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“Staying Alive” in the age of COVID-19

David Colburn
Posted 5/20/20

The symptoms were unmistakable.First came the wildly patterned and brightly colored blotches on the upper torso, often matched by similar displays on the ankles. Constriction around the waist and …

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“Staying Alive” in the age of COVID-19

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The symptoms were unmistakable.
First came the wildly patterned and brightly colored blotches on the upper torso, often matched by similar displays on the ankles. Constriction around the waist and thighs ensued, gradually flaring outward toward the feet.
The feet themselves became elevated at the heel, and apparent repetitive muscular spasms caused the body to gyrate uncontrollably.
Decked from head to toe in shimmering polyester and sporting snub-toed platform heels, I didn’t need a doctor to read those symptoms to tell me that I’d succumbed to the most dreaded disease of the 1970s: disco fever.
The onset was sudden and disorienting. A lad who grew up in a small town, where the only dances were football homecoming, basketball homecoming, and junior-senior prom, went off to college and fraternity life in the fall of 1976, and a brand new discotheque, Shenanigans, was a mere five blocks away. With frat brothers and fraternity little sisters ready to party hearty at the drop of a disco ball, disco fever overcame me within days.
It was without a doubt the most mentally debilitating malady I’ve ever contracted. A National Honor Society student in high school, I flunked every class except choir in my first collegiate semester. But I could do the Electric Slide and the New Yorker with the best of them, so who cared? Well, other than my parents, of course. Christmas wasn’t quite so jolly that year.
And when John Travolta strutted his stuff the next year, “Saturday Night Fever” was a declaration that disco had become a full-blown pandemic that swept throughout the world. No one under the age of 30 escaped untouched, save for those die-hard Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard devotees. Disco fever was everywhere. Boogie woogie oogie.
July 12,1979, was the beginning of the end, the day Americans began to reclaim the airwaves and dance floors from the demon disco disease, and for that the Chicago White Sox are owed credit for initiating the cure with “Disco Demolition Night.” Between games of a doubleheader in Comiskey Park, hundreds of disco albums were blown to smithereens in centerfield, and hundreds of anti-disco rioters stormed the field, ripped out stadium seats, and tore up pieces of turf. The second game was canceled as raucous revelers were carted off to jail, but that was the night that broke disco fever. Two months later, not a single disco song was in the Top Ten.
Those are crazy fond memories I can look back on with laughter in my soul.
Sadly, the same will never be said of this horrible coronavirus pandemic. The effects have been staggering and tragic. Staying alive has become serious business at a time when more than 90,000 Americans have died in just a few months.
To put that number in perspective, recall that nearly 3,000 people lost their lives in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that shook this nation to its core. The current coronavirus death toll is approximately equivalent to one of those attacks occurring every other day for the past two months. Imagine the horror, the devastation we would collectively feel, as well as the resolve we would have as a nation to eradicate that kind of unimaginable threat.
A month after President Trump said he anticipated a death toll around 60,000, the deaths are 50 percent higher than that, and they continue to climb. He already had the modeling information to know that experts projected between 100,000 and 250,000 deaths, but he ignored it. Instead, he picked a number from a model that assumed Americans would be under a stay-at-home order through July, something he knew would never happen.
Now as America starts to re-open, with the President the lead cheerleader, not a single state has met Trump’s own White House standards for reopening. The model he touted when he wanted to downplay the epidemic now projects nearly 144,000 deaths by August as a result.
Yet on Saturday, Eric Trump, a chip off the old blockhead, declared the coronavirus to be a Democratic hoax that would magically disappear. Would someone please explain to me how the United Kingdom, with 35,000 deaths, and Italy, with 32,000 deaths, willingly colluded with the Democrats to influence a U.S. election? Would someone please tell me how the doctors and nurses on the front lines of the battle got their marching orders from the Democrats? Preposterous hogwash.
With that said, there’s no stopping the re-opening of America. I fall in with the crowd that believes this is not an “either public health or the economy” decision. The devastation economic upheaval can wreak on children and families can be catastrophic and life-lasting. We’re not wired as a society for long-term lockdowns, and we don’t have the collective will to provide the kind of financial and healthcare support to all to get us through it. Agree with it or not, America is re-opening, and if you believe in God, may He have mercy on our souls.
So take it from a former and admittedly still wannabe disco king: re-opening doesn’t mean the risk has passed. If someone opened up a disco on the shores of Lake Vermilion on June 1, I’d be one of the first 10 people admitted on opening night, but I’d be wearing a mask, and I wouldn’t be out on the floor doing the “Bus Stop” unless it was big enough to allow six feet between me and the other disco loonies. And if that disco fever turned into a real one after I got home, I’d seriously seek out testing for the virus.
We all should be doing those same things anytime and anywhere we go out in public right now. It’s not just about you staying safe, it’s about keeping all of us safe.
If one puts any stock in COVID-19 models, then the most often quoted one projects at least 50,000 more Americans will die by August for the freedom to reopen now. Don’t be one of them. Practice social distancing. Don’t gather in large groups. Wear masks. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, get tested. Those are small prices to pay for the freedom so many are clamoring for, small prices indeed for ensuring “Staying Alive” goes back to being just a disco song and not a mantra for surviving a pandemic.

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