How many people do YOU know who have it?

David Beasley, marching with Joe Riley to get the Confederate flag down in 2000.

David Beasley, marching with Joe Riley to get the Confederate flag down in 2000.

There are still people out there who don’t see the pandemic as real, as anything other than an abstract concept. And they don’t get why we’re all staying at home and economic activity has largely ground to a halt.

Some of them are saying some phenomenally stupid things, and I don’t just mean the president.

Well, I don’t know about you, but to me this thing is not abstract. It’s real. It affects people I know:

  • I think the first victim I actually knew, personally, was former Gov. David Beasley. That news came last week. I won’t say we’re close, but I’ve known him since the early ’90s — maybe the late ’80s. When he came in for an endorsement interview in 1994, it was a milestone for me: the first gubernatorial candidate I had ever interviewed who was younger than I was.
  • About the same time, I heard about my second cousin, an Episcopal clergyman out in Texas. He had been horribly sick with pneumonia for three weeks before he was diagnosed with COVID-19. He is now recovering, I’m happy to say.
  • Just yesterday, I learned that my sister-in-law’s brother, who lives in New York, has it. He has had significant health problems in recent years; he didn’t need this, too.

Getting closer, members of my immediate family have been exposed to people with the virus — that we know of. Probably all of us have. So we’re just hoping and praying we all stay healthy.

Of course, we all know of famous people who have it, from Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson to Prince Charles (who I hope has not been close to Her Majesty lately).

Oh, by the way — Charles is, near as I can tell, my 16th cousin twice removed. I say that not to impress you — you’re probably more closely related to him than I am — or bore you with my genealogy mania. I say it as a reminder that we are ALL related in some way to someone who has this, however distant they may seem. Do not send to ask for whom the virus tolls.

Whom are you close to who has the virus? I think we should share notes, to help each other wrap our heads around this. You don’t have to provide names — you see I didn’t, above. I just thought I’d ask how close it’s getting to y’all, at this still early stage of the crisis….


27 thoughts on “How many people do YOU know who have it?

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    OK, folks, here’s how real this is: Our good friend and regular commenter Karen Pearson has it. She’s in the hospital and very ill.

    I learned about it from Kathryn Fenner…

  2. Kathryn Fenner

    Karen Pearson, who was a longtime regular commenter on the blog, is severely ill with COVID-19, and underlying health issues, including a recent heart attack. She has kidney and liver failure and is going to be taken off a ventilator today while they try another intervention. It doesn’t look good.
    I was out today on the Horseshoe, and watched a gaggle of young women in white dresses clutching graduation gowns clustering together. Perhaps they all live very close together and figure, “what the heck…”
    Stay home unless you absolutely have to go out. Shop for groceries once a week at most, alone. Wash you hands!

  3. Raymond Knox

    Our daughter, in Spain pursuing a Masters in Public Health, is recovering from a “mild” case that in her words “kicked my butt”. The heart races and the mind conjures disaster outcomes when one is separated by an ocean and travel restrictions. Realizing there is absolutely nothing you can do. The anxiety eases with the daily phone call or text message update but starts all over again as soon as you say goodby.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Thanks for sharing, Raymond.

      We’re worried about our youngest daughter. She lives on the Caribbean island of Dominica. They just got their first case the other day.

      It’s a small island facing a lot of challenges, without the medical infrastructure we have (although there’s a new hospital there, built by the Chinese as part of their ongoing campaign to buy friends everywhere, while we curl up into an “America First” fetal position).

      But would she be safer here? I don’t know…

  4. Mark Huguley

    The Department of Health and Environmental Control’s organizational predecessor was the State Board of Health. The former agency’s Annual Report of Fiscal year 1918 offers perspective for the Coronavirus Disease 2019 outbreak.
    The year 1918 marked the end of the first World War, but also brought soldiers to Camp Jackson in Columbia and other camps in Greenville, Spartanburg, and Beaufort. Contagious diseases accompanied the soldiers and spread among the civilian population.
    For many young men receiving medical exams for the draft, their physicals became their first medical records. The data collected can be used to assess the general status of health in the state at the time. It wasn’t a rosy picture.
    The report stated, “The examinations made by the various draft boards under the selective service law have revealed a serious degree of physical deficiency among the registrants.” The first diseases cited of great concern were venereal diseases, followed by Smallpox, Diphtheria, Scarlet Fever, Typhoid Fever, Epidemic Meningitis, and Tuberculosis.
    The capacity of South Carolina to confront diseases was limited by the number of doctors and nurses, facilities, and medical surveillance. There were not many, and a nationwide influenza pandemic of 1918 strained what there was. The State Board of Health cited September 18, 1918 as the point when, “… the state was overwhelmed by the pandemic of influenza.” The report cited 6,100 deaths in 1918 from influenza. Underreporting was common and the annual report covered only ten months.
    The 1918 population of South Carolina given in the State Board of Health’s report was 1,643,205. Contrasted against the current state population of more than 5,000,000 and 882 deaths from pneumonia and influenza in 2018, the severity of the 1918 influenza is staggering.
    Most South Carolinians lived in rural areas without a healthcare infrastructure to address widespread communicable disease. A few large municipalities provided their own health officials, but these also had limited capability. County health offices did not exist.
    Divergent conditions between whites and the majority black population also existed. Due to discrimination and disadvantage, the impact of disease was worse for people of color.
    Hospital beds, doctors, and nurses were too few. Public buildings such as located at the University of South Carolina were converted to house influenza patients. Cities banned public gatherings. The hours businesses could operate were limited.
    The U.S. Surgeon General recommended general quarantine measures. These were immediately authorized and implemented as rapidly as possible. According to the State Board of Health’s report, “On October 7th the State Health Officer directed local health officers and county sheriffs to close schools, churches and picture shows and to prevent other public gatherings.”
    Gradually, improvement was seen in the number of influenza cases with the combined efforts of federal officials, volunteer services from community churches, and the Red Cross. The State Board of Health stated the United States Public Health Service aided by, “… attending patients, administering serum, and taking cultures of the nose and throat to determine carriers.”
    From September 21, 1918, to the end of October the outbreak was the most severe. After quarantine for approximately 20 days, the reports from all available sources were recalculated. It was worse than initially thought. The review reflected 86,415 cases reported from all counties. The State Board of Health stated because, “Many communities had been overwhelmed by the severity of the local epidemic, complete reporting of the disease had never been obtained, and could hardly be expected.”
    By November 4, the general quarantine was lifted. Eventually, it was over. Though 100 years earlier, the 1918 outbreak echoes the coronavirus pandemic. Among the chief lessons of 1918 for the current outbreak: Gratitude is owed to the medical practitioners and volunteers providing good works and hope. Imagine all the lives that could have been saved if South Carolinians knew then what we know now about the importance of social distancing and hand washing.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      As you say, “September 21, 1918, to the end of October the outbreak was the most severe.”

