COVID-19 stories both inspire and discourage

Published 1:49 am Wednesday, May 20, 2020

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The pandemic that has brought the U.S. economy to its knees has brought out the best and the worst in people. I’ll start with the best.

Stories of doctors, nurses and emergency medical technicians not only working grueling shifts, but in many instances leaving their homes to travel to New York and other “hot spots” of COVID-19 outbreak to help are inspiring and, for those of us hunkered down at home, humbling. And right here at home, we all know nurses, EMTs and physicians who are doing their level best under trying circumstances to provide the care their patients need.

There are countless volunteers who have volunteered to make masks for hospitals, rescue squads and others who are on the front lines. Some restaurants, struggling themselves to stay in business, have joined charitable food pantry efforts to feed shut-ins and people out of work.

Elementary school teachers have organized “drive by” parades through the neighborhoods their schools serve to blow horns and wave at homebound students, letting them know they’re not forgotten. And those same teachers have worked to find creative ways to keep their students engaged while they’re at home so that learning isn’t set aside during the shutdown.

Around the country, the story’s the same. College students in New Jersey volunteered to replace older Meals on Wheels volunteers who are more vulnerable to the virus.

A New York landlord told the 18 tenants in his rental housing to just skip their April rent payments during the peak of the outbreak.

Celebrities have stepped up in numerous ways. Oprah donated $10 million to coronavirus relief, while a Houston Rockets team member donated 650 laptops to Houston students who had none and were trying to keep up with their studies.

And then, we all have heard about 99-year-old Tom Moore, a British World War II veteran who decided to raise a bit of money to help out his nation’s public health system during the pandemic. Using his walker, he vowed to walk (or shuffle) 100 laps in his garden before his 100th birthday, and asked for sponsorships for health care. He hoped to raise a couple thousand dollars, but his generosity and spunk so captured the hearts of his nation that he raised $16 million and was recognized by Queen Elizabeth as a national hero.

But then, there are these …

Not everyone has been imbued with brotherly love, of course. There are those among us for whom self will always be numero uno.

A local farmer had a box of latex gloves in his workshop and, when the pandemic began, put them in his pickup truck. He dutifully donned a pair of gloves and a face mask whenever he ventured into a Smithfield business. When he returned to his truck one day, the box of gloves was missing. Now, that’s pretty low.

I wrote all I intended to write a couple weeks ago about the selfishness of protestors who insist that it’s somehow macho to gather without masks or gloves to protest, shoulder to shoulder, what they consider government gone amok during the crisis. But then came Michigan where a small herd of protestors armed with assault rifles marched into the gallery of the state Assembly chamber to protest the governor’s closure of businesses. They insisted they weren’t there to intimidate, mind you.

If there was a silver lining to that stunt it was that they became the latest evidence of why this country will eventually come to grips with its ridiculously lax gun laws.

Here’s an interesting sidebar to that tantrum. Michigan law allows the open carry of all manner of weapons into its capital, but the protestors weren’t allowed to carry protest signs. A state official explained some years ago that the dichotomy in rules was because it was felt that protest signs on sticks could damage the building. There’s some logic there, I’m sure.

Then, there was the Missouri whacko who has posed numerous times as some type of medical expert, including having credentials to perform autopsies. This time around, he has allegedly offered bereaved families to take tissue samples from their loved ones who died without being tested for coronavirus in order to determine the cause of death.

You just can’t make some of this stuff up.


John Edwards is publisher emeritus of The Smithfield Times. His email address is