Allen County has exploded. In the past six weeks, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have climbed here as swiftly as anywhere else in the nation, if not the world.
It was probably inevitable. The combination of pandemic fatigue, of the formidable ease with which SARS-CoV-2 spreads, of contempt for a “hoax” some thought would miraculously vanish after the election, have conspired to create this moment.
Still, the magnitude of the surge in Allen County is jarring. Throughout August and September, we averaged 48 cases per day. Our average began climbing in October, reaching 93 by mid-month and 155 by Halloween.
Last week (ending Nov. 14), an average of 400 Allen County residents tested positive for COVID-19 every day. That's an 830% rise in just six weeks.
To some, the mere mention of such figures amounts to fearmongering. After all, this virus is no big deal. It's just the flu, etc.
Tell that to the 22 Allen County residents who succumbed to COVID-19 last week. That's four times as many residents who typically die of the flu in a given year.
In a single week.
Or tell it to the nearly 1,400 health care workers in the U.S. who have sacrificed their lives battling this pandemic, prior to a surge that has already tripled COVID-19 hospitalizations in northeast Indiana.
COVID-19 is not the flu. It's deadlier than the flu, with more complications and several alarming long-term effects that researchers are only beginning to unravel.
COVID-19 is also not the plague. It isn't the end of civilization as we know it; it's not divine retribution, nor was it concocted in some lab to eliminate anyone's political adversaries.
It's just a novel coronavirus that happened along, upending a life most of us once took for granted.
Experts have been warning for decades that this sort of thing was inevitable. And now it's here. Now we're in the thick of it.
Since the beginning of this ordeal, we've projected our biases, our emotions and our ideologies onto this virus. SARS-CoV-2 could give a hoot. Like every other virus that has ever existed, it just wants to replicate.
God willing, we can all dig deep, rise above our witches' brew of grudges and vexations, and just do the basic things that are within our power to frustrate this contagion's simple objective.
By next summer, we'll probably have vaccines that will have more or less ended this pandemic. Life will be returning to normal.
What happens between now and then – how ugly this surge becomes, how many health care workers are put in harm's way, how many of our fellow citizens eventually die, etc. – is largely up to us.
We can blame others. We can blame the virus. We can blame Donald Trump, the Chinese, bats or whatever.
Or we can simply accept that this is where we are, assume responsibility for what each of us is able to control, work together as a community and get through this as best we can.
The choice is ours. It isn't political; it's simply human.
Steve Graves of Fort Wayne is retired from the motion picture industry, where he worked as a best boy grip and camera rigger