Skip to content

Angst In Madison Over COVID-19

July 6, 2020

In our nation’s very first newspaper, Publick Occurrences, it was noted in 1704 the smallpox outbreaks were “thought that far more have been sick of it than were visited with it”.  It was also noted, over time, in the early newspapers from around Boston, that with each wave of smallpox there were self-imposed quarantines.  No one doubted the severity of the disease.

In 2020, as we face the ferocity of COVID-19, we are reminded of the anxiety and angst from a disease felt by others long before the idea of our independence had taken root. As I read the opening chapters of Eric Burn’s Infamous Scribblers there was no way not to feel a connection with those who were first dealing with the idea of inoculation against a most dreaded killer.  About 1722, during one of the outbreaks, one of every 10 Bostonians were killed from the disease.

Over the many weeks of conversations with friends in Madison, I have noted what can only be summed up best with the word angst when discussing our pandemic.  Some of that feeling comes with the weight of the headlines.   The vast majority of us are not medical professionals, or scientifically trained.  We read and learn, but the enormity of this virus, and the impact it has on us as individuals and on our society at large, can leave us feeling overwhelmed.

That is only a natural way to feel.   Our car may experience a massive computer failure but we do not have a personal meltdown as we are aware of computers and that the local auto shop can have the vehicle ready for road travel in mere hours.  We do not have that same sense of a certain outcome when pondering COVID-19.

In my conversations with friends, many being educated professionals from a wide swath of backgrounds, I hear an unease about the present situation regarding the virus and its spread.  I hear concern over a lack of national preparedness and those leaders not demonstrating to the public what needs to be done to truly combat the virus.

But what I hear more than anything else is something that borders on anger when it comes to the weeks that most of us ‘hunkered down’ and stayed in our homes so to not only bend the curve of infections, but lower it sharply.  But then giving in to the loudest voices who were bored at home, and unable to drink at their local bar, and not able to shop in brick and mortar establishments elected officials caved and opened up the economy too quickly.   All the work that was done with self-quarantine, and responsible ones wearing masks and urging others to employ the same while also self-distancing, was for nothing.

We are back where we started.

Those feelings are expressed, over and over, in conversation after conversation.

There is also a leeriness heard in conversations about the university students returning to campus this fall in Madison.  I love the energy of campus, the guest lecturers who visit sporadically over a semester, and the activism many of the students participate with in our city.  But I hear concerns about young people not adhering to medical guidelines when it comes to bars and social groups.   Staff at the university have reason to ask how safe they will be, in what one referred to in a conversation, as a ‘large petri dish’.

This pandemic is testing our resolve and this is only the first wave.   The weariness and angst are clearly heard and understood.  Like so much that we have witnessed over the recent years there is no way to predict where we are headed.  We can only hope that reason and logic prevail, or else the virus will cut an even deeper trough of destruction through our nation.

And so it goes.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: