WEST FORK KICKAPOO - It took a while for COVID-19 to get here, but nonetheless, down our winding rural roads and into our peaceful lives it came, and it won’t be leaving anytime soon. Wisconsin is now the epicenter for the coronavirus in America. We’ve had since March to learn from other countries and states, and from the developing science, just how this persistent virus works.
As of October 3, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported more than 17,000 new cases and at least 50 deaths in Wisconsin in the last seven days. Over 130,000 of our neighbors, friends, and family members have tested positive, and close to 1,400 have died—and the numbers are steadily rising. The graph of positive cases on the Wisconsin.gov website looks like Highway 171 climbing the hill from Gays Mills to the apple orchards: one long, steady, steep climb–minus the beauty.
Come on, Wisconsin, we can do better than this.
It would be more understandable if our COVID numbers had soared back in March, when the news was breaking and we weren’t sure what to do, but the fact that it’s happening now is infuriating. Governor Evers issued a safer-at-home order to help slow the spread. An extension of the order in May was struck down by the Wisconsin State Supreme Court, a move that was cheered by many. The governor’s mask mandate has also been widely scoffed at and ignored, and is itself under legal challenge–and now look where we are.
Yet many people are in denial. Some are quick to buy into the latest conspiracy theories. Many people refuse to wear a mask, or want to argue the causes of recorded COVID deaths—people who are our neighbors.
“My dad died but it shouldn’t have been recorded as a COVID death because he already had heart trouble.”
“I’m sorry for your loss. Did he test positive for COVID?”
“So he was having serious heart trouble and you feel that caused his death?”
“Well, he was on medication for a minor heart issue—but actually, when I went to visit him in May, he was doing great. He was outside chopping wood!”
I can’t help but wonder how many more years that man might have been able to chop wood, if he hadn’t been infected with the coronavirus.
Currently the 20-to-29 age group has the highest number of positive cases in Wisconsin: 25 percent. The over-90 age group has the fewest, at one percent. But this is where it gets tricky. Only two percent of those 20-somethings have been hospitalized because of severe symptoms, compared to 32 percent of those over 90 who’ve tested positive.
Younger people scrutinizing these numbers and statistics might feel cocky and invincible. But are they thinking of others or only themselves?
We’ve learned that the number one way for COVID-19 to spread is by close person-to-person contact—and even people who have no symptoms can still carry the virus and spread it. In retrospect, the man whose father had heart issues but with medication was able to live a normal life might have given his dad the virus when he went to visit him.
The aerosols from our mouths, expelled by talking, laughing, or exertion, are the culprits. We’ve known from the beginning of the pandemic that COVID spreads easily between people. So why would we chance visiting our vulnerable loved ones without a mask, inside their homes, with less than six feet of space between us?
Folks in other countries don’t argue about masks the way we do. People in countries like South Korea and Japan have worn them for years, whenever they have a cold, to ensure they don’t pass their illness to others. It’s no big deal, it’s just being considerate.
Why would you choose not to wear a mask when you go into a public place like the gas station or the grocery store? Just because it’s your right, your freedom to risk infecting others? Or because you believe herd immunity is the answer?
My granddaughter has cystic fibrosis and spent 11 days last year in the Milwaukee Children’s Hospital fighting for each breath she took. If she gets COVID she’ll probably die. Is it your right, your freedom to infect her?
How many of you have children, friends, or parents with an already compromised immune system? Do you feel they are expendable in the quest for herd immunity?
While we watch this horror show of Wisconsin patrons packing the bars, pushing past the Walmart employee who’s trying to hand them a free paper mask, or hosting COVID parties despite all the warnings, we can only conclude that they don’t care about themselves or others.
Can it be that Wisconsinites aren't the kind, friendly, hardy Midwest people we like to think we are?
This isn’t about you and how invincible and healthy you are. It isn't about politics, as we can witness from President Trump's hospitalization. It’s about us, all of us, caring about and for each other.
Stay home when you can, and when you can't, wear a damn mask. These simple acts have been proven the most effective ways we have to limit the spread of this virus.Come on, Wisconsin,let’s be the kind, friendly, hardy Midwestern folks we ought to be—or think we are.