When it comes to the news cycle, it’s all COVID-19, all the time. And sure, it gets old. It’s enough to make a person wonder if the word “unprecedented” even means anything anymore.
However, the news coverage and government and public health briefings remain a necessity, because the situation is, well, a rare event to which everyone continues to adapt on the fly. West Virginians constantly have to reconstruct their expectations as the situation changes.
Remember when this was only going to be around for a few weeks?
It’s a roller coaster. There are long grinds up the hill, a glimpse of hope and then, whoosh — the bottom drops out and things start again.
This virus, which will have killed more than 180,000 Americans by the time this piece appears in print and online, does loom over everything — locally and beyond.
On the front page of Thursday’s Gazette-Mail, there’s a story on renovations of the Kanawha County Public Library being ahead of schedule. That’s wonderful news. It’s something to be optimistic about. But it also creates the question: What will life in Charleston or West Virginia or the world look like in 16 months, when the renovation is complete? Will the coronavirus be a fresh — but welcome — memory? Will it still be around?
Then there are broader, more immediate concerns. On that same page of the Gazette-Mail was a story about Hurricane Laura approaching the Gulf Coast with what experts termed “unsurvivable” force. The primary concern is getting people out of the area and bracing for damage in cities that still haven’t recovered from Hurricane Harvey. But COVID-19 looms over the picture, as well, because moving large groups of people means they all have to go somewhere.
As hotel rooms fill up, emergency response officials likely will have to decide whether to open convention centers, arenas and other large buildings as temporary shelters. And, of course, such gatherings are rife with opportunities for COVID-19 to spread — especially considering that the virus is already much worse in Texas than in many other states.
Basically, the specter of the coronavirus makes any bad situation worse, and it curbs optimism about the good things that are happening around West Virginia and the rest of the country. It can be overwhelming. There is hope and calm in two mantras that public health officials continue to repeat: Control what you can control; and, secondly, it won’t be like this forever.
That latter part can seem a little dubious in the moment, but it’s true. There will be a vaccine. There will be medical treatments. And West Virginians are doing a pretty good job of following public health guidelines and reducing the spread of the virus, aside from some flareups in bars and facilities such as nursing homes.
There’s plenty of reason for hope. There might be a few more dips, or even a loop or two, before the ride ends, but, eventually, it will be over. And then, people can decide what to do with the rest of their lives, hopefully with a little perspective from the time of the pandemic to aid them on their journey.