The novel (so called because it is new) Corona virus aka COVID-19, has literally captured the world. Schools closed; churches closed; businesses shutting down; the stock market is having more gyrations than there are at the National Hulu Hoop contest. What would be two words to describe the current emotions of the human race? How about anxiety and fear? Obviously, everyone must take precautions-for ourselves, for the elderly, for our children, for our communities and for all. But there is life within the context of Corona and there is life after Corona. We must have this perspective.
As of Sunday, March 15, 2020, the virus cases have reached every continent, save Antarctica; out of the 194 countries in the world (UN figure), cases of the Corona virus are in 102. The United States has 3,000 cases with 60 deaths reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The only states in the US that have not reported any cases are Idaho, West Virginia and Alabama; the virus hot spots with the most cases and most deaths are Washington State, California and New York.
Let’s put the current virus in perspective and this telescopic microscopic kaleidoscopic view will assist us in thinking about not only life after COVID-19 but also life during COVID-19. When SARS, MERS and H1N1 hit the US, the results were quite different than the current virus. The death rates for these viruses tell the story: with SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) there were 8,000 confirmed cases with a death rate of 10%; with MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and its 2,500 cases, there was a 35% death rate. When we add the H1N1 (swine flu) virus to this toxic mix, the results were catastrophic: 60.8 million cases; 274,304 hospitalizations and 12,469 deaths. In comparison to the other three corona viruses mentioned above, so far, the death rate for COVID-19 is 3%. Hopefully that will relieve some of our anxiety and fear as we ponder our lives and our families.
But, life must go on. We should not panic in the midst of taking the necessary CDC precautions, along with the advice and knowledge of other medical professionals. As a registered nurse and a former hospital supervisor, I am not panicking nor is my family. In fact, tomorrow March 16, 2020, I am departing to conduct/direct a human rights and religious freedom conference in Khartoum (Christians there are persecuted for their faith); then I will move on to East Pokot Kenya where my organization, REDEEM!, is helping to build schools and churches alongside the Christian Impact Mission of Nairobi. This is an area of Africa that has an incredibly and monstrous high rate of FGM (female genital mutilation) and child marriage-the little girls at the age of 8 years old have all of their external female genitalia excised with a unsterilized razor blade or knife sans anesthesia; the little girls are then sewn up and a year later re-opened when their parents sell them off to the highest bidder for child marriage and the parents receive 30 goats or heads of cattle. Because of the virus, should I refrain from traveling to help these little girls in East Pokot or to cower in fear and not conduct a human rights conference in Khartoum?
In the history of mankind there have been hundreds of plagues, viruses, biological human health catastrophes. The Black Death or Bubonic Plaque during the 14th century in Europe killed 30-60% of the European population-anywhere between 75 to 200 million died. It took 200 years for Europe to right itself economically and demographically.
For the priests, nuns, pastors and monks who lived in Europe at the time, what was their fate? Scholars agree that some 45% of these groups died during the Black Death. These Christians were the ones who cared for the sick; no hospitals back in the 1300’s. These humble servants stepped into the chaos, they stepped into the mess and cared for those who were dying. These Christians themselves knowing the high contagion of the disease, willingly jumped into the fire from the frying pan-and they paid with their lives. During the Ebola virus crisis, Christian doctors from Africa and from international humanitarian organizations were some of the first to offer aid and comfort and medical care to the afflicted.
In the age of Corona, life goes on and life must go on. And life will go on after the virus is gone. My mission is to afflict the comfortable and to comfort the afflicted. What's your mission in the age of Corona?
Dr. William Devlin is the volunteer CEO of REDEEM!, an international high-touch humanitarian organization that works in 14 countries in the Middle East. HE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or +1-646-233-7279 or FB: William pb devlin