"This is the third time my family and I have been inconvenienced this way!" he said (or something like that).
It got me thinking: What specifically is he complaining about?
Fear of viral consequences?
He's complaining about the inconvenience of the policies surrounding covid-19.
True, some people with more vulnerable immune systems fear the actual covid-19 virus itself.
And that's legitimate. Of course!
But the VAST MAJORITY?
People complain about wearing masks or the police invading weddings.
People complain about a half-empty bus not stopping (back when passenger quotas were enforced) to let them on & about being cooped up with their family—especially those in cramped apartments.
People complain about gaining weight.
People found it very stressful to be forced to walk unexpectedly long distances on Purim to do blocking the entrance to Jerusalem.
People express fear or anxiety of the police invading their wedding or bar mitzvah celebration.
People express fear or anxiety about the policy-enforced destruction of their business or salary.
People express fear or anxiety about people forcing them to comply with scientifically unfounded policies while others express fear or anxiety about people who don't comply with scientifically unfounded policies.
In other words, people mostly fear the policy-induced consequences of covid-19.
But how many people actually fear covid-19 itself?
With the initial reports & footage coming from China, yes, people feared covid-19.
And think about this for a minute: Even if you suffer from a vulnerable immune system (may Hashem please grant you a speedy refuah!), would you know to fear covid-19 more than you fear other diseases (like the flu or infections) without the reports in the media?
Let's ask the question in a different way: Media & government policies aside, how are you actually experiencing this so-called pandemic?
Not Everyone Experiences COVID-19 the Same
This post is not meant to minimize their traumatic experience & very real loss in any way.
This post is also not meant to minimize the very understandable fear of people who suffer real vulnerabilities in their immune system.
On the other hand, an honest perspective on what's actually happening is important.
Also, your actual experience of covid-19 depends very much on where you live.
For example, in New York, frum Jews saw some of their neighbors being taken away in ambulances.
Yet in Australia or New Zealand, you probably did not notice anything at all.
It also depends on your profession.
For example, if you work in a hospital, you may have noticed a huge upswing in the amount of people coming in for a respiratory virus.
(Or not. Some hospitals service areas without much covid-19.)
Your personal experience may be more severe or less severe than mine.
So let's get started...
If there were no newspapers or reports on covid-19 (including no lists of those who allegedly died of covid-19, and so on), would you notice you were in the middle of a supposedly life-threatening pandemic?
For some of you, the answer may be yes—tragically.
But for most of you?
How I Would've Experienced COVID-19 without Knowing It's COVID-19
So WITHOUT any news or mention of covid-19 or an epidemic, quarantines, masks, social distancing, etc., what would I have noticed over the past year?
First of all, back when it started in Eretz Yisrael around Purim...I wouldn't have noticed a darn thing.
Hardly anyone was sick in a way different than the flu or any other respiratory virus.
In fact, most people weren't noticably sick at all.
Around Sukkot, I would've noticed something going around.
Lots of people seemed to be coming down with a low fever, aches, and some with coughing.
I would've been stumped hearing that people temporarily lost their sense of taste or smell, then figured that must be part of whatever's going around—after all, a standard cold virus often stuffs your nose and changes your sense of taste.
But yeah, that loss of smell or taste would've stood out to me.
My husband and I caught something too for a couple of days. We suffered a low fever and achy legs. My husband coughed 3 times. I coughed once.
(In other words, no noticeable respiratory issues. I've coughed when perfectly healthy too. Sometimes, coughing happens.)
We both functioned more or less normally, just needed more time to rest in bed.
I would've wondered at my loss of smell—like I said, I never heard of that before.
I also would've noticed that this "bug" going around was a bit more severe than usual. I knew 3 people hospitalized with respiratory issues, one of whom need a ventilator at home for a couple of days after leaving the hospital.
That's unusual to me. But not frighteningly unusual.
For example, one of them was strolling down the street after 2 days with the ventilator at home, obviously feeling completely back to normal.
So I would've perceived that as unusual, but not life-threatening.
And as for the three over-80 men who died in my area? At least 2 suffered serious health issues.
I'm not sure whether I would've associated their deaths with the bug going around.
Even if I would have, I would sadly associate it with any other time vulnerable people pick up a virus that killed them—including when people I knew caught a virus at a hospital while being hospitalized for something else less severe—as happened to the father of my son's friend years ago.
I would've noticed that we'd been losing some of our prominent rabbis & rebbetzins. That has happened before, but maybe 3 within a span of a couple of weeks—this year, I would've noticed there are significantly more who passed away within a close timeframe.
And how would I interpret that?
And I would feel like it's a severe sign from Hashem that we need to do serious teshuvah.
Due to their age, it wouldn't occur to me that the deaths derived from the same virus or any kind of pandemic. I would definitely associate it with Heavenly Judgement.
Very recently (like maybe in the past 2 months), I would've noticed that a lot of women in late pregnancy or after birth seem to be hit with something—but not necessarily the same thing.
