If your parents or grandparents die of Covid-19, please make sure the disease appears as the cause of death in their obituaries. Or if you should yourself be so unfortunate, please ask your family to do the same for you.
Since March, I’ve had 20-30% more obituaries to write than normal, yet hardly any of the source obituaries from the hometown newspaper or notes submitted by family mention Covid-19. It’s always “natural causes,” “after a brief illness,” or no cause of death at all. But many of the deceased actually asphyxiated alone and unconscious in a hospital, surrounded by medical personnel rather than family. Likely due feeling guilty or ashamed, the next of kin are reluctant to admit that grandma died of Covid-19. That’s understandable, but harmful.
It’s hard enough for us to judge risk and assess exponential growth. Even current local statistics don’t tell the whole story if we don’t have names and faces to put with them. Consequently, we underestimate risks and make poor decisions. We tell ourselves, “No one I know has been sick,” or, “It only affects old and unhealthy people, so I’ll be okay.” For Christmas, I’m wishing more people will specify Covid-19 as the cause of death so we’ll be able to make better choices.
The same is true of catching Covid-19. There’s reluctance to admit that yes, I thought I was taking the right precautions, but I was wrong. Instead we hear only of a family not feeling well, or a ward member disappears from Zoom meetings for a while. Information that is essential for the woefully human decision-making circuits in our brains isn’t being communicated.
So as my contribution to your reassessment of your personal Covid-19 risk, let me mention that I and my immediate family spent much of November dealing with Covid-19, and it really is a disease you don’t want to get. My “mild” case meant that I had fatigue and brain fog, periodic joint and muscle pain bad enough to leave me shaking, headache and vertigo, disturbed sleep, mild fever and a perpetual aftertaste of rotting garbage. Two months after symptom onset, I still experience sporadic fatigue. It’s not just the flu. The symptoms last longer and are much less predictable. Our older daughter was entirely asymptomatic, while the younger one, the cross country runner, had the worst case in the family. You don’t want even a mild case of this.
We have no idea where our precautions fell short. My wife and I work from home, our younger kids are in online school, church is online, and we rarely go anywhere or interact with other people in person. We took every precaution that seemed prudent, but somewhere we misjudged the risk. Risk is hard to assess correctly when you’re on the pointy end of exponential growth like we were experiencing in November and many other places are experiencing now. Fortunately we’re feeling fine now, our cases didn’t require hospitalization and we were in a position to maintain quarantine until well after anyone was potentially infectious. Not everyone will be so fortunate.
There’s still time for you to re-evaluate your holiday plans. With a vaccine starting to roll out, remember how little we still understand about this virus and how bad we are at assessing risk and exponential growth, and think long and hard about your holiday plans this year.