Coronavirus and my own evolution

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

By David Pope

One View

Until very recently, many of us did not fully grasp the magnitude of the coronavirus challenge, and the inadequacy of our response. I know I didn't. Things are moving very fast. But for me, the overlaps between my professional and my personal life have brought this home in a very real way. 

Two weeks ago, my nephew returned from an abbreviated semester abroad in Florence, Italy, to begin two weeks of quarantined confinement at a motel near his home, courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh. Three days later, my younger sister and I differed regarding whether my parents (in their 80s) should still travel to New Orleans. It suffices to say that she was correct, and I was wrong. Then last week my mom woke up with a head cold and, after registering one degree higher than optimal, was consequently quarantined along with my dad for 14 days in their very high-quality independent living building. Then last Thursday, OPRF High School and District 97 Elementary School District announced they would be shifting to online classes through March 31 (impacting our daughters, ages 16 and 13). 

In the meantime, I was also viewing this outbreak through my lens as president of the Oak Park Residence Corporation and executive director of the Oak Park Housing Authority, with ultimate responsibility for the health and welfare of the residents at our senior buildings: Mills Park Tower (198 units) and The Oaks (76 units). 

Then this past Saturday, my 16-year-old spent most of the day with her friends. I like her friends. They're all very good kids. But the idea of closing schools to help prevent the transmission of coronavirus, only to have students still congregate in large and fluid social groups, seemed to be fundamentally at odds with the collective effort needed to help prevent the spread of the virus. The same day, I wound up in line behind a woman grocery shopping for her three sons, all unexpectedly returned from college — and downtown at a pub crawl celebrating St. Patrick's Day.

This is about the time I really woke up. If the statistics are to be believed, neither my 16-year-old and her friends, nor this woman's pub crawling sons, are likely to be seriously harmed or worse by coronavirus. But this very group, the young invincibles, hold the key to our bringing this virus under control. For while they may not die from it, nor even necessarily suffer significant symptoms, they are unfortunately playing their traditional cultural role as carriers, circulators, and propagators. 

In their online lives, the very definition of success is to "go viral." In their daily reality they are the foundation of the sharing economy. But in this new COVID-19 world, the very definition of our societal success is to keep it from going viral. To prevent it from being shared. And to safeguard those who are most vulnerable. That is now our job.

In turn, after our daughter returned home on Saturday, our entire family talked about the risk to others from the spread of the virus. We discussed my parents being in quarantine, and the residents at The Oaks and at Mills Park Tower who are more susceptible to the terrible threats of this pandemic. We talked about our collective responsibility to help bring it under control, and to help provide the time that the scientists and medical professionals are going to need to help minimize the pain and the deaths that are already accompanying the spread of COVID-19 across the globe, and now threatening us here in the U.S. We each agreed that we all need to become active advocates for social distancing and limited contact, and to help play a positive role in halting the transmission, not just for our own benefit, but really for the benefit of the vulnerable who are relying on our good judgment, on our compassion, and on our humanity. We can do better. And for the sake of the 1.7 million who may otherwise die, we must do better.

David Pope is a former Oak Park village president.

Love the Journal?

Become our partner in independent community journalism

Thanks for turning to Wednesday Journal and We love our thousands of digital-only readers. Now though we're asking you to partner up in paying for our reporters and photographers who report this news. It had to happen, right?

On the plus side, we're giving you a simple way, and a better reason, to join in. We're now a non-profit -- Growing Community Media -- so your donation is tax deductible. And signing up for a monthly donation, or making a one-time donation, is fast and easy.

No threats from us. The news will be here. No paywalls or article countdowns. We're counting on an exquisite mix of civic enlightenment and mild shaming. Sort of like public radio.

Claim your bragging rights. Become a digital member.

Donate Now

Reader Comments

1 Comment - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Mary Kay O'Grady  

Posted: March 19th, 2020 9:44 AM

Yes. Yes indeed.

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2019

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Latest Comments