Tuesday, May 5, 2020 … 6:29 P.M.

Before another word, let me state the case of which many of us now seem certain: this COVID-19 pandemic is a political matter first … then a matter of public health.

Be that as it may, no word I will write here makes it to the page without heartfelt concern and respect for the suffering already spread around the world by this virus …

… suffering which may prove a long way from over.

As I read (and read and read) about this coronavirus, I remember more and more about two other pandemics in my life – best remembered as the Asian Flu and the Hong Kong Flu – not to mention the polio epidemic of my earliest childhood.

I had just begun elementary school when the 1957 Asian Flu hit, and was nearing high school graduation when the 1968-1969 Hong Kong Flu did.

More memorable than either, however, was the polio(myelitis) a.k.a. “infantile paralysis” epidemic of my earliest childhood.

Now, looking back, what is most remarkable about the two flu pandemics is how each was taken in stride. “The flu” was something often talked about in winter time, but nowhere near on the order of today’s experience.

Our news sources were grossly limited by today’s measure, so there was no political hay to be made by human suffering … it was shared by all Americans.

To say COVID-19 is incomparable to the Asian and Hong Kong flu attacks is to dramatically understate the case. What we are experiencing now was unthinkable then.

No matter that I was not yet in elementary school when, in 1955, the polio vaccine discovered by Dr. Jonas Salk and his University of Pittsburg team was proclaimed safe and effective, the extermination of that crippler / killer stands out in my life.

The best way I can explain that is that polio notably struck children, and I never knew anyone to die or be scarred for life by any flu bug. I did “know” by elementary school, however, a President (FDR) and a few others who had been crippled by polio.

Before Dr. Salk’s vaccine, polio paralyzed 15,000 Americans each year, and is even now described by some as the most feared disease of our time.

As for COVID-19, we know for now (thanks to data constantly updated by the RealClearPolitics team) it is notably less lethal than the other two pandemics over the past six decades.

A key measure is “Deaths-per-Million Population.”

By that measure, our 1968 Hong Kong Flu was more than twice as lethal as COVID-19, and our 1957 Asian Flu was more than three-times as deadly …

… Coronavirus COVID-19: 72,167 Deaths / 220.7 Deaths-Per-Million (327,000,000)

… 1957 Asian Flu: 116,000 Deaths / 674.4 Deaths-Per-Million (172,000,000)

… 1968-69 Hong Kong Flu: 100,000 Deaths / 498.3 Deaths-Per-Million (200,700,000)

We do not, of course, know how many more lives COVID-19 will take.

Regardless, those other two pandemics did not trigger any of the national lock-downs, fiscal stimulus, etc., etc., etc. We knew nothing of such things.

Looking back, America in those days hunkered down and weathered all such hellacious storms visited upon us. The last thing we would have done was fight among ourselves about them.

Today, quite to the contrary, COVID-19 is the latest excuse for a lot of Americans to do precisely that – fight among ourselves.

No such damnable disease as that existed in the America of my childhood.

© 2020 Elliott Stonecipher … ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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