Eight days ago, my cousin Paula died of COVID-19. When I share this horrible news with a friend, her first reaction is shock followed by sympathy. Immediately after, I intuit the fear that is just beneath the surface and feel a need to rush in and try to reassure my friend – and myself. Was my cousin older than my friend? Did she have an underlying medical condition that my friend doesn’t have? My grief and the loss of a valuable human being become confused with our own fears of getting sick and dying.

More Americans have already died from COVID-19 than were killed in the Vietnam War. When this pandemic is over, will we surpass all the deaths in our Civil War, or will we surpass all the deaths in all our wars put together?

At what point will we all come together and not see some deaths as expendable: “old” people, people in nursing homes, people with underlying medical conditions, people of color, poor people, front-line medical workers? At what point do we say, “enough is enough” and band together as one nation, one community and one world, actually – and try to tackle a worldwide catastrophe?

The virus is a medical catastrophe, not a political issue. We are a rich country, and we can and must help people survive financially, while at the same time keeping people as safe as possible. We can do both. We must do a lot better.

I love you, Paula.

Alan Blum


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