PERRY: A YEAR IN PANDEMIC: Stay the course, Colorado — don’t make a mess with Texas

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A clerk at 7-Eleven is shielded behind a plastic paint tarp for protection, April 10, 2020. Early on in the pandemic, this image came to illustrate the impromptu worry, confusion and ingenuity in the struggle against COVID-19.  Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado. 

 

I’ve learned to flawlessly navigate the obstacle course-like produce department with fogged glasses at the King Soopers at Peoria and Parker Road. So there’s that.

A year into a pandemic most of us never really thought could happen here, small victories such as managing mask-glasses vapors in the winter have become comforting. Satisfaction like that, however, is pretty rare.

After 12 months of “is this for real,” I still blur the new normal with a waking bad dream.

For me, and most of you, pandemics were faraway tragedies that never came here because, well, they just didn’t. Did they even have widespread electricity during the Spanish Flu pandemic? I just ignored it all because I thought we had moved beyond such things in the United States.

Whether I unconsciously wrote it off as the result of American Exceptionalism or better plumbing codes, I was fooled into complacency.

Even though I would mistrust former President Trump if he offered up an opinion on what day of the week it was, I ignored the global dashboard warning light as he and a smattering of CDC types said, “we got this.” Impeachment No. 1 was far more compelling than just another pandemic in China.

Maybe that, above all, changed more than anything for all of us. We were slapped into the reality that we are not separate from, better than or able to ignore the fact that we are a global community of people, dependent on and affected by each other.

If “America First” isolationism looked its most ridiculous, it was when Colorado tabbed its first fatality from the novel coronavirus on March 13, 2020. There would be more than 6,000 more to follow — so far.

Like most of you, we quickly learned we were unprepared, on many levels, for the pandemic we’ve since been living through. Despite that, I’ve chronicled amazing strides.

While the state of public education in Colorado has never been more precarious than it is right now, I’ve watched teachers and students across the metro area, and the state, work long and hard against impossible odds to keep the wheels on the school system. Teaching — already a virtually thankless and overwhelming job — became a Herculean effort as classes revolved in and out of schools and living rooms. As a community and a nation, we have learned first-hand how critical and strategic publicly funded and supported education is for every aspect of success, everywhere in the country. Hopefully, the lesson learned is that short-funding public schools and writing them off as mere babysitters will end with the pandemic.

Likewise, the last year has made clear we live among heroes. While most of us huddled in fear as talk of ventilators and suffocating death held us all aghast, tens of thousands of nurses, medics, nursing home aides, doctors, custodians, firefighters, grocery store workers, police and other rescuers faithfully exposed themselves to the unknown. A lot of them were sickened and killed for their valor.

One night in early May, I wandered among dozens of people at a local mortuary there to honor Paul Cary, 66, a retired Aurora paramedic. He’d early on gone to the debacle in New York City to answer the call of too many pandemic victims and not enough rescuers. His unfathomable courage killed him. He was struck down by the virus he tried to help others struggle with.

Cary was far from the only hero, but his selflessness created a graphic contrast to the throngs of cruel and ignorant ass-hats that fought even against simple ways to curb the infections and deaths.

Part of the post-traumatic stress I and others will carry forward came from people like Highlands Ranch Republican state Rep. Patrick Neville flaunting and ridiculing mask mandates and indoor-dining bans. Neville and others fervently ignored data, science and good sense, supplanting it with disinformation. He trivialized the deaths of thousands as just the cost of doing business.

I’ve lost friends and comrades to a virus that is as contemplative and compassionate as Neville and those like him, who scoff at the horror the pandemic has inflicted on all of us.

This newspaper, like almost every other in the country, has been financially devastated by the effects of the pandemic. We count ourselves among the victims of the hard stipulations created by imposing shut-down orders and restrictions.

Every day, we work with our advertisers and sources, also struggling with the need to keep people apart at the cost of their livelihoods. Bars, restaurants and gyms have suffered the hardest, many ruined by the structure of the pandemic. These industries have been faithful partners of the newspaper business.

But not once have I considered that risking the deaths of thousands, and the debacle that would bring, was worth this newspaper or any other business in Colorado. Businesses have a chance to recover. Dead people don’t.

I can’t just shake my head at Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and fools like him here in Colorado, who just want to forget about the pandemic and throw the dice. I have to shake my fist.

Almost to the day last March we had to close the newsroom to protect the reporters, clerks, sales reps and others here at the Sentinel, I received a dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

I, 90% of the state’s teachers and more than 70% of those most at risk in Colorado are joining a growing community of people who can worry a little less about ventilators for two weeks after every trip to the grocery store.

Rather than seeing this as a reason to figure, “I got mine,” so open up the state, I see it as a responsibility to venture out into riskier places for those who haven’t yet got the shot.

If you think your younger age or apparent better health is a sure thing in beating the virus and throwing your mask and micro-phlegm balls to the wind, I can promise you that you are not.

Among all the other amazing and horrible pandemic things I’ve personally and professionally chronicled, are the deaths of many who also counted on luck and invincibility, or the decency of their fellow Coloradans.

So, gratefully, I’ll step into the next presser so others here don’t have to for a while. I’ll fumble with fogged glasses to find the just-right avocado at King Soopers for my neighbor, who hasn’t gotten vaxxed yet. And I’ll be at the front of the parade of those insisting that we stay the course in protecting people from COVID-19, until the data, medical experts and good sense make it clear, we don’t have to anymore.

Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected]   

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