Commentary: Let’s get COVID-19 facts straight

My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of a 99-year-old woman, whose obituary I recently read in the Delaware State News. I did not know her, nor do I know her family, but I read that she was a vibrant, intelligent woman, who lived an exceptional life and left behind a large family who loved her. Her obituary also gave her cause of death: COVID-19.

Maybe if more people would list the cause of death in such detail people would begin to understand that we are in the middle of a painfully real pandemic.

I feel for the family — not only for their loss, but also because they may  hear, read and see COVID-19-related remarks from others that are as hurtful as they are inaccurate:

• “There must have been underlying conditions.” (Check the information — underlying conditions include obesity, smoking, vaping, heart or lung disease, asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, steroid use for immune disorders and more. According to the latest data, 33% of all Delawareans are obese. Add in smokers, and you can quickly understand that most of us would be considered to have an underlying condition.)

•” It’s just like the flu.” (They both are deadly — think about the Spanish Flu of 1918 — but we have vaccines for the flu, so the death toll is not as high. COVID-19 is contagious up to two days before any symptoms are evident, and a person remains contagious up to 14 days after recovering. That’s why we need masks and quarantines.)

• “Masks don’t work.” (The virus spreads through the air, so a mask is the only protection you have when you are in populated spaces like stores, buses, offices and so forth. The droplets do spread farther than 6 feet and remain suspended longer than originally thought. The mask only works if it covers your mouth and nose fully, though.)

• “The virus only kills people who were going to die soon.” (This horrible remark was made to me by a medical professional who, fortunately, is not my primary physician. Am I the only person who saw coverage of the tragic death of Nick Cordero, the 41-year-old actor who had no underlying causes and appeared to be extremely fit? Besides, if you only think of COVID-19 as survived versus died, you’re not understanding the survivors who have permanent or long-term damage or effects from their brush with the virus. But to get back to the point of my letter, do you have the nerve to stand face-to-face with a grieving family and say, “Well, they were going to die soon anyway”? If you do, shame on you. All lives matter, short or long; everyone deserves respect and love.)

• Need I add the comment about “older people not being at bars after 10 p.m.” which a reader posted in response to the recent changes in state restrictions? Maybe older citizens are in bed by 9 — but their younger relatives (who may be asymptomatic) can certainly carry the virus home to them. Someone I know attended a family gathering of seven members, most of them “young” and all of them asymptomatic. Six of the seven contracted COVID-19 and are still feeling the effects of the October event. Family members do spread the virus.

Take a moment to look at the “Cases Who Visited Venues” in the Data Dashboard section on the Delaware COVID-19 website. The data will explain how the government determines what restrictions need to be in place. It’s not decided secretly by Gov. John Carney behind closed doors, as another reader recently wrote.

One other thought: In her lifetime, the woman mentioned at the beginning of this letter lived through the Spanish Flu, food rationing during World War II, the tuberculosis epidemic (when many citizens were forced to isolate in sanitariums) and the development of polio vaccines — when it was considered good citizenship to be vaccinated to stop the spread of devastating infectious disease. And here we are today, complaining about masks and the urgent suggestion to celebrate the holidays safely!

Reeducate yourself — the information on COVID-19 has evolved as we learned more about the virus. Wear your mask and get vaccinated as soon as you can.

Most of all, please, think before you speak.

Terry Kansak
Georgetown