The Covid-19 pandemic has been with us for months. There are still doubters as to its seriousness, which is amazing considering more than 150,000 dead from the disease in the United States alone. No doubt thousands of others have recovered only to be saddled with an unknown future of damaged organs, possible re-occurrence, and unimaginable medical bills.
Why is it so hard for people to unite against this pandemic? Yes, we have a political rift almost unmatched in history, aided and abetted by incompetent leadership. Yes, we have social media which spreads information and misinformation as close to instantly as we can imagine. But, still, what does it take to get to the unified “aha” moment, where the reality for all of us is clear?
Where’s our Rock?
The first case of AIDS was documented in 1981. It spread rapidly in major cities with primarily young gay and/or bisexual men dying practically before their adult lives began. During the Reagan administration, news regarding the disease was buried deep in the paper, far from the headlines. It took until 1983 for the New York Times to run an article about the disease on Page A1 and it would take President Ronald Reagan more than four years to acknowledge AIDS publicly.
In 1985, Rock Hudson returned to the U.S. from France and posed with his romantic comedy co-star from the 50s and 60s Doris Day. This once robustly handsome actor appeared ravaged by AIDS and his diagnosis was soon revealed. Their photograph together was reprinted countless times as Hudson’s condition worsened. For many, it was a public turning point — the seriousness of the disease became impossible to ignore. We “knew” him or, at least, felt we did.
Thirty-five years later, Covid-19 haunts the world, frustrating scientists and baffling the rest of us. As the pressure to find a “cure” is aired constantly on newscasts, a quick fix seems doubtful.
AZT was approved by the FDA on March 19, 1987, six years after AIDS was recognized. It was approved in record time with only one trial on humans instead of the standard three. But it took a much-loved movie star appearing nightly in an emaciated state to wake up Americans to the fact that AIDS could happen to someone they know, even if only from Saturday matinees.
Where’s Covid-19’s Rock? Who needs to die to shut up the un-masked protesters? Tom Hanks “got it”, but thankfully survived. A few other famous folks have tested positive, but to change hearts and minds death would be the ultimate sacrifice to get our attention. Politician and businessman Herman Cain died from the disease after appearing at the Tulsa rally, but he wasn’t really “beloved” by the legions close to Rock’s fandom.
I don’t want anyone to die, famous or otherwise, but I do want the world to wake up and feel the seriousness of a disease that in spite of promises of a vaccine, will lead far more of us down an unimaginable final path before a cure is found.
Rebecca Redshaw Mount Vernon, WA