative but her husband was dead.
That is COVID-19. The virus weakened his heart so much it just gave out.
It just doesn't give shit who you are.
On Thursday of this week Patti and Vee were trying to make final resting place arrangements. Due to COVID-19 restrictions the same difficulties that applied with visitation when Terry was still alive persists in deciding on a funeral.
"I'm talking to him every day, I walk around the house talking out loud to him," Loomis said as she tries to figure out the stages of grieving. Her sister-in-law told her that they were so close that she is sure he hears her.
"I've never been on a roller coaster like this," Loomis said dealing with her brother's illness while not being able to see him or comfort him as he was dying. "It's really hard on the family, especially from afar."
She said even though this is hard to tell about her brother so soon after he died, it is good if she can convince just one person that this is indeed a serious and deadly virus and help save other families from having to endure the same thing.
Updated with Editor's Note: This is the second COVID-related story I have been honored with the task of sharing with the community. The first was about Clinton Washington, who grew up in Franklin, Venango County, and passed away while living in the Bronx. It is tough to tell these tales. I thank the families for trusting me to share their experiences with the my readers.