Learning from COVID
Posted on June 11, 2022 at 10:00 AM by Mike Owen
Actor Jeff Bridges was on CBS "Sunday Morning" program June 5, talking about his battle with cancer and COVID, the latter putting him in a hospital for five weeks.
“If COVID had taught us anything, it's taught us that we're all in this together, man. We're all connected, you know? And to feel that connection in the form of love comin' at you, that's something else!" Bridges told CBS.
Have we learned that in Iowa?
After more than 9,600 Iowans have died due to COVID-19 and its variants in little over two years, you’d like to think we have learned something to better deal with a future pandemic.
There is little evidence that we have. Iowa state public officials actually suppressed concern about the most severe public health threat we have ever seen. Gov. Kim Reynolds and legislative leaders want no masking requirements, no testing requirements, and no one ordering them, in cities, schools, counties or even private businesses.
And many Iowans still ignore the risks. Even now, after so many deaths and far more Iowans whose lives have been affected by long-term by COVID infections, vaccinations have barely changed among adults in six months. Only half to two-thirds are vaccinated in most adult age groups. This is despite a spike in COVID positives. (See graph below from CGI's COVID data page.)
For reflection, our leaders could take lessons from Des Moines artist Mollie Wallace, who started a project in early 2020 to see it become an ongoing observation and commentary about Americans' response to COVID.
In miniature, Wallace used old jewelry boxes to frame the many facets of the story — from the political battles over masks and the tug-of-war of health vs. the economy, to the impact on life at home from making sourdough to the revival of home haircuts. Just like the pandemic itself, her project kept growing.
Her exhibit, “Pandema’s Box: A Big Story Told in Little Boxes,” is on display at the Waterloo Center for the Arts through June 19. https://www.waterloocenterforthearts.org/forsberg-riverside-galleries/
Retired longtime columnist John Skipper brings his own story in the Mason City Globe-Gazette. Even after his two years of precautions including vaccinations, avoiding crowds and wearing masks, the COVID virus caught him in late May.
“Be vigilant. Get the shots. Get tested. Some doubters might say, ‘Hey, look – you took all the precautions, you got your shots – and you still got sick, so none of those precautions worked,’” Skipper wrote.
“My answer to that has never changed. If you wear a seatbelt while in your vehicle, it won’t prevent you from being in an accident, but it might save your life.”
Rather than encouraging solutions based on science and expert advice, our state officials have helped to politicize and argue and pander to selfish instincts and denial.
Jeff Bridges has an important story, but so do others close to home. Check out Mollie Wallace’s art. Read John Skipper's column. Talk to neighbors who have had COVID — or tell your own story if you have one.
Reflect. Learn. Engage. Consider what we might do differently. So we don't lose another 9,600.
Mike Owen is deputy director of Common Good Iowa. firstname.lastname@example.org