      That’s what scares me. I heard that in 1918, it was pretty bad in the spring, then it went away in the summer — and came back MUCH worse in the fall.

      So that could happen this time.

      The other day, I heard something even scarier. And yet it’s so obvious, I wondered why it hadn’t occurred to me before….

      Given the ease of international travel this days (in contrast to 1918), we could see a seasonal shift like that — but it would never end. When it gets to be summer here, the virus would simply move from the northern to the southern hemisphere. Then, when summer came below the equator, it would roll back up here…

      And just go on and on…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I don’t see how we could make a decision like that NOW.

          We just have to keep watching the situation, and act accordingly.

          We could find ourselves in a BEST-case scenario rather than a worst. We could see it go away with hot weather (no, Mr. Trump, not by Easter — sometime later), and then not see it come back.

          Let’s hope so. And maybe it won’t be as severe here as it’s been elsewhere. That doesn’t seem likely, but we can hope, while taking all the precautions we can think of….

        2. Mark Huguley

          No, I’m only sharing some of how the 1918 pandemic was handled and the opinion we should be grateful for healthcare workers and volunteers. I would not suggest how long to remain locked down. Healthcare professionals should guide that decision.

          1. Ken

            How much should they “guide” the decision? There are other considerations to be taken into account, no? Or should we be ready and willing to push out a few more trillion to an economy shut down for months on end?

            1. Mark Huguley

              How much should healthcare professionals guide decisions about coronavirus? Do you listen to your personal physician? Most probably do if we see the consequences of not following the advice as serious in the near term. Long term health consequences are often ignored and make the consequences worse. The consequences of ignoring the coronavirus advice are expected by healthcare professionals to make the problem worse.

              1. Ken

                A country is not a person.

                Talk like this reminds me of the folks who say we should leave wars entirely up to soldiers and leave civilian policy makers entirely out of it.

                1. Barry

                  How much should healthcare professionals guide decisions about coronavirus?


                  Because the other option is politicians.

                2. Mark Huguley

                  Many things might go better if elected leaders stuck with deciding broad policy and left technical decisions to professionals.

                3. Ken

                  Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about: policy decisions made by, yes, politicians. Healthcare professionals cannot decide how many bankruptcies are ok, how many destroyed businesses are tolerable, how much unemployment we can sustain or for how long, how much depression, economic despair, spousal or child abuse or how many suicides are “sustainable,” they cannot tell us how many billions or trillions of public monies to pump out to keep the economy on life support. Other countries are already having this discussion about how long lock-downs or other restrictions can go on. And they’re doing it in a calm, reasoned manner. We will have to do the same, sooner rather than later. And healthcare professionals will not be able to make those decisions for us.

    2. Larry

      Very interesting information. Thank you. My father contracted the flu after WW1 and it developed into TB.

  5. Brad Warthen Post author

    Mandy sent this out:

    1. Mark Huguley

      Yesterday, 25 March 2020, I learned someone employed by my neighbor possibly was exposed to the coronavirus. The employee shares a house with a coronavirus victim, who died from the infection yesterday. (The victim also had diabetes.) The employee is a great handyman and interesting person, who often works in our neighborhood. He is self-isolating. The news of this reminds me of “six degrees of separation” or the idea that any two people are no more than six connections from one another. The idea always seemed fitting for the South where some like to ask, “Who’re your people?” More often than not, the response is a reminder of how close we are to one another.

  6. Bryan Caskey

    Fauci: “We don’t make the timeline on reopening for business, the virus makes the timeline.”

    This is correct. The President and others have referred to this a a “war” against the virus. That’s a good outlook.

    As someone with a knowledge of history, James Mattis often reminded and cautioned people about battlefield strategies and timelines, saying that “the enemy gets a vote.”

    This is an epidemiological version of that.

  7. Dan

    Lots of Episcopalians:

    Karen Gale Elrod Pearson

    Bill Pike

    Rev. Richard Napolean Ottaway

    Rev. Dr. Robert Pace (recovering)

    Rev. Brad Whitaker (recovering)

    Rev. Roy Cole (recovering)

    Rev. Janet Broderick (recovering)

    Rev. Timothy Cole (recovering)

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