We are living in the most challenging times I have seen in my 86 years, and there have been other major events that disrupted our daily lives. The rapid spread of the coronavirus has revealed health care and supply failures in what is probably the world’s most technically advanced country.
By early morning Saturday, Louisiana had 585 positive coronavirus cases and 16 deaths. A surge in cases is also expected as the state begins to expand its testing ability.
I was in the U.S. Army when Hurricane Audrey hit Cameron Parish in 1957. I got a midnight call saying two of my uncles and an aunt lost their lives. I was given a leave and went to Cameron when the roads were opened and saw the complete devastation first-hand.
The Jupiter labor violence in January of 1976 was another major event that disrupted life in this community. The headline that day said, “One murdered and five hurt as armed mob hits labor site.” Times here were extremely tense for months afterwards.
Then, there was 9/11. As one writer said, “Just as a death in the family often brings people closer together, so did the catastrophe on 9/11.”
We got our own taste of what a hurricane is like when Rita struck this community in 2005, shortly after Hurricane Katrina almost wiped out New Orleans. Most local residents had to move elsewhere, and it took years to get back to normal living.
As unsettling as those events were, nothing compares to the current coronavirus pandemic. Daily newspaper headlines tell the disturbing story. Consider the following Saturday headlines from this newspaper and The Advocate of Baton Rouge:
“3 states lock down 70 million against the virus.”
“High stakes negotiations begin on $1 trillion economic rescue.”
“Dow drops more than 900, ending worst week since ’08.”
“Thousands seeking jobless benefits swamp state system.”
“Truck drivers struggling to find food on the road.”
“Toilet paper alternatives back up N.O. sewers.”
“Stranded cruise passengers describe chaotic flight home.”
“STAY AT HOME.”
I am at home alone as I write this. My wife was in the hospital for eight days, wearing a neck brace to protect Jo Ann from injuries she received from a fall. It was during her stay that a strict visitation regimen was put in place because of the rapidly spreading virus.
Jo Ann was transferred Thursday to a rehabilitation center for necessary therapy, and no visitors are allowed. How long the therapy takes depends on how soon she recovers from her days in the hospital.
Not being able to visit a wife you have loved and lived with for over 65 years adds to the stress caused by just trying to escape the invisible virus.
We knew the virus was serious when Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican state Attorney General Jeff Landry appeared together at a news conference. The two statewide public officials have been at one another’s throats for over four years.
Landry was there to defend the drastic decisions Edwards has had to make in order to protect citizens from the virus. The AG assured everyone that Edwards had the authority to close bars, restaurants, gyms, casinos, theaters and other places where people usually congregate.
U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, R-Port Barre, my congressman, unfortunately, has been extremely critical of Edwards’ actions. Despite criticism from many sources, Higgins has refused to budge from his earlier statements.
Many young Americans and some churches have also complicated protection from the virus by refusing to obey the countrywide orders to avoid large public gatherings. Anytime we are out in public, we are putting our lives in jeopardy.
A Baton Rouge area pastor who had an indoor service with 300 members planned an outdoor service today for his church of nearly 1,200 people. When asked about that indoor service, the pastor said he and his parishioners had a right to assemble and that the “virus is politically motivated.”
The pastor should try convincing families of the 16 Louisianans and hundreds of others across the country who have died that this is a political stunt.
Meanwhile, as I write this column, I am trying to decide whether to risk a trip to the supermarket. I have also thought about whether I should wear some latex-free gloves if I go.
The workout facility where I have been exercising for years is closed, so walking at the outdoor track at Mc-Neese State University is an alternative. Four or five others had the same idea Friday and I made sure I didn’t get too close to any of them while completing my two-mile walk.
When you survive over eight decades in this world, you understand the value of life and have little sympathy for those who take unnecessary risks. I miss my wife, the church services I have attended since a child, the Sundays and other fun times I have spent with my family, noontime meals with my good friend Wade Shaddock and the daily fellowship I have shared with so many others.
Pray, stay safe and we will also survive this crisis.