The Value of Life in a Pandemic

4 mins read
Photo by Heneli & Flower on Unsplash

As of the morning of April 23, 2020, 47,992 Americans have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus sweeping across the earth.  The first known US death from COVID-19 was on February 6, 2020, so all of the 47,992 died in slightly less than 2 ½ months.  In comparison, the 15-year US military death toll in the Vietnam War, from 1961-1975, was 58,220.  On April 22nd, my 86-year-old aunt became one of those COVID-19 death statistics.

Over the past several days we’ve been hearing calls for reopening the government. 

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said, “There are more important things than living.” when asked about the dangers of reopening the state too early.  Indiana Representative Trey Hollingsworth said about the potential loss of life that “it is the lesser of these two evils” in calling for reopening the economy.

In a 25-minute interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman called for opening the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, without offering any plan for social distancing or other safety measures.  Instead she said she offered to use the crowded casinos as a “control group” to test what going back to normal conditions would do to the local coronavirus infection and death rates.  When Cooper asked her if she would be on the casino floors each night, showing the world that it was safe, she deflected the question. Once again, as has happened over and over again in history, the rich and powerful are ready to sacrifice other people’s children, parents, siblings, relatives and friends to protect their fortunes and power.  

Sacrificing lives for dollars is neither right nor moral.  Let those people calling for reopening the states volunteer themselves to be the test cases.  If Texas reopens restaurants and retail businesses let’s see Dan Patrick out amongst the crowds.  Will Trey Hollingsworth go to a busy mall, or will Carolyn Goodman commit to being part of the “control group” she volunteered visitors to Las Vegas casinos to join?

While my aunt was older, her life wasn’t meaningless, nor was she ready to sacrifice herself for the economy.  She was a fiercely protective mother of two special needs sons, who now must navigate life without the guidance of a mother who was always there for them.  She was a beloved sister, aunt and cousin.  As the primary contact for the family over the last few weeks I’ve heard from dozens of friends and co-workers who adored her, and who will feel the void her death has caused in their lives forever.   She wasn’t perfect, but none of us are, and neither she, nor anyone else, no matter how old, deserves to risk their lives so that the economy can thrive.

So, to you, on behalf of my aunt’s family and friends, I ask you to continue to stay home, and stay safe.  And to Aunt Sandy, please rest in peace, knowing that your sons have many people who love and support them, and will make sure they are safe and well.

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