It’s time for a different story

BY BILL HORNER III, Publisher
Posted 8/25/21

Just over a year ago in this space, I wrote a slightly tongue-in-cheek column entitled, “The absolute last word on wearing a mask.”

It was a humorous reflection on a just-completed trip I’d …

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It’s time for a different story

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Dr. Andrew Hannapel, Chatham Hospital's chief medical officer, was vaccinated for COVID-19 in December, among the first doses administered in Chatham.
Dr. Andrew Hannapel, Chatham Hospital's chief medical officer, was vaccinated for COVID-19 in December, among the first doses administered in Chatham.
Staff photo by Peyton Sickles
Posted

Just over a year ago in this space, I wrote a slightly tongue-in-cheek column entitled, “The absolute last word on wearing a mask.”

It was a humorous reflection on a just-completed trip I’d made to Colorado — where mask mandates were in place and strictly enforced — and addressed some of the disagreements over mask-wearing and speculation on the future of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While away,” I said in that column from 54 weeks ago, “I also read several stories citing scientific studies showing the efficacy and effectiveness of masks, including one about a University of Washington report that said North Carolina would have 10,000 coronavirus deaths if we all stopped wearing them, and then another claiming that if everyone masked up for just six weeks, the pandemic would shudder to a stop. Who knows. I also had a ski-lift operator tell me it didn’t matter. COVID-19 cases, he said, would ‘all disappear’ the day after the November election.”

For the record: none of those prophecies happened.

Back then, 10,000 deaths in N.C. was an unimaginable number. Last week we passed the 14,000-death milestone. Today, of course, COVID-19 cases are at levels we haven’t seen since January. For most of early June, we saw only 200 or so new cases a day; in this past week, reported new cases range between 5,000 and 6,500 per day. And even though we all (well, most of us, anyway) masked up during mandates in this state, 10,000 deaths — a nightmarish prospect a year ago — may end up being a “if only it were that few” wish.

So this column, obviously, doesn’t have a punchline.

I know you’re tired of reading about COVID. We’re tired of reporting about it. Our columnists (read Andrew Taylor-Troutman’s excellent piece this week, just below) are tired of opining about it.

Yet here we are. This week, a third year of schooling has begun under the COVID cloud. While some kids come to class masked, a few rogue state leaders elsewhere try to punish and besmirch anyone who dares suggest mandating face coverings. Over the weekend I ventured into several public gathering places and found they’d pulled their “FACE COVERINGS REQUIRED” signs out of storage; few inside complied.

Two months ago, some of us were thinking we had COVID licked. Now, the Delta variant has changed everything.

“In some ways,” an excellent story on The Atlantic’s website last week read, “pandemic life is more confusing than ever.”

And much harsher. On Friday night, my wife and I visited with another couple, dear friends in Pittsboro, where the husband told us of four quick and sudden COVID deaths among his cadre of family and friends in his small Tennessee homeplace — all of them unvaccinated. Closer to home, a pastor I know and his wife, both of whom pooh-poohed COVID and vaccinations and touted conspiracies online, contracted the virus.

Someone else I know — whose unvaccinated brother-in-law is in serious condition with COVID — says she’s not getting vaccinated because she’s not going to “put poison in her body.” Another acquaintance touts an unproven theory that those who get vaccinated shed COVID and infect others as a reason he’s eschewing the shot.

Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press secretary got temporarily banned from Twitter after bullying a journalist in that state — and, via Twitter, encouraging others to do the same — after the reporter tied one of DeSantis’ donors to a company producing a monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID. “Light. Them. Up!” the press secretary tweeted. “Drag them,” she wrote, further encouraging her followers to harass and abuse the Associated Press journalist.

And down in Texas, a 45-year-old city councilman and member of the state’s Republican Party’s governing board died from COVID. His death came just months after he called a doctor who posted news about the positive effectiveness of Pfizer’s shots against the coronavirus “an absolute enemy of a free people” — in a tweet, of course — adding, with a hashtag: “#ShoveTheCarrotWhereTheSunDontShine.”

That tweet is still out there. Hundreds have gleefully commented on it — writing things like, “Karma!,” “poetic justice,” “you’d know about the sun not shining,” and this: “Being 6 feet under is the new #freedumb.”

One of my best friends works as publisher of the newspaper which broke the story of the man’s death and his anti-vaccination social media posts.

“Tragic,” he texted me over the weekend. “Left a wife and newborn behind.”

I’m ready for a different story.

Bill Horner III can be reached at bhorner3@chathamnr.com or @billthethird.

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