People Are Dying

People Are Dying
Yesterday was the first Wichita death, a man in his sixties who had been out of the country.
But yesterday the number of US deaths from COVID-19 were fewer than the day before. Is it a good sign or is it an artifact of it having been Sunday? The total death number for the US is still relatively small compared to the people who have died of the flu this season – about 10% only. This brings to mind the president’s initial tendency to play down the seriousness of the pandemic, because he did compare the numbers with the seasonal flu. (Despite his claim he is the smartest man in the world he was amazed by the numbers the flu kills annually.)

But this is an issue that bears examination. As the reality of this pandemic sinks in we are wondering about its lasting effects upon the economy and also on our collective psyche. If we were all narcissistic we could weather the loss of perhaps a few million people, but our economy would be largely spared. The loss of these relatively small numbers would not affect our productivity much. But the general consensus in society is that we must extend ourselves to limit the number of deaths as much as we can, even at the expense of damaging our economy for years to come. The psychological impact of the pandemic is hard to measure, because we have not gone through this before. The “Spanish flu” epidemic is perhaps the nearest precedent of what we are going through now, but that was in a very different world. Average life expectancy was about 25 years less than it is now, so that death was much nearer for the average person than it is now, when we can be fairly confident of living to old age. Suddenly the possibility of an early death seems much more real to people who are hearing the numbers of deaths every day, even though in the actuarial sense it may not be so different. Will this cause fundamental changes in the way people think about their future and affect the decisions they make? J P Morgan said this morning that the bottom of the market has passed, but have these economists factored in all the ripple effects?

We are hearing stories about how people are stepping up to do what needs to be done in a crisis. These are stories that play out on the local level, like people banding together in New York City to bring lunch bags to the beleaguered staff in their hospitals. But what about on the national level? Will the states that are relatively spared feel an obligation to help the others that are faring worse? We see this happening to some extent in the relief package that has been passed in Washington. Internationally, will there be more xenophobia, as some countries are inclined to blame others. Today we heard that Germany and the Netherlands are balking at having the European Union issue bonds to help countries like Italy and Spain. And will China take advantage of what seems to have been a more successful effort to manage the coronavirus, even as the rest of us become suspicious about the numbers of deaths they are reporting?

It will take us some time to digest the less immediate effects of the pandemic. This morning I was thinking about the projected expansion at Kidron Bethel which is to include a larger meeting space. I have given money in the initial fundraising campaign and am pledged to give more to help make it a reality. But will the funds be available, now that many have lost a considerable amount of money? A similar project was shelved at the time of the last recession. I suspect there will be many other realignments of expectations that we will be made aware of later. Each one of us will experience different amounts of impact. I am hoping all of you will find a way through without too much pain.

Not all these consequences will be negative, I am reminded watching Marcus’ Prairie Voices singing together, each in their own homes Ilus Ta Ei Ole
“Together, we can create beauty.” On YouTube

This was an interesting podcast I listened to last week about the earthquake in Anchorage back in 1964. Sociologists say that it is natural for people to come together in times of stress and afterwards it is also natural for them to assume that they are unique in their “come-togetherness”. After Katrina, for example, lots of New Orleanians were saying things like “That’s just how we are”.