If you’re of a certain age, you remember a youthful time when you played without the use of an iPad or cell phone, often seeking fun far from the oversight of adults in more rudimentary ways than what’s seen today. For my pals and me, that often involved something as simple as finding flat stones and skimming them across Faurot Park’s Bear-Pit Pond and hoping for at least four skips, before watching them sink and generate ripples from their plunges.
I thought about that image from my halcyon days during a truly singularly turbulent last week, one made so by fears of coronavirus, or COVID-19, for Corona Virus Disease 2019. Its spread, not only throughout the world but through so much of our newspapers and newscasts, has created similar ripple effects to those childhood skipping stones, more so than I ever would have thought possible.
Of course, this isn’t the first virus through which many of us have lived. While I don’t remember the time frame each occupied before it no longer frightened us, I do remember the names: the Ebola virus; the swine flu; and severe acute respiratory syndrome, more commonly known by the acronym SARS. While all of these infectious diseases were ones I managed to survive, given what I saw last week and my soon-to-be high-risk 69th birthday, it seems as if I’ve never been in greater peril.
Of course, the ripple effects of this first impacts those who contract the virus, and that’s a number that’s really difficult to track accurately. For those with a healthy appetite for viral news, there’s that all-coronavirus-all-the-time SiriusXM newly launched Channel 121 and also, on your tablet or computer, the Centers for Disease Control website, cdc.gov, which will provide a tote board that will at noon Monday through Friday post the up-to-date numbers of confirmed cases, jurisdictions impacted and deaths.
Besides the ripples of the unfortunates who’ve contracted the virus, there are those ripples created by our flagging financial well-being. Last week brought days of staggering stock market losses, with two days finishing with 2,000-plus-point drops, events I’m told by my broker that were not prompted by panicky humans, rather computer programs that executed massive selloffs based on inputted algorithms and formulas without a flesh-and-blood being in sight.
While I’m hardly any wolf of Wall Street, I am aware of the many, many thousands in paper losses in my IRAs as many of you, no doubt, are. But, as we were all told when we decided to play in what has been called the Wall Street Casino, our stacks of chips don’t always remain the same size. We’re all hoping by Santa’s arrival months from now the stacks will have grown considerably.
Another ripple effect has impacted sports, what many of us have long used as a diversion to the Sturm und Drang that is our day-to-day existence. High school winter sports tournaments have been postponed, and our March Madness has turned sane. Pause buttons have been pushed for pretty much all professional sports. Of course, that means not only lost revenues but also lost opportunities for both coaches and athletes who have dreamed of, say, a berth at a state tournament or a collegiate final four appearance since the first time their sneakers squeaked.
I so wanted to see if the school that accorded me my master’s, the University of Dayton, could be crowned NCAA men’s basketball champs. At the local level, I had similar interest in a former student of mine, Shawnee’s head boys basketball coach Mark Triplett, and his undefeated Indians.
And, of course, don’t even get me started on my beloved baseball’s pause. Opening Day was supposed to be March 26.
Yet another ripple effect would involve the behaviors I’ve seen manifested since this all began, the empty shelves at Walmart picked clean of every roll of toilet paper and pump bottle of sanitizer, which is the health-scare equivalent of forecasted blizzard behavior when every gallon of milk, 12-pack of beer and loaf of bread disappears.
There has been all that hand washing (as if that isn’t something that should have been done all along) and that conscious effort not only to avoid touching others but also our own faces, something I’ve found impossible to do at least a half dozen times for every waking hour and, I have no doubt, every slumbering sixty as well.
As for all that TP-and-sanitizer stockpiling, has it all been necessary? Who knows if there’s indeed a legitimate reason for all the panic. For the cynical, this is not the Spanish influenza of 1918-19, when CDC estimates a staggering third of the world’s population contracted it, and 50 million perished, including 675,000 Americans. But, for others, they’ll go searching for that last roll of Charmin and bottle of Purell.
I think what we all know is COVID-19, for all of us, is like walking into a dark room when we’re unsure of what is over-reactionary and what is prudently cautious. I think what we are sure of is this. If we do err, despite the many hardships imposed when our normalcy morphs to abnormality, if we have to choose between the two, perhaps it’s best to select the latter.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.