Article by Peter Koeppel, member of Trinity Memorial Church in Binghamton. Koeppel serves on the diocesan Stewardship Resources team and the diocesan Creation Care Initiative.
So, there we were, turning another corner, only to find that a new variant of COVID-19 was hiding around it. Think for a moment, if you will, how you were reacting to the news of this variant first having been identified in South Africa, and so far having been found in at least a third of the countries covering earth, including the USA, NYS, and our community. Did your reaction differ from how you reacted to the news, two years ago, when we first learned that a highly contagious, even lethal, infectious agent had been identified in China? Were you worried, if not fearful, then?
Then, we didn’t know what it was, how to identify it, how to treat it, or how to reduce its spread.
Since then we have learnt that it’s a virus in the SARS family of viruses; we now know that it spreads mostly through the air, not so much through surface contamination; we recognized the importance of indoor air quality to reduce its spread and have developed ways to improve indoor air quality; we are getting accustomed to wearing masks—whether doing so is convenient or not—to reduce its spread; we have tests to identify it; we have vaccines—building on decades of research—to relieve us from having to constantly worry about serious disease or death; and we’re beginning to see the first treatments—antiviral drugs; sorry: antibacterial/antiparasitic drugs don’t work against viruses—which can sometimes slow and limit the destruction this virus can wreak in our bodies. We have learnt a lot during these past two years: we’ve turned from the proverbial sitting ducks to having a good set of tools to protect us and others from the worst ravages of this disease.
Don’t you wish we had had those tools and protocols two years ago? With over 875,000 persons officially counted as having been killed by COVID-19 in the US alone, you and I very likely know several people who have lost loved ones to this disease, or lost loved ones ourselves. Those empty chairs at our tables will remain empty. Our hearts ache for the losses we experienced.
We could have reacted with a sense of dread to the news of the Omicron variant. But, I suspect, many of us didn’t. We drew on what we have learnt; we receive comfort from the astonishing progress that has been made in developing ways to limit the spread and impact of this disease; we do our part—vaccinations, booster vaccinations, masking, testing, indoor air ventilation or sanitizing—and we move forward with our lives. We are no longer sitting ducks for this disease to ravage our families and communities. All of us have become perhaps tired of having to deal with yet another wave’s disruption to our daily lives, but more importantly, we have become more resilient in facing the future.
Let’s especially remember the medical teams treating patients with severe COVID-19: they see patients struggling for breath; they see patients dying—the one thing above all they’re dedicated to help avoid. They continue to bear the brunt of what this virus dishes out. Many are at the point where their reserves have run dry, their resilience is reaching its limit. “Heroes work here!” doesn’t come close to capturing the dedication, almost superhuman strength, and love these medical professionals show each and every day. If you know someone working in a medical facility, particularly if they’re working in an ICU, please thank them, and pray that they will have the strength and resilience to face what each day may bring.
Our work is not done yet: we may yet need additional vaccines and vaccinations addressing future variants; masking requirements—on and off—will remain with us; physical distancing will remain prudent; we’re still looking for better treatment options for those unfortunate to experience a severe infection. But, where two years ago, there were only fear, uncertainty, and doubt, there is now hope—hope that we can, in the end, overcome this disease. That’s how far we have come in barely two years. If that doesn’t border on the miraculous, I just don’t know what does.
Let’s ease the burden on our medical professionals, honor the accomplishments of our scientists, and save some lives, by doing our part in getting COVID-19 under control. I don’t think that’s too much to ask of a Christian—how better could we show our love for our neighbor?