It takes a while to crunch the numbers, so just before the start of 2022, the federal government released the information that in 2020, COVID-19 was the third most common cause of death in the USA. A companion statistic indicated that the American average lifespan had been shortened by close to two years.
The biggest death-rate increase was among the 35-44 year age group, so it involved a lot of parents. Also, as Childhood Obesity News has pointed out before, many people who succumb to the virus are grandparents and other adults who contribute greater or lesser amounts of child care.
Without them, a lot of working parents were left stranded with no one else to put in charge of their kids during work hours. Living with an unemployed, impoverished parent, especially if single, and with no backup from other relatives or part-time caregivers, is a recipe for a problematic childhood. It has become all too apparent that almost any kind of distress can, in one way or another, lead to childhood obesity. Sooner or later, it is all connected.
Regarding the virus itself, the Omicron variant refused to behave as expected, and caused nose-swab antigen tests to read negative even when wildly symptomatic COVID victims were tested.
In Buffalo, freshly unionized Starbucks workers used their new power to walk off the job because of safety concerns. Workers in many companies, unionized or not, were angry because the COVID-linked financial benefits their owners received from the government did not “trickle down” to them.
In California, public and private universities announced delays in the start of in-person classes. But the LA Unified school district planned to start K-12 classes as if everything were normal.
In some parts of the country, school closings caused teachers to feel locked out of this vital part of their lives. Their employment status was reclassified as “inactive,” so their health insurance was useless. They were neither paid their regular salaries nor eligible for unemployment benefits.
A new world
“Compassion fatigue” became a familiar term. If they didn’t catch the virus, and stayed on the job, medical professionals were severely over-tasked, and compelled to master new technical skills on the fly, while cleaning staff and other hospital workers were asked to do more than ever before, and even fill in to answer phones or help move patients. For an eight-hour shift, masks and face shields may be minor inconveniences, but after 14 consecutive hours, they can be major torture devices. In this situation, even at home, workers at every level have to devote extra time to cleaning themselves and their clothes.
Exhausted, discouraged, and deeply hurt by abuse from COVID deniers, nurses quit in droves. Or they stuck with the job and tweeted anonymously. For example,
We have 122 covid-19 patients, 17 are in ICU. Out of the 122, 39 are breakthrough cases, the rest are unvaccinated, the 17 in intensive care are all unvaccinated patients.
Speaking for the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, Amanda Bettencourt told journalist Ed Yong,
In the last two years, I’ve never known as many colleagues who have COVID as I do now. The staffing crisis is the worst it has been through the pandemic.
Yong also mentioned the acute mental and emotional distress of living in two different worlds, one where the plague was desperately real, disrupting every facet of daily life, and another in which massive numbers of people blithely ignored the pandemic and carried on as if everything was just fine.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “COVID helped cause the biggest drop in U.S. life expectancy since WWII,” PBS.org 12/22/21
Source: “We know the hell we’re in. It will get worse before it gets better,” TheGuardian.com, 01/06/22
Source: “Hospitals Are in Serious Trouble,” TheAtlantic.com, 01/07/22
Image by Hospital Clinic Barcelona/CC BY-ND 2.0