One suffered a brain tumor, others a virus that included complications with their newborns...
I could imagine myself commenting to a friend, "I think there's some virus loose at the hospitals. Which hospital are these women in? Are they all in the same one? After all, that's what happened to the father of my son's friend back in fifth grade. He went to the hospital for a minor problem, caught a virus, and died a couple of days later. The staff really needs to get better about washing their hands. Studies show that hospital staff are not makpid enough about proper sanitation & hand-washing—so that's probably why."
Likewise, reports of multiple deaths in old-age homes would make me angry about the lack of hygiene and protective measures on the part of the staff.
I wouldn't think "Plague!" I would think, "Irresponsible staff!"
Why? Because that actually happens! Some old-age homes aren't staffed by responsible, caring people and infections spread via the irresponsible staff members.
And that's it.
Without any reports or enforced policies, that's all I would be seeing.
How about you?
Compare & Contrast
For example, researchers estimate that the Black Plague killed off around a third of Europe.
You would definitely notice that if you lived at that time. And you would be rightly terrified.
To contrast other pandemics to covid-19:
- During the Spanish Flu, healthy young men developed symptoms in the morning and were dead by afternoon.
(Oddly, the Spanish Flu proved most lethal for healthy young men. Children & elderly were less likely to die. Scientists still aren't sure of the reason for that bizarre dichotomy, but some theorize that the accepted—and more aggressive—treatment of Spanish Flu caused a deadly reaction in the young men. Doctors treated it more gently among children & elderly.)
- Cholera's death rate is around 1-2% (similar to the flu) if treated (source).
Left untreated, the death rate from cholera leaps to 25-60% (source). Some people die within 2 hours of showing symptoms.
- Pneumonia kills 5-10% of its victims within 30 days—a significantly higher death rate than covid-19.
Worldwide, pneumonia is the #1 killer for children under 5 (source).
Pneumonia often causes long-term or permanent issues in the lungs.
- Ebola kills 25-90% of its victims, depending.
(Actually, the pneumonia statistic is pretty frightening. I doubt most people know about it. Based on that, a family really should go into quarantine if one of their household contracts pneumonia. But do they? I never heard of it. But maybe they do?)
Again, this is NOT to minimize the very real loss some people suffered from covid-19!
But with the severe policy-induced disruption of life with long-time negative effects—some of which will either take years to overcome or will never be overcome—I just want some honest perspective about the real experience of covid-19.
I resent the biased media focus in nearly all media outlets.
It's rational to desire real numbers & straight-out facts.
For example, upon bumping into a neighbor on the street around a month after her third birth, I admired her little princess sleeping in the stroller while the neighbor told me they were all diagnosed with covid-19 a mere 2 weeks after she gave birth!
Knowing how it feels to come down with the flu immediately after birth with other young children to take care of, plus imagining the added inconvenience of quarantine, I felt aghast and said, "I'm so sorry I didn't know! I would've done something!"
She laughed and said, "No, it actually worked out really well. We all went to a nice corona hotel and I got to rest—no cooking or cleaning, my husband took the kids to the activities there...I was only actually sick for 2 or 3 days, so the rest of the time I could rest up. It actually helped me recover from birth and I feel great now."
That's kind of an odd reaction to a pandemic so threatening that everything must shut down and people must adapt supposedly protective behaviors, isn't it?
Likewise, a great many people diagnosed with covid-19 show no symptoms.
Most people diagnosed with covid-19 recover with no treatment.
In a Nutshell...
Some people are suffering/have suffered from covid-19 itself.
The vast majority of people profess little to no fear of the actual virus, but primarily complain about the policies created in response to the virus.
(Or they complain about people not following the policies—NOT out of fear of the virus, but fear of quarantine or inconvenience associated with the policies surrounding covid-19. Or because it irks them when people behave in a way they consider irresponsible.)
Again, this isn't to minimize loss or suffering, but to simply be honest about what's actually happening.
What's also actually happening is that covid-19 is not stagnant. It changes. It ebbs away, then floods back again, back and forth. I'm not talking about policies, but the virus itself & its actual impact. Things aren't clear, which is part of Hashem's Plan.
I can't explain much about that, but you can see here (excerpted & translated from the original Hebrew):
https://question.bilvavi.net/blog/2021/02/18/deeper-meaning-behind-corona-vaccine-part-2/ (And just to be completely honest: I'm sorry, but please don't ask me to clarify anything because he's talking about very high concepts with which I'm not so familiar. There's a fill-out form if you'd like to ask him directly.)
It's unfortunate that so much of the media (including frum media) is caught up in making us more "compliant" (especially compliance to policies lacking scientific foundation).
That's not the root of the problem nor its solution.
And what's actually happening should be a powerful impetus for us to turn toward spiritual reflection.
Spiritual reflection includes taking care of our health (as mandated by halacha). But it also means looking into oneself and also to deepen one's connection to Hashem.