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Reader says paper's coverage of the coronavirus included 'gossip and misinformation' Print
Letters to the editor
Thursday, May. 14, 2020 -- 12:00 AM

To the editor:

Gossip and misinformation are not what I expect to see in the Catholic Herald, but its April 30 edition gave us both in its coverage of the coronavirus.

Bishop Barron’s column repeated the right wing barrage that Governor Cuomo might have given God some credit for reducing cases. I won’t dispute that. However, one might also recall that neither does the governor blame God. A week earlier he said, “Our behavior affects the number of cases. They are not descending on us from heaven.”

I managed healthcare outreach programs for more than a decade at the Carbone Cancer Center and the UW-Madison School of Nursing, so I understand human behaviors can contribute to illness — or save lives. God gives us that choice.

Bishop Hying’s column in the same issue reminded us that God entrusts us with remarkable powers. One of them is to think — to figure things out. Until researchers find a vaccine for the coronavirus, the best alternative we’ve come up with is staying at home, social distancing, and washing our hands.

Difficult as these behaviors are to endure, lives are being saved. We are beginning to see a flattening of the curve, thank God. The next challenge will be a phased-in reopening of businesses, schools, and churches in a responsible manner so as not to incur a new spike in cases. This will require another remarkable power — embracing limits.

Let’s keep things in perspective. Mr. Braun’s Mailbag letter stated the death toll as of April 8 at 12,011 people in the U.S. according to Johns Hopkins Medicine (JHM) — low enough that he believed we should see it as just another flu — not warranting shutdown.

I share his eagerness to return to normal, but if one needs a higher number to become concerned, JHM now reports 66,385 deaths as of May 3. In other words, COVID-19 has reaped as many people in the two months since the first reported death February 26 as the “flu” takes in its worst yearlong span.

This is not “a relatively low rate of serious cases,” a claim by Michael Hichborn of the Lepanto Institute quoted by Braun. On May 3’s Fox News Sunday, President Trump’s coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Birx said, “Our projections (for the duration of the virus) have always been between 100-240,000 lives lost, and that’s with full mitigation.”

Nor is COVID-19 limited to the geriatric population. A teenager was among the first six cases. Teens and children with compromised immune systems from asthma, diabetes, leukemia, and other conditions are at high risk. CDC reports most cases fall in the 18-44 age bracket. A disproportionate number of cases, and deaths, are suffered by people of color and those with low incomes — many of them working in healthcare, sanitation, and other essential jobs.

If we truly want to practice pro-life in this time of economic hardship, we might follow the example given in your article on Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish. Masked volunteers keeping social distance filled a food-drive van to overflowing.

Whether at home or church, let’s ask God’s help to use the remarkable powers he has given us for the greater good — to become the sacrament we miss: “One bread, one body.”

Kathleen Fletemeyer, MS, Madison