By Zach Hagadone
Two years ago on this day I was out of a job — and, for the first time in my job-hopping life, it was involuntary. I remember it well, and will to the end of my days: Publisher Ben Olson, News Editor Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey and I put out the paper of March 12, 2020, with only a handful of mentions of COVID-19. By Monday, March 16, every event in town had been canceled, almost all of our ads had been pulled and Ben delivered the grim news that Lyndsie and I would be furloughed until further notice.
It really was that fast: One week the world was “normal,” the next it had blown up. One week we were writing about the first stages of the Memorial Field project, a bid award for a boat ramp in Hope and a utilities hearing; the next week, the city and county had both declared emergencies and we were advising people how to entertain themselves while locked down in their homes.
By Thursday, March 19, Ben was the only person on the editorial staff, churning out upwards of a dozen pieces of content all by himself. The cover he selected for that edition simply said: “We Will Get Through This, Sandpoint.”
We did. Lyndsie and I were unemployed for almost exactly one month. That’s less than nothing compared to the millions who have lost so much more — permanently, in cases of lives, health, jobs and homes — so I have no reason to complain and I’m not. Thanks to the mettle in Ben’s marrow, the support of the community and federal financial aid, we were back to full editorial strength in time to produce the April 16, 2020 paper.
Two years later, on Friday, April 15, 2022, Idaho Gov. Brad Little will officially end the COVID-19 state of emergency — something select lawmakers, including our not-soon-enough-former District 1A Rep. Heather Scott, have been trying to do on their own since he declared it.
That first “COVID era” edition of the Reader carried a statement from Little: “History will remember our reaction to coronavirus. Let’s make sure future generations use it as a model for calm and compassion in a time of uncertainty.”
I think a lot of people lived up to that: people who social distanced and practiced conscientious hygiene as best they could; who wore masks when advisable; who didn’t hoard toilet paper, bottled water, bread, bullets and gas; who got vaccinated, then vaccinated again, then boosted; who didn’t froth at the mouth and wave their arms crying “tyranny” in the streets, in front of government bodies, at libraries and in churches; who didn’t fall for and disseminate every single stupid piece of misinformation and conspiracy garbage that floated their way; people who didn’t whip their inconvenience into a deadly brew of poisonous grievance politics that has brought the country closer to civil war than at any time since the 1860s.
Those people will be remembered for their reason and restraint, their patience and caution, their empathy and spirit of community care. I’m talking about the people — particularly in the health care field — who risked everything every day, and continue to do so, to get life back to “normal” and in countless cases save it.
For the rest, history will remember them, too: as ranters and ravers, grifters and fraudsters, opportunists, egoists and gullible fools, sneering bullies and, ultimately, cowards.
We are not “finished” with the pandemic just because the state of emergency will end on April 15, but the fact that it is ending on that date and that we can see a world in which the coronavirus isn’t a dominant facet of life has nothing whatsoever to do with the latter type of people. On the contrary, all those people have done during the past 24 months is make everything worse at every possible opportunity and in every possible way.
They did this even as a million of their fellow citizens have died during that time — even as about 6 million have died worldwide.
The United States is not one-sixth of the world population. That disproportionate death toll has everything to do with the fact that ranting, raving, grifting, fraud, opportunism, egoism, foolishness, bullying and cowardice are terminal co-morbidities.
History will remember them, all right, but they won’t like what it has to say.
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