Just a thousand names on a front page

E CARTOON MAY 27, 2020 copy

On Memorial Day last Sunday, the New York  Times  devoted its  entire front page  to a long list of Americans who have died  in the  COVID-19 pandemic.

“US Deaths Near 100,000, an Incalculable Loss,”  the headline read.  “They Were Not Simply Names on a List. They  Were  Us,” the subhead  added.

The list carried  1,000 names,  just  1 percent  of the nearly 100,000 deaths  in the US.  Each name had a one-line obituary drawn from death  notices  in hundreds  of US newspapers around the country.  On that Sunday, the list of dead  Americans  totaled 96,662 out of a global total of 340,196. At the rate victims in the US have been  dying,  the 100,000 mark was expected to be reached in  a few days.

That one simple unembellished newspaper page  listing  a thousand names  embodied  the vast loss the United States has suffered in the ongoing  pandemic .   It now has the most victims as a country.

Nearly all countries of  the world have been laid low by the invisible enemy that is the COVID-19 virus – Russia, United Kingdom,  Italy, Spain in Europe; Turkey,  China, India, South Korea  in Asia; Iran and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East;   Egypt,  Algeria, Nigeria in Africa;  Brazil, Chile, and  Venezuela  in  South America.

The Philippines  was among the first countries to  be hit by the virus, through visitors from China. We avoided the initial surge  of  the contagion in  February  and March with an early lockdown in March. We have endured the lockdown  in all its forms – the severest Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), the Modified ECQ, and the General  CQ.

It has been  a  difficult  period for everyone, especially those  who  had  managed in the past to earn just  enough for the day’s food, now suddenly unable to  step  out of their cramped houses.  But  they  have  survived. We have long been a nation of survivors. And we will survive this  latest threat  to to the  existence  of entire communities, business enterprises, and governments.

Among the world’s nations,  it is the United  States that has suffered the most, although  it is fighting back, with all of its 50 states now in various stages of restoring normalcy.  The New York Times list of 1,000 victims on its front page – common ordinary people along with a few notable ones --  reminds us that  the danger is still  very much with us – in our hospitals, in our streets, in  our churches, in our  offices  and  factories.

We  too have our list of victims in the Philippines.  It may not be as long as that of the US, part of which was published in the New York Times last Sunday. But  this is a virus that we do not yet quite  understand and  therefore  we must do what we can – through such simple means  as wearing face masks and  social distancing – to avoid getting into a list  like that on the front page of the New York Times  last Sunday.