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Saunders: A pandemic positive? Many placing more emphasis on spiritual matters

As the pandemic went on for weeks and months and deepened in many states, among them New York, New Jersey and even Maryland, people became increasingly antsy and upset about not working, staying home, hearing mounting death toll numbers, and wondering when their lives might return to “normal,” whatever normal might be. Dr. Birx even said, at the end of April, that we all would probably have to practice social distancing until the end of summer!

If we had hoped that science and medicine would prevail in this pandemic, as the weeks droned on so did the president, often ignoring what Drs. Fauci and Birx were trying to instill in people about the precautions needed to be heeded. In fact, Trump often contradicted science, first by declaring hydroxychloroquine a cure for COVID 19 with some people dying after taking the drug, and then by suggesting that since cleaning products kill the virus on surfaces perhaps there would be a way to have people take it internally! I think Dr. Birx’s facial expression should have put this last one to rest. Let us hope that no one tried the president’s suggestion.

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While listening to the White House coronavirus pandemic news conference every day, I soon realized that the medical experts would be given a few minutes each afternoon/evening to explain their findings and their recommendations to the American people, but only after President Trump droned on for an hour and more about his accomplishments and how “great” he is while excoriating any whoever crossed him. The process became Trump’s new method of campaigning for reelection, and gave short shrift to the pandemic. Oh, yes, he wanted to be the one in charge — remember, he would be the one to decide when to open the country again, until he was chided and realized that the governors have that constitutional right. He quickly backed off because he won’t take the blame if opening up too soon causes some worse disaster.

By contrast, Gov. Hogan always focused on the issues of the pandemic, displaying loyalty to the science and medicine that would hopefully be able to conquer this disease and allow for a gradual reopening of the economy with no detriment to health. Of course, no one could give us any guarantees about immunity, treatment or vaccine availability. And so we live one day at a time.

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Several positives helped to make this pandemic meaningful nevertheless. Around the time of Easter and Passover, I began to think that perhaps people, including newscasters, were becoming more religious and giving more emphasis to spiritual matters and faith communities. There seemed to be more emphasis on prayer and the need to put our trust in God. One of the most eerie yet spiritual sights was to see Pope Francis praying alone in St. Peter’s Square on Good Friday.

Of course, the outpouring of thanks for those treating COVID-19 patients was awe-inspiring. To realize how many doctors, nurses, first responders, and cleaning personnel are willing to risk their own health every day to help others keeps us forever in their debt. Perhaps we have gained a new appreciation for all that these people do every day, and that would be a good thing to come out of this pandemic.

Then, too, I think we have a greater appreciation for essential people that we often take for granted — garbage and trash collectors, newspaper deliverers, grocery store clerks, bank tellers, food preparers and deliverers, mail carriers, truck drivers, and a host of others. They have become our life-lines whom we count on every day. Although not likely to lose their jobs, these essential employees have helped to make our lives seem more normal.

And then consider all those people who have pitched in to provide services that would not ordinarily be available. Many began sewing masks and gowns and other needed materials for hospitals and nursing homes. A number began sewing masks for the general public. Still more people than ever began feeding those in need of food who had lost their jobs or were furloughed. Let us pray that these instances of help will continue well after we have returned to “normal!”

Even businesses began to turn out life-saving equipment, like ventilators, from what they normally produce. Universities and pharmacies went to work on trying to find life-saving medicines and potential vaccines. And still other companies began producing testing kits for the virus and its aftermath.

While I pray that you were not someone who was personally affected by this coronavirus, I do wonder what you have been doing during this pandemic. How have you been responding to the news bombardment? What has been your response to the crisis called COVID-19?

My response is to be thrust back into cleaning my own house since my cleaning person cannot come. Dusting and vacuuming, cleaning the bathrooms, and scrubbing the kitchen floor have become routine again after some years of not “imbibing.” But then one of the more exciting activities was singing “Happy 100th Birthday” to a man on our campus — even if it was in the rain — while we were dressed in our face masks and keeping appropriate distance!

Perhaps our responses have been similar, but what shall we take away from this pandemic that will last into the future and maybe even change us? Looking at the meaning of the word corona when attached to the word virus may give us pause. One definition of corona suggests a crown. La Corona is the name of a cigar, and Corona beer bottles show the crown — though production of it was stopped in Mexico after the pandemic started!

Is COVID-19 the “crown jewel” of viruses with all its spikes? While pondering the mounting death toll — now more than 130,000 — as well as the mounting economic toll, perhaps we should do as Pope Francis did and fall on our knees and look beyond ourselves for answers!

Hermine Saunders writes from Westminster. Her Prime column appears on the second Sunday of the month.

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