Editorial: Patience, perseverance, perspective needed as we battle the virus

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

There are times where it is particularly important to practice the three P’s in life: patience, perseverance and perspective. We’ve come to one of those times as our country and communities confront new realities in the face of the coronavirus.

The virus has disrupted ordinary and important facets of our lives. Completing everyday tasks will take extra time. Patience will be needed.

The virus, it seems, produces more than just a fever. It also produces hot tempers. There are plenty of people who are frustrated at everything ranging from governments’ responses to the virus to the lack of toilet paper in their cabinets. As we navigate life, we are going to be near (hopefully not closer than 6 feet) to many frustrated and grumpy people. At times, we may add to their ranks. Patience will be needed.

Perseverance will be needed in many areas, as well, because there is much in life that is not optional. If you cannot get into a nursing home to visit a loved one, then you have to persevere to find another way to communicate. If some of your favorite things in life have been taken from you — the joy of watching your child compete in athletics, your love of traveling the world, or any number of other items — you must persevere to find a way to be happy. You owe it to yourself and those around you to never give up on that task.

In that effort, perspective may be helpful. There certainly are signs perspective is lacking in parts of American society today. There are too many people spreading the idea that the virus is not a big deal, but rather is being completely blown out of proportion by the media. They say this is nothing more to worry about than the common flu.

Those people should be worried, not only about the virus, but also an apparent allergy to mathematics. The statistics available today show that influenza has about a 0.2% U.S. mortality rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Johns Hopkins puts the U.S. mortality rate for the coronavirus closer to 2%. The other way to state that is the coronavirus produces death rates that are 10 times higher than the common flu. Can anyone who understands those numbers honestly say the coronavirus and the flu are basically the same thing?

Further, an important difference between the two viruses is that there is a vaccine for influenza, but none yet exists for COVID-19. The lack of vaccination increases the likelihood that far more people will contract COVID-19 than contract the flu. So, consider this: Even if COVID-19 ends up having a mortality rate similar to influenza, if five times more people contract the disease, then it is likely that five times more people will die from COVID-19 than from the flu. What would it look like if five times more people got COVID-19 than the flu? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 16.5 million people received treatment for the flu during the 2018-2019 flu season. Five times that number would be 82.5 million people — or roughly the combined populations of California, Texas and Illinois.

Perhaps — hopefully, even — nowhere close to that number will become infected with COVID-19. But the people who are saying that this is all overblown are in no position to know what will happen. An important part of perspective is humility. There is a lot that most of us don’t know about most things. In times like this, a little humility can be important.

We have to put some trust in professionals to react appropriately. Those professionals do have to guard against an overreaction. The American lifestyle is worth protecting. We shouldn’t throw it away unnecessarily.

But if you believe in either history or evolution, you know that a virus is one of the few things that truly can put an entire species at risk. The professionals particularly must guard against underreacting.

That will mean the loss of some opportunity for prosperity and enjoyment in our lives. Hopefully, the losses are short-lived. Sometimes, though, you have to focus less on what you’ve lost and more on what you can save. Such perspective will serve us well in the days ahead.


Welcome to the new LJWorld.com. Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.