Corona hits close to home

Day 8. Over the last two days the virus has struck in my community. One young congregational rabbi is in the hospital and a husband and wife with a large family have all of the symptoms and are isolated in rooms in their home. The virus is real and its potential for harm is real. While we pray that the spread of the virus is contained here and everywhere, my expectation is that it will get worse before it gets better. Indeed, the day began with the Surgeon General announcing precisely that – the situation in the US is about to get worse.

Fundamental to my beliefs is the age old teaching of the rabbis that every individual life is a world in and of itself and that one who save’s another’s life is akin to saving an entire world. Thus, I found it very difficult to listen to President Trump at the end of the day exhibiting his impatience and frustration with the social distancing advice and requirements which his medical experts have been advising and recommending as the only means to stem the tide of this highly infectious virus which has already killed thousands world wide. Trump appeared to be trying to convince us that he has discovered a malaria drug that will cure virus, that the death rate will “only” be 1% instead of 2-4%, and that the deaths will be mostly in the older segments of the population. He clearly was laying the groundwork for deciding that there is no good reason to continue on the present “social distancing” path in an effort flatten the curve of infection and that it is time to restart the economy. Indeed, the President is not alone. This Saturday The Wall Street Journal featured an op-ed that advocated the same idea – “The cure is worse that the disease”.

Granted this is not simple. There are no good choices. No matter what path our leaders take there will be a high cost for all of us to pay. I do not envy them. Clearly, the economic impact will hurt the poorer and lower income echelons of our society more than others. And something needs to be done to soften this economic blow. But what struck me was how cavalier the naysayers are when it comes to, literally, sacrificing other people’s lives and choosing economics and money over lives. If that is the way the US goes, aside from the question of whether it will “work “, what does it say about our society and our values?

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