Don't know about you but most mornings these days I wake up feeling normal -- but that quickly changes and before the shower stops, I feel like we're all in a movie where aliens have taken over our planet and nothing makes much sense anymore.
It's really strange ... and every day seems to go a bit further off the rails.
One day last week I ventured out -- something that's not happening much these days -- to snap a few photos of Franklin County Schools' child nutrition workers being honored with accolades for their efforts and free pizza.
I've been to a lot of events like that over the years, but it was truly bizarre to see all those dedicated ladies keeping "social distance" and wearing masks.
To tell the truth, just about the last thing I would have expected a few months ago was to see a group of nice ladies wearing masks.
They are one of the bright spots in the pandemic -- and their efforts are keeping a lot of kids fed during this very troubling time.
By the time you are reading this, it's almost certain they will have prepared more than 150,000 lunches for local school children -- and that's an accomplishment certainly worth honoring -- and free pizza.
It even got emotional. Making a brief speech to the ladies and thanking them for their efforts, Richard Sturges got a little emotional, although it's hard to tell when someone is all "masked up."
But he and his brother/business partner, Boyd, have been moved enough that they'll be bringing their Papa John's pizza to the hard-working child nutrition workers every so often through this mess.
While the ladies munched their way through their reward, Richard and Dr. Larry Webb, the school systems's chief of auxiliary services, talked about how difficult it has been to find masks to keep their workers safe. Both said they were able to buy a few and find people to make even more.
And, Dr. Webb said, the schools received a gift of masks from Rock Spring Baptist Church, again proving that Franklin Countians care and will reach out to help.
Last week's paper also focused some much-needed attention on local emergency response workers and how they are working to keep their patients and themselves as safe as possible from this invisible but deadly enemy.
Our hats should be off to all those emergency responders to come running when someone calls, even though they don't have a clear idea of what they face.
That takes courage, certainly, but also dedication and commitment that goes far beyond just courage.
We should be thankful for people who answer those calls -- and make a commitment not to forget them and others who provide essential services after this pandemic is past.
A point of concern
As this was being written there was a lot of discussion -- much of it needlessly politicized and poisoned -- about how and when to reopen the country.
Here's a quotation that we should keep in mind:
"Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it." The quote is most likely from writer and philosopher George Santayana, and in its original form it read, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
If you do just a little research, you'll find a close parallel between today and the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918-1920 that offers some potential insight.
That deadly flu began in the spring and seemingly ended and the nation began to reopen in the fall with people believing the worst had passed.
They were wrong. Dead wrong!
The second round of the flu returned in the fall and was far, far more deadly than the spring epidemic. It was made worse because so many people disregarded science and the health professionals until it was too late.
Eventually that round of flu died down -- but it erupted again the next spring.
That's three outbreaks of a virus somewhat similar to COVID-19, although COVID seems to be more deadly, especially to at-risk populations.
When the Spanish Flu finally worked its way through the world's population it had killed an estimated 17 to 50 million people, one of the most deadly pandemics in human history!
That's something we need to keep in mind.
COVID-19, which some want to downplay, has in just a few weeks killed nearly as many Americans as the years-long Vietnam War. (It may have surpassed that grim total by the time you read this.)
One further point
We're hearing a lot of politicians talking about opening up the country, their state or their city.
They can't. They simply don't have the power.
The power to open up the country lies with us, the people. If we feel safe and believe the virus is either gone or fairly well contained, we will begin going out.
If Americans see the death rates and the infections rates still high and if we believe there is still a danger, we will use common sense and stay home.
That will happen regardless of what the politicians -- who seemingly love to beat their chests and tell us how powerful they are -- say or do.
Schools will reopen -- only when parents believe their kids will be safe there.
Concerts and sporting events will resume only when the public believes they are safe.
Let the politicians talk. We Americans are smart enough to know the difference between self-serving hot air and the safety of ourselves and our family.
Land of the bizarre!
As this pandemic plays out, I swear I wonder if aliens have taken over and turned logic upside down.
Here's a situation that unfolded recently in neighboring Nash County.
A friend of mine discovered that one of his coworkers had been exposed to COVID-19, so obviously he had been, too. He also helps take care of his 94-year-old mother, who lives alone. My friend immediately called his sister and told her he had to stay away from their mom for a few days -- and she jumped right in to help.
But their mom didn't feel well -- had a headache, aches and pains and other symptoms that didn't go away so she checked with her doctor, explaining she had been with her son, who had been exposed to the virus.
Sorry, the medical folks said, we can't test you for COVID-19 because you don't have a fever. They sent her home to either get well or get worse. Fortunately it seems it will be the former.
