Any Missourian who doubts the reality of the coronavirus threat should listen to Thomas Biondo. “I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t use my legs,” said the 68-year-old Bellefontaine Neighbors resident. “That was really scary.” As Missouri faces the latest, biggest wave of the pandemic — 1,500 new cases daily, some six-times the peak numbers of spring, with corresponding spikes in hospitalizations and deaths — some still pretend that the threat is over. As area doctors and victims can attest, it’s real, and it’s getting worse.
In late spring, as President Donald Trump and others were using briefly falling numbers of coronavirus cases to justify rushing to reopen the economy, experts warned of a fall resurgence, as with the flu pandemic of a century ago. The experts advised political leaders to get ahead of it with aggressive mask and distancing policies even when cases were declining.
When Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned in late April that a fall resurgence could coincide with flu season, exacerbating the crisis, he was reflecting the best knowledge of mainstream science. Trump contradicted Redfield the next day, saying, “If it comes back …, it won’t be coming back in the form that it was, it will be coming back in smaller doses that we can contain.” That was nothing but wishful thinking.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s own culpability was encapsulated in his infamous advice to a crowd in July: “You don’t need government to tell you to wear a dang mask.”
Despite rising numbers in Missouri and across the country — just as experts predicted — Trump, Parson and other Republicans have continued their reckless politicization of this medical issue. They have abdicated any right to expect Americans to listen to them any longer.
Instead, the public should listen to people like Biondo, the Bellefontaine Neighbors resident hospitalized for more than two months after contracting the virus in April. As the Post-Dispatch’s Annika Merrilees reported this week, Biondo survived but needed physical therapy to walk again.
Listen to Katherine Quinn, 54, of St. Louis’ Vandeventer neighborhood, who fell ill in July and ended up isolated at home for weeks with intense nausea: “I tell everybody: It’s real. It destroys you.”
Listen to people like Dr. David Tannehill of Mercy Clinic in Franklin County: “You’re seeing the same person struggle for a long period of time. You get to know the patient, you get to know the family. It’s just human nature to grow attached to these folks, and then when they don’t make it it’s that much more painful.”
This crisis has entered a new, potentially more dangerous phase. And the voices from the front lines — not those of thoroughly discredited politicians — should guide Missouri and America through it.
Views from the editorial board, opinions from guest and national columnists plus the latest letters from our readers.