Now and Then: A view of the Covid-19 Pandemic

I put a picture of the Pope celebrating Palm Sunday mass in a mostly empty St. Peter’s Basilica at the top of the first version of this note. I watched his mass on Telemundo broadcast out of Lafayette , Louisiana early on Sunday morning. I do not go to church as much as I used to but I was moved by his timeless celebration of the mystery and history of Palm Sunday and dealing with the current crisis of the Covid-19 Pandemic. For me the Mass was an example of Now and Then views of this crisis and this moment. For me the now was mostly about how empty the church was. It got me thinking about the Then and Now of my own response to the Virus and its effects. For Americans we want to know if we will get our stimulus checks sooner or later. We also might want to know if there will be an effect from monetizing the debt to pay for the stimulus of trillions of dollars. We want to know if our loved ones being tested or in a hospital today for something other than Covid-19 are going to be doing OK today and tomorrow. We also wonder about whether this plague will run its full course and pass out of our lives in a time frame of months, years or decades.
Today, there are now responsibilities that each of us have in the NOW. Anything written about this pandemic that does not remind people to do what they can with hygiene, social distancing and supporting community efforts at survival is probably a dangerous distraction. The basic focus our response to this crisis has to be the personal aspects of life such as hand washing, social distancing, caring for those we can very carefully but still sufficiently to meet there basic needs. However, not all of us can realistically limit our response to such things. Beyond that need for exhortation most of us have a need for news and reporting current events in this ongoing crisis. On my Facebook profile I have been posting news as well. But people are doing other things besides following basic health guidelines and keeping informed about the events of the day. So for that group of purposeful readers who have time to read a piece that has a perspective that looks at this experience a bit more in depth and close up as a view of things, then this note may be for you.
I have been as engaged with the now of this crisis as I have been able to be. The truth is that it has been pretty small stuff overall. I have, for example, taken three texts that I have gotten from the school board for which I work and spliced them together in a Facebook post.
In an effort to continue to provide meals and maintain the safety and health of the staff, students, parents/guardians and community, we are announcing a new program that will deliver meals to your doorstep for free. This program is called Meals-to-You, and it is a partnership between our district, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Baylor University. Your student(s) enrolled with the Vermilion Parish School Board are eligible to participate in the program. Households are urged to complete an application by Wednesday, April 8, 2020 by 11:59 pm to receive the meals.
WHO QUALIFIES? -All VPSB students enrolled at a CEP school site -Siblings, 0-18 yrs, living in the home of a student enrolled at a CEP school site -All VPSB students enrolled at a non-CEP school site that are currently receiving free or reduced meals -Siblings, 0-18 yrs, living in the home of a student enrolled at non-CEP school site receiving free/reduced meals
HOW DO YOU SIGN-UP All you have to do is fill out the form online by the due date of April 8, 2020. The application can be accessed using the following link: If Vermilion Parish School Board is not offered as an option on the online application, please try again the next day. There may be some delays in the application processing due to the overwhelming response by the community to the Meals-to-You program.
The Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty is excited to work with school districts and state agencies across the U.S. to ensure students have the nutritious meals they need, even when school is closed.
I am happy to act locally when I can. But I am thinking globally as many people are, in this case. This crisis is very much shared by a huge portion of the world’s population at the same time. We all are affected by the crisis but we are not all affected in the same way. There is a smorgasbord of suffering in this crisis. It is not a simple soup kitchen of pain serving an equal modest portion to a vast number of people. We all will pay a different price perhaps and in that way it is different from the typical buffet or smorgasbord.
