The flu pandemic of 1918 to 1920 is occasionally referenced in comparison to the current coronavirus pandemic.
The infection rate was approximately 500 million people, about a third of the world’s population at the time. The death toll was estimated at somewhere between 17 and 100 million.
People living at the time didn’t hear much about it. Radio broadcasting didn’t begin until 1922, and many people, especially in rural areas, didn’t receive a newspaper. Censorship that had been in place at the time of World War I, kept a lid on most of the news coverage.
We’ve experienced hours upon hours of television coverage of the current pandemic with every so-called expert that can be found.
I think the combination of saturation of information, plus being confined to our homes for months, has almost led to a disinterest by the public. As a result, we have let our guard down, and now there is another wave of COVID-19 infection.
I’m frustrated. I don’t like wearing a mask. I’ve washed my hands so much on some days that I feel like my skin is about to peel. I don’t like bumping fists or doing that chicken wing thing to greet another person. I’m neither a chicken nor a prize fighter.
What really scares me is what happened over Thanksgiving. In today’s society, so many families are scattered across the countryside. Our desire to be close to family brought us together from places across the map.
I know germs are germs, but what one encountered in Kentucky may be slightly different from what someone else experienced in Florida. Some people turned grandma’s house into a human petri dish. The result was an unplanned or unwanted exposure to a virus that can be lethal in folks with weakened immune systems.
My grandmother has been dead for over half a century, but if I saw her today, I would want to hug her neck and express my affection for her. Never in a million years would someone purposefully extend a virus to someone they love. Unfortunately, the overflowing hospitals indicate that may have happened, albeit inadvertently.
As the song from the musical, “Mame” says, “We need a little Christmas.” In fact, I think a lot of us would like to have a lot of Christmas.
There are people who don’t believe the virus is real. I don’t think you have to look too far to see people who would convince you otherwise. If I had a living mama or daddy, I would want to do everything I could to make sure they are here for next Christmas.
You have to make the decision of what is best for your family. But, I’d hate to know that the sweet little kiss I left on grandma’s forehead was the entry point for a deadly virus.
As I mentioned earlier, there was little communication during the 1918 flu pandemic. That is not the case today. Buy a device that might allow each family member to have a live video chat with someone in your family.
Trust me, there are alternatives that are much more expensive and won’t mean a thing to them. Let’s make sure we can have more Christmas next year.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the weekend Life page and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.