But the day after this happened, I read that some of the tigers and the lions in the Bronx Zoo had been diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus.
But that's not all. The story indicated that ALL had been tested, even those without symptoms.
Now, tell me in what world does it make sense NOT to test a 94-year-old human being who has been exposed and is showing symptoms but TO TEST zoo animals which show no symptoms?
I tell you, folks, our world is upside down!
You've read by now the allegations that Dr. Rick Bright was forced out of his job overseeing research for a coronavirus vaccine, maybe over a dust-up with either the president or his staff.
Fine, that sort of thing happens -- but what happened next was frightening.
Dr. Bright has an impressive resume as a virus fighter. He has served as head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) since 2016. Prior to running the agency, he led its Influenza and Emerging Infectious Diseases Division, according to the medical publication STAT, and worked at private sector biotechnology companies.
In the middle of a virus pandemic, you'd think he'd be a pretty well-known expert in the federal government.
But when President Trump was asked about him, Trump's response was "Never heard of him." Asked whether Bright was pushed out, Trump said, "Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't. I don't know who he is."
On what planet is it acceptable for the President of the USA not to know the man who was in charge of overseeing research toward a coronavirus vaccine in a pandemic?
Something just doesn't add up!
It gets worse
Last Thursday was another in a series of long days and I'll admit I was close to dozing off during reporting of that day's presidential press conference on the virus.
But, shaking off the drowsies, I could have sworn I heard the president suggest that the virus might be cured by "injecting" disinfectants into humans -- or, maybe, sitting in front of powerful ultraviolet lights.
Surely not, I thought. Must be dreaming.
But the talking heads continued to cover this like it was serious. And I was pretty sure I was awake.
Fortunately, I was watching on satellite TV, so it was simple to rewind and watch it again.
Sure enough, the president suggested injecting disinfectant or using strong lights.
And no, this time it didn't appear that aliens had hijacked our world but something certainly seemed way off kilter.
Of course, by Friday Trump was backing off by saying that his remarks were just him being sarcastic. Or, something like that.
But that prompted a number of companies, including Lysol, to issue strong statements warning that their products are not to be taken internally under any circumstances and could prove fatal.
Naturally, Trump blamed the media for taking his remarks out of "context."
But I listened to him multiple times and he seemed serious and that leaves an important question. In the middle of a deadly pandemic, why is the leader of the free world being sarcastic about such an important topic? And who was he playing to this time?
If you read last week's column in this space, you'll remember that I wasn't too kind to our county officials about their response to the pandemic here in Franklin County and the horrible toll it is inflicting on some of our most vulnerable friends and neighbors.
Yet some folks think I was way too kind -- and one offered up some surprising statistics to prove the point.
He pointed me to the often-updated COVID-19 status report that is being compiled by Johns Hopkins University. It is reporting on the situation on a state by state and county by county level.
After drilling down to the Franklin County data, I got a cold chill.
The report indicates that our county of 67,560 people had a reported total (as of a week ago today) 77 confirmed cases of the virus. (By Monday it was 100.)
And we had 13 deaths in Franklin County.
That was a fatality rate of a staggering 14.74 percent!
Compare that to a statewide 7,820 cases at the same time and 281 deaths.
That puts the statewide fatality rate at a still-high 3.6 percent.
But our death rate is approaching FOUR TIMES the statewide average.
Now, do you want to defend the response and its effectiveness here in Franklin County?
Sadly, Johns Hopkins also pointed out that we have zero staffed hospital beds in the county; zero licensed beds in the county and zero intensive care unit beds in the county. (To find the latest data, just Google John Hopkins COVID and then look at U.S. cases and finally, the dashboard that provides the county by county information.)
Say what you want, but it looks to me like we have a lot of work to do in this county, especially if this virus makes a major comeback this fall. My first suggestion to the county commissioners would be to instantly fire any county employee caught playing around or posting on Facebook during the working day.
Then, create a blue-ribbon group of health care professionals and community leaders to begin working on this situation immediately, knowing that any adequate solution will take months if not years.
But continuing to have community leaders waxing ... I mean, wasting time bragging on Facebook during such a crisis is just asking for trouble.
We're paying top dollar for leadership and we must make sure we're getting our money's worth!
A parting shot
One final headline from last week that helps explain why we are feeling somewhat discombobulated:
Former Labradoodle breeder was tapped to lead U.S. pandemic task force
Just for the record, I did not make that up!
Enjoy. Stay safe. Don't drink the Clorox. And keep your head on a swivel 'cause those aliens may be watching us!