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Roemer: Unemployment, education, mental health, nothing matters except COVID-19 | COMMENTARY

Nothing matters except COVID-19.

People can lose their jobs, kids can go without an education, family and small businesses can go belly up, drug use and suicide rates can soar, mental health conditions can worsen resulting in millions suffering in silence, and the faithful can be told how, when, and where to worship. Trillions of dollars in new debt can be incurred by the federal government, college campuses can close, sports can be cancelled, and Thanksgiving dinner can become seen as nothing more than a “super spreader” event.

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But it’s all OK, because nothing matters except COVID-19.

In fact, any suggestion society might want to at least know what the costs are associated with keeping the virus at bay, and consider whether those costs are justified gets one immediately labeled, heartless. “People are going to die, you vile monster!”

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That said, it does seem the vast majority of people who get this illness recover pretty well. Those who don’t usually have prior conditions that make them susceptible to the worst COVID-19 has to offer. Given that, I’m not sure it’s necessary for everyone to behave as if contracting the virus will result in a life-threatening situation for them. Shouldn’t it be the most vulnerable who take the most restrictive steps to avoid getting ill? Every winter we deal with influenza, a virus which effects people differently, with the elderly and medically fragile at highest risk of developing life threatening complications. I don’t recall shutting everything down to prevent people from getting influenza. I do remember people being extra careful not to get it. Even so, every year influenza takes its toll on the same people who are most vulnerable to COVID-19.

At first, COVID-19 was an unknown, and unknowns always scare us. Even doctors were ignorant of COVID-19’s lethal potential. Indeed, people were dying because doctors didn’t know how to treat them, but I think it’s fair to say we’ve learned a lot since the spring, and the virus never did live up to its lethal billing. Remember when we talked about millions of people dying? That’s not to say it’s an illness we should take lightly, but curing the illness at all cost — and I mean at all cost — is starting to look like a bit of an overreaction.

COVID-19 is not a joke, but neither is poverty. In a couple of weeks, 99% of people who get COVID-10 are fine. Those pushed into poverty because of the draconian measures being taken by society to fight the disease are likely to remain there somewhat longer. Not everyone shares the same advantages allowing them to weather the financial storm. To my knowledge, teachers have never missed a paycheck, and have considerable flexibility in how they do their jobs. Whether schools are open or closed, or half open or half closed, they continue to be paid.

Most people don’t have that luxury and are forced to make hard choices when a governor tells them they have to close or curtail their business or apply for unemployment benefits, not to mention the cost students pay when they receive an inadequate education. Many — too many — children have no one at home to “help” them stay motivated and current in their learning. Special needs children are at risk in all kinds of ways, and the disadvantaged, well, they just become all the more disadvantaged. It’s the kids who are paying an enormous price for not being adequately educated, and that lack of education is something that’s likely to haunt them the rest of their lives. Oh, well, right?

What’s particularly galling (apart from the childish and peevish behavior of our Board of Education and Commissioner Dennis Frazier) is that even the suggestion that the well-being of students is something we really need to consider when deciding whether to open schools is greeted by CCEA officials with dismissive incredulity. “Hybrid learning takes a lot of work,” they complain. I appreciate teachers are working hard. I don’t think people generally appreciate just how hard some teachers do work, and hybrid learning certainly doesn’t make things any easier for them, but in return, teachers know, come hell or high water, they’ll be getting a paycheck every two weeks.

COVID-19 restrictions seem pretty reasonable until it’s your life they destroy. It’s sort of like taxes.

Tax increases are fine, as long as someone else pays them. Maybe all the COVID-19 restrictions are necessary. I have my doubts, but it’s not “heartless” to consider if the destruction they are leaving in their wake is a price worth paying.

At some point the federal government is going to spend its last trillion dollars, and the financial devastation that follows then will be something from which this country may never recover.

At least no one will have COVID-19.

Chris Roemer writes from Finksburg. Reach him at chrisroemer1960@gmail.com.

For any member of the community who would like to submit a guest community voices column for publication consideration, it should be approximately 700 words and sent to bob.blubaugh@carrollcountytimes.com.

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