Friday, May 8, 2020

8 MAY 2020, NOTES

It is Friday, May 8, 2020. Welcome, blog reader on this day of remembrance. We are recalling two great wars, one of the past and one of the present. Today is the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe, the greatest man-made war of modern history. Today we are engulfed in a pandemic, the greatest natural war of recent history. Both of these wars tested, and are testing, humanity in profound ways. It is life versus death.

The Second World War was the pivotal event of the Twentieth Century. Everything before 1939 was leading up to it. Everything after 1945 has been in its wake. It is no exaggeration to say that this war made us who we are today, both in the world and America. The war itself was unimaginable horror and destruction. However, its aftermath has seen a great deal of good.

May 8, 1945 was a day of unparalleled joy and celebration among our European allies but not so much in America. Here, we knew the war was not over. Far from it. We knew Japan still presented a formidable resistance in the Far East. We knew thousands more American soldiers and sailors would die before the war would be finally over. Of course, no one knew about the atomic bomb which was top secret. Thus, the great celebration in America came three months later when Japan finally surrendered. 

I was two years old when the war ended and I can recall some events. I lived in a navy town, Pensacola, and on the main avenue between downtown and the big Naval Air Station. Traffic was always bumper-to-bumper. Almost everyone I knew was connected in some way with the naval bases. I remember a lot of noise and excitement when the war ended, then quiet and exhausted relief. In the war itself, I remember my mother's ration books she kept in a kitchen drawer and took to the store to tear off little coupons when she bought necessary commodities. She guarded those ration books with her life. I recall too my father putting up blackout curtains at dusk on our front windows that faced Pensacola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico beyond. German submarines were known to patrol off shore. The life that I knew then was completely defined by the war.

We are now locked in another war. It is hard to imagine two wars more different. This one is being waged by a microscopic organism that is amoral and only concerned for its own procreation through any and every host it can find. It is highly contagious and insidious, attacking people in different ways, and often targeting key organs. There is no cure. There is not even an agreed upon treatment. We are almost helpless in the face of this enemy. There is no coordinated world-wide response. There is no coordinated American response. The disease is running rampant in the world and in our country. The economy is in near collapse. Millions of people are suddenly unemployed. Food banks are nearing exhaustion. Fear and hopelessness are all around us. Leadership from the White House is absent.

We have been tracking the progress of the pandemic in increments, four-day periods of late, in hopes of finding a pattern of activity. So, let's take a look at the new data by the past three four-day periods:

                Apr. 26-30           Apr. 30-May 4    May 4-May 8
World     299,213, +10%   349,035, +11%    351,825, +10%

U.S.         103,676, +11%   124,254, +12%   104,053, +9%

SC           628, +12%          745, +13%          516, +8%

AL           712, +11%          963, +14%          369, +27%

World     24,843, +12%     20,041, +9%       22,528, +9%

U.S.         7,404, +14%       6,937, +11%       8,336, +12%

SC           66, +40%             43, +19%           41, +15%

AL           49, +23%             28, +11%           79, +27%

The cumulative figures are staggering. In the world, a total of 271,095 people have died in the pandemic. In the U.S., the death total is at least 76,942. In SC, 316 people have died, in AL, 369.

There is no discernible pattern in the data above for the world and the U.S. Overall, raw numbers are up but not the rate of increase. The figures for SC do suggest an overall decline in the rate of spread and of deaths in the state although the pattern is not constant. It is still too early to make any definitive conclusions about the course of this pandemic. However, at the current rate of deaths in the U.S. (2,000/wk.), more than 100,000 Americans will be dead of the virus by August. 

Bottom line, the pandemic is spreading in the world and in the United States. One must bear in mind, COVID-19 appeared only a few months ago. In the U.S., the first case was identified on Jan. 20, 2020. That means, in less than four months, over 76,000 Americans have died of the disease. This is the worst public health crisis in the country since the flu pandemic of 1918.

Church officials are preparing to re-open the churches for in-person worship. In the vacuum of leadership in the U.S., the burden of decision making falls on their shoulders. They must weigh a great deal in making their decisions on when and how to invite the faithful back into the church buildings. We know the seriousness of this disease. In SC, it was clearly and frighteningly demonstrated at St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant. The rector there lay in an ICU for a week on a ventilator hovering between life and death. It is widely suspected he caught the virus at a church gathering in Pawleys Island early in March. We do not know how many people in St. Andrew's contracted the coronavirus. We do know that Mt. Pleasant is a "hot spot" for the virus in the state. The lesson---churches can be places of viral infection.

All of us want to return to our beloved churches. We have been in unwelcomed quarantine for a long time now. We miss our church homes, our fellow congregants, our clergy. The churches will re-open. With all we know now, it is imperative that church officials proceed with the utmost of caution and care as they plan the conditions on which they will re-open the churches.

Remember, friends, we are all here for the living of this hour. We did not want his. We did not cause this. Nevertheless, we are here and we must respond as our faith tells us. We prevailed in the Second World War. We can prevail in the present war. Peace.