This pandemic comes at a particular time and in a particular set of circumstances for each of us. Stress is there for everyone and for some people it is coming at a moment of leadership and celebrity and that brings a set of challenges as each action is subject to public scrutiny. That sense of being looked to doe answers is the burden some will remember as specific to this pandemic. That is one flavor of burden, while for 0thers the burden is that this pandemic comes in the midst of the milestone events and seasons of human life such as a senior year, an engagement or a moment of dealing with a new pregnancy or having a baby. We all have to deal with the pandemic according to the place we find ourselves in life. The truth is that we do need to analyze past behavior and its consequences. But we do not discuss such things only for rational reasons. To be in leadership or in a position of influence is to be part of the blame game to some degree. We know that around the world the effort to deal with all of this danger, death and destruction of wealth in ways specific to their location and situation.
At some risk of copyright violations I am including this long excerpt from the online edition of the Washington Post.
Here are some significant developments:
U.S. hospitals are facing “severe” and widespread shortages of personal protective equipment, ventilators, testing supplies and staff, according to a newly released watchdog report from the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.
With the outbreak accelerating in Japan’s largest cities, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he will declare a state of emergency in seven prefectures this week. People will be asked to stay indoors, but no legal penalties will be imposed for noncompliance. “Even though we will declare a state of emergency, we will not lock cities down as has been done overseas,” Abe said.
Spain has been ravaged by the virus, but the rate of new infections is slowing. And while officials said Monday that 637 people had died in the previous 24 hours, it was Spain’s lowest number of deaths in two weeks. “These figures confirm the downward trend and stabilization,” Health Minister Santiago Illa said.
U.S. and global stock markets soared Monday as investors took in overseas progress against the coronavirus. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped more than 900 points, or 4 percent, at the opening bell Monday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 and Nasdaq composite also moved steeply higher.
India is converting passenger train cars into isolation facilities with the capacity to hold 80,000 people as coronavirus infections increase in the world’s second-most populous country. India is in the midst of a three-week shutdown of its most-used mode of transportation, and the cars can be routed to wherever the need is severe.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stayed overnight in the hospital as a “precautionary” measure after his coronavirus symptoms persisted for 10 days.
President Donald Trump gets a lot of attention as a leader in the media that I access and so does Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. Criticisms are plentiful as are praises and defenses of the leadership exercised by each of these two men. But we all know that one who is actually in charge of making decisions in the crisis has some degree of responsibility for the outcome that others do not. Each country, person and region faces its own version of this global crisis. I mentioned in my last note that I have been and continue to be a plasma donor and try to see how that plays out as my response. But we all know that many of us will never be content merely to respond — we are committed by a lifetime of habit to finding some answers to why, how, when, what and Who questions that relate to this larger crisis. The larger and riskier part of this query is related to causes and culpability. We believe that there is fault and we have not any real chance that we will agree as to how that blame is apportioned. The fact that his is occurring in the world of domestic political competition and geopolitical tensions means that blame will be and important part of the resolution. Many of us who are involved in the blaming game do not have enough influence to see our actions and words subject to much scrutiny. But some of us believe that we should have had more influence and for whatever reason were unable get access to that influence.
I was looking at a story online about a novel that discussed the impact of a fictional coronavirus. The person writing the news article was saying that the novel was rejected by publishers because of its bleak portrayal of the pandemic or epidemic and then arguing that it was very much on point. While I have been published many times , I have never published a book. I have written a novel in which the society of the future has been reshaped in many ways by a history of pandemics and viruses which occur between the time the reader would have been reading the novel if it had sold early. The prescience of that novel is one of the way back then questions for me. What would my role be in this crisis if the novel had been published back then? Would that voice have made any difference in preparedness and would it have made any difference for my own situation in riding out this crisis. There are many then observations of that kind in my past. I wrote in a number of places about viruses.
Of course Now is never really now for a long enough period of time to matter in any writing, But in the category of nearly now I have been trying to pass information to friends who may need it and not have as much time as I do to sort through all the sources of information from the various layers of government… Here is an example of some of that kind of data. It is a snippet from The White House: {Help for America’s Small Businesses and Their Workers
“We want workers to have work, not to become dependent on the unemployment system,” Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia and Small Business Administrator Jovita Carranza write for Fox Business.
