Rhode Island | Covid-19 Pandemic | April 20, 2020

The 1918 influenza pandemic infected 500 million people, one-third of the world’s population at the time, with almost 50 million deaths worldwide – 675,000 of the deaths occurring in the United States. Efforts to control the spread were limited to isolation, quarantine, personal hygiene and limitations on public gatherings, instilled by the government– no vaccines were available to kill this flu strain at that time. The pandemic took a heavy toll on humanity, leaving entire families wiped out. With funeral homes and morgues so overwhelmed that people were left to dig their family members own graves. This pandemic lasted for two years. The first wave of the flu, which was far less deadly than what was to come, appeared in March 1918, close to the end of World War I. Over the summer of 1918, cases of the flu dropped and people began feeling hopeful and excited to return to their “normal” life again. In August 1918, military ships were transporting soldiers to new locations around the world. Soldiers were coming home from war, people were celebrating, and a strain of the flu was silently spread among communities like wildfire as people took it upon themselves to decided that the world was ready to come out of quarantine. Until it wasn’t silent. This second wave stunned the health care system, caused irreversible damage to the economy, and killed far more people than World War I did. 

PLEASE, if you are considering joining a protest to open the economy back up and get life back to normal, know that life being what you envision may not be true. Your parents, wife, husband, children, grandparents… YOUR LIFE… it’s all at risk. 

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic is becoming very politicized, and people are choosing to ignore new regulations that are going against their personal agendas. We have grown accustom to a very individualistic world, where our personal needs and goals triumph all others, especially when it comes to daily living. I’m seeing posts on social media that are not only extremely individualistic, but are dangerous. They are spreading false news that will devastate our healthcare system, our economy, and the people you love most. If you do not believe the World Health Organization and Center of Disease Control, go by the history – just a century ago our urge to get out, celebrate and get life back to “normal” caused almost 50 million people to die. 

Here are some less obvious factors that we cannot ignore… Not everyone is able to live safely in quarantine. People who struggle with mental illness are more at risk for self-harm and suicide while in isolation. People are feeling trapped, and reports of domestic abuse are rising. This is not a comfortable state we are living in, but for some the discomfort is unbearable. People’s lives are on the line in so many ways, and to say that staying home to slow the curve should be easy is ignoring the necessary needs of so many individuals who just can’t safely stay home. So, this is where herd immunity becomes so important. For the people who are unable to stay home, they are traveling to work at an essential business, they are walking outside to fight the urge to hurt themselves, they are taking their kids on a bike ride to get away from an abusive spouse/parent – we, as a society, owe them the ability to safely take care of their needs. We need to figure out how to live in this pandemic and take care of one another. Every part of what used to be “normal” must be adjusted because our previous systems were not set up to take care of everyone. Instead of focusing on how to get life back to the way it was as fast as possible, we should be brainstorming ways to keep our community safe and healthy until a vaccine is created for COVID-19. Check in on the people closest to you, and the neighbor that you hardly know. Reach out to food banks and local organizations if you have the financial stability and means to help. Look for ways to spread positivity through social media, or a sign in the widow of your home. Stay home if you can, for the people who can’t. 

Here are some photos taken from all around Rhode Island documenting the reality of this time. So many people are showing their love + support for everyone on the frontline of this pandemic - heroes of our time.

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