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“I don’t want to die alone on a ventilator” — A friend from church

It’s instructive to locate oneself in time and space. So where are we right now? We are one fifth through the 21st century. We are living in May 2020 through the worst public health crisis, worldwide, since the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic that killed 675,000 Americans.

We are also gripped by the most painful economic crisis since the Great Depression (1929-38).

In just the past 12 weeks, more than 96,000 Americans have died due to the novel coronavirus, which generates in the human body a disease known as COVID-19, out of 1.6 million reported cases.

About 38 million Americans or U.S. residents have lost their jobs. And a total of $3.5 trillion has been voted by the U.S. Congress to stem the economic devastation among businesses large and small, among individuals, and among state and local budgets.

It’s important not to shut our eyes and pretend that none of this is “real.” That this crisis has simply been “manufactured” by entities hostile to the Trump administration, or “blown out of proportion” by mainstream media. Voices suggesting as much are either deluded or blindly ignorant.

Everyone agrees that the virus was spawned from the city of Wuhan, China —even the Chinese admit that much. The predominant theory still is that it sprang from bats being slaughtered in the so-called “wet market” there, and virus-tainted blood from a bat splashed into a person’s face.

A secondary hypothesis is that local researchers experimenting with bats made a mistake and the virus infected someone in the lab.

Without question, Chinese authorities covered up the coronavirus epidemic developing in Wuhan, at least for weeks. From there, riding on international travelers, the virus spread to Italy and elsewhere in Europe, to the United States and Canada, and ultimately to more than 100 other countries.

The first U.S. sightings of COVID-19 came in a suburban Seattle, Washington, nursing home earlier this year. Later reporting indicated that perhaps a few Californians had contracted the virus even before that.

New York has, by far, taken the brunt of the devastation from COVID-19, with 358,000 cases and 23,000 deaths to date. Speculation there is that the virus was seeded into New York City not from China but from travelers arriving from Europe.

Locating ourselves further, readers of this page also are residents of West Virginia or areas of Ohio or Kentucky bordering on West Virginia. And West Virginia and Hawaii are two of the states that have so far done the best to recognize the dangers of COVID-19 early on, shut down their schools and businesses, and convince their citizens of the need for self-isolation, social distancing and frequent hand washing.

As I say often to my wife, “We’re actually in one of the best places in the entire country for staying safe from this disease.” The coronavirus death toll in West Virginia stood at 68 as of this past Friday afternoon. Our neighbors have not done nearly as well, Deaths are 1,041 in Virginia, 4,624 in Pennsylvania, 1,720 in Ohio, 366 in Kentucky and 1,338 in Maryland.

Please observe Gov. Jim Justice’s guidelines for re-opening West Virginia retail outlets including restaurants (50% indoor seating). Wear a mask in public places. And follow the news on responsible outlets, of which, I’m happy to say, The Herald-Dispatch is one.

John Patrick Grace, a book editor and former healthcare editor for The Greensboro (N.C.) News and Record. He lives in Cabell County.