Turn on the television and switch to a news channel, pick up a newspaper and check the front headline, even turn on your phone and go on social media. It is impossible to not run into a coronavirus-related segment, article, or post. Our world seems to be revolving around COVID-19, the deadly disease brought on by the virus, especially when considering its effects on the media.
“Despite Timely Alerts, Trump Was Slow to Act On Pandemic Warnings Early and Often” was this Sunday’s lead headline in the New York Times. In fact, there has been a virus-related headline dominating the above-the-fold front page consecutively for the last few weeks. This is unprecedented, something that may have only been seen in times of World War. It seems as though nearly every article makes note of a virus-related report.
Coronavirus’ obliterating effect on the news has gone as far as overshadowing political stories such as that of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Presidential hopeful, dropping out of the Democratic Primary race. That story normally would have been an enormous front-page piece, possibly even a lead “splash” headline report. News of the virus, however, has made this story almost insignificant to the American population. The thought of choosing our future President appears to be trivial during these times in comparison to anything related to COVID-19.
The complete concentration on the consequences of this pandemic have gone beyond media concerns. The population as a whole seems to be giving this more importance than even religious events that have taken place. Jewish and Christian people alike have not been able to give their full concentration to the holidays they would regularly be celebrating during this time. Passover and the Easter Triduum have not been able to be celebrated to the extent they would have been in past years.
This is not to say that the high level of attention to the virus is unjustified. The number of infected people in the United States continues to grow exponentially, along with the death toll, so the national focus must be here. However, there should not be an attitude of abandoning hope completely during this time. Being informed is important, but keeping a positive attitude is also critical.
At the New York Times, the pandemic is so emotionally taxing that even the team of journalists dedicated to covering the pandemic has made it routine to start the day by reading a poem together. “Nowadays, it’s all pandemic all of the time,” wrote Marc Lacey, the Times’ National Editor, in the “Inside the Times” column on Monday. “I added a new feature to our morning meetings aimed at inspiring us and boosting our creativity before we embark on another long day of editing the news. We read a poem.”
One day recently, a Times editor, Lauretta Charlton, chose William Wordsworth’s “The World Is Too Much With Us” to read to colleagues at the morning teleconference:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;–
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This virus is a negative thing in all of our lives, yet it has led to some beneficial repercussions. For me, personally, it has given me the space and time to not take for granted what I once did. Activities like hanging out with friends, going to the park, or even going to school were things I thought I would always be able to do. Now I see the fragility of such practices during this time and realize how not everything in life is guaranteed. The pandemic in itself is a tragedy, but it has led many to philosophical thinking or the ability to develop a new hobby. This is possibly what the focus should be instead of concentrating on the tragic aspects.
This is part of a continuing blog tracking the highs and lows of life in the St. Benedict’s community as its members weather the effects of a worldwide coronavirus outbreak.