“Small businesses often lack the reserves and access to liquidity that large companies can call upon in hard times. The Paycheck Protection Program”—signed by President Trump on March 27—“addresses this by offering small business loans of up to $10 million . . . Critically, the loans are forgivable if the business retains and continues paying its workers for eight weeks.” }
It seems to me to be a fairly good use of what time I have channel information around as best I can. When I am involved in this process then I am also engaged in asking questions about the right now course of things. I ask if the curve is flattening, if the stock market is really rallying and if some countries are really getting back to normal . But as I face what is a situation of our country and my region racing towards the apex of this crisis I am aware of other things I wrote and observed in the past and I am wondering what I can do now and could have done then given what I new and proclaimed about my own situation. My health is part of that situation. Here is another “then” observation:
“Frank Wynerth Summers III
March 27, 2014 ·
I had severe croup and asthma as a child and I have never had what some athlete’s call great wind. My pulmonary capacity has been a challenge on several occasions although for a few years it was pretty good. I have smoked socially and lived in places plagued with dust, allergens and smog in very serious degrees. I do not expect to reach a hale old age. but the other day I made a recording of my voice and heard myself more or less gasping for air as I have not in very many years heard it. I suppose that this is another thing to watch for in what remains of my lifespan. I function pretty well. But I may have some symptoms of hypoxia as well.
I was probably never the picture of health but we all remember the best days we’ve known as pretty good. There have been times when I remember feeling pretty well most of the day on most days.”
Better days have come and gone in my life and I am in part hoping that they will come again. I am addressing this moment from the situation in which I find myself. Most of us are aware of who is wielding the influence in our society. We know that in the Now we have to do whatever we do with an awareness of who is actually making the more weighty choices. While most of us accept the basic realities, some of us believe that we should have had more influence and for whatever reason were unable get access to that influence. I have written about ways I would have liked to change things and I think that there is some chance that this pandemic will be my last chapter in this life and if it is I will be thinking about what might have been different if I had been more successful when I am dying. There are many things I still would like to do and one of those things is to try to help people with their insurance and annuity needs. But maybe I won’ t get to do that. I have a lot to do right now and also a sense of forced idleness — it is hard to keep a perspective that makes sense. But looking back at the past and hoping for the future I hope to keep things on course and come out of all this with a life I can accept.
On this Monday of Holy Week 2020, I and many others face the challenge of trying to understand the suffering and destiny of this year regardless of what we may lack as regards our memories of other Holy Weeks. This is just a different year. I am aware of the weaknesses of my own country, the world and many other people. I see the shortcomings and I know how little attention my own writing gets and how I could probably find many ways to better spend my time than by writing these essays and thoughts. But I do write and I do think that somehow it matters that I write. But it does not matter as much as the struggle for ventilators, vaccines and treatments that is going on around the world. China was under a lot of stress from the American trade war when this epidemic got out of control in Wuhan. Many in leadership in America and elsewhere dismissed the threat while China also punished the doctor from Wuhan who sounded the alarm on this virus and later died of its ravages. Bill gates had proclaimed the threat of viruses to the modern world and was working with Chinese institutions to deal with the threat. He is still working on the crisis. China sent out the DNA sequences of the virus right way and Americans led in rapid designs of a vaccine. China continues to provide emergency supplies to other countries and the United States. The USA has been developing technologies likely to hep other countries get through this scourge. Each country has stories of someone who has led an important effort on a world stage or their own country’s battlefield against this plague. But the truth is that we will be judging all these responses for a long time. I am only just able to do what I must do now. But I am also very aware that I will be thinking about these issues for a long time. I lived in China, I have been a substitute teacher in Louisiana. I would like to hep families prepare for the hard times with my new insurance license, These and any other things form my own lens on this crisis.
Among other things I am sure that this will be the subject of discussion for a long time. I am aware that this is an historic moment in time. It is a time that brings all remembered times and the hopes of the future into focus.

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