Ron Malzer: A time for grieving, gratitude and community

Ron Malzer: A time for grieving, gratitude and community

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Ron Malzer

Malzer

Our community sends heartfelt compassion to anyone who has lost a loved one to the COVID-19 virus. The number of lives impacted is staggering. As the numbers grow, we need to recall that each life lost is a wound to many people. If you are grieving, may your pain heal over time.

Those of us who have not yet been impacted owe a huge debt of gratitude to many individuals who are making enormous sacrifices — in some cases risking death or bankruptcy — to protect our community.

Our frontline medical personnel are heroes. Physicians, nurses, nursing home workers, respiratory therapists, and other medical personnel are taking significant personal risk. We owe them all a deep debt of gratitude.

We need to think, too, of all the people spending days doing essential work where social distance is often precluded. The military, police, the National Guard, firefighters and rescue personnel are all called to situations like this. They deserve our respect and gratitude.

Many others have been laboring in workplaces that threaten their well-being. The meatpacking industry in particular deserves our attention.

The Green Bay Press Gazette reported that as of May 4, nearly 300 Brown County meat-processing workers had contracted COVID-19. The virus spread to many others. In mid-April, Brown County as a whole reported 139 COVID cases; by mid-May, that number had skyrocketed to more than 2,000, with 22 deaths.

We need to keep the residents of Brown County in our thoughts. We also need to learn the lesson that having people work too closely together adds substantially to the numbers of those who become sickened by this sometimes-lethal virus.

We have used jails and prisons to lock up far too many people, particularly people of color, who now face high risk of COVID-19 while in close confinement. We must find release options for nonviolent offenders; confinement at this point can turn into a death sentence.

The pandemic has hit hardest among those who have the least. A recent report from the CDC found evidence for “a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups,” with black people in particular having high hospitalization rates.

We need to think first about oppressed communities as we try to solve our severe health and financial challenges. Health-care disparities existed long before the novel virus; they are now being magnified.

Those living in poverty, and those facing hate and prejudice are experiencing yet another wave of enormous challenges. The number of people lacking health insurance and the rate of untreated chronic illness runs high in these communities.

Who “deserves” to have health insurance? Everyone — access to medical care is essential.

If we cannot seize the opportunity now to make sure that everyone has access to health care, when can we? We breathe the same air; an airborne virus can strike any one of us. We have to prioritize people over profits, and act accordingly.

Our community has many wonderful people, including small-business owners and their workers, whose livelihoods are in jeopardy through no fault of their own.

It is almost impossible for many business services to keep people at a safe social distance. Yet we need to remember that every COVID-19 case prevented may save multiple lives.

We have younger people working at home, while simultaneously raising children. These parents are drawing on deep love to sustain effort at providing for, taking care of and educating the next generation. The magnitude of what they are doing needs to be recognized.

The loss of income for some many is taking a terrible toll; lives lost cannot be restored.

If ever there was a time for unity and community, it is now. We are all threatened, life and livelihood, in this pandemic.

It is time to use the ballot, in August and again in November, to elect those who believe in inclusion and reject racial and ethnic division.

We need leaders who take the threat seriously, and plan for the common good.

We face a common threat. Let’s learn and practice every safety step we can.

And let’s look for leadership that understands that we are one community, where every individual is of value, deserving of having safe opportunity to maintain their livelihood, and most of all, of having the best possible chance to stay alive during this pandemic.

Ron Malzer is a retired psychologist and freelance writer; you can contact him at ronsaturday@gmail.com.

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