More than 1.1 million people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19, and there have been well over 6 million hospitalizations. But according to The Federalist, “One of the most disturbing images of the Covid-19 pandemic was when a teacher tried repeatedly to force a mask on a crying toddler, despite his visible distress.”
Unfortunately, they are not f-cking kidding.
First off, I invite you to watch that video. That kid was annoyed and he was not having it, but he was not hysterical or unduly distressed. If you spend time around toddlers, you will find that things they get at least that visibly distressed about include having their food cut up before it is served to them, not having their food cut up before it is served to them, and not being allowed to run into traffic. “Ridiculous things that upset toddlers” is an entire genre of viral humor content.
As the parent of a young child early in the pandemic, I, too, sometimes had to press him to wear a mask. There were definitely tears once or twice. You know what? He adjusted. He was fine. Because it's not actually that big of a deal! There were also, by the way, tears when we took out the recycling bin, because there might be something interesting in it.
Here are some of the actual most disturbing images and facts about the COVID-19 pandemic. You want to talk about distressed children? More than 200,000 children lost parents or caregivers to the virus. I’m guessing their distress was a little greater than that of a child adjusting to wearing a mask for the first time.
More than 1,800 children under 18 died of COVID-19. That’s a number that tends to be used to argue that there’s no serious concern for children—but for context, the 2019-2020 flu season tied a record for the most pediatric flu deaths. The number was 188. RSV, another dangerous virus, leads to 100 to 300 pediatric deaths annually. Those dead children were probably more distressed by their illness than that toddler was by his mask.
This was a pandemic that saw refrigerator trucks being used as temporary morgues because the regular morgues were overflowing. Bodies were being moved in U-Haul trucks.
We have seen family members desperately trying to give comfort to their ailing loved ones, necessarily alone in the hospital. On the other hand, that toddler did not want to wear a mask.
More than 1 million people died in this country, and among those who survived, there were too many who would “have to retrain his body how to walk again, have speech therapy due to having a trach, and even learn to swallow again.”
Health care providers were faced with one horrific scenario after another, caring for overwhelming numbers of patients, many of whom they knew were virtually guaranteed to die. “The moments when I see the dark fear in their eyes? When they experience the flash of hopeless terror? When they know, deep down, that they are a dead man walking? And I know that I can't fix it? And that it was largely preventable?” one nurse wrote on Facebook. “It hurts at the soul level.”
Let’s talk about the things our society does to kids. Two words: school shootings. Two more words: lockdown drills. Little kids have to regularly practice hiding from a shooter, but The Federalist is talking about the damage done by masks? That’s just sick.
Our society has not reckoned with the trauma of this pandemic. With watching the death toll rise, and the amount of serious illness and suffering rise far above that. With wondering if or when the virus would come for us or our loved ones. Instead, the dominant mode—thanks to a concerted push from the right and a media filled with people so far removed from the worst suffering that they thought their inconveniences were the worst the pandemic had to offer—is denial. The straight-faced insistence that a scrap of cloth on a child’s face was seriously disturbing. Fussing about test scores instead of grappling seriously with trauma recovery.
People who want to move on, with absolutely no acknowledgement of what we’ve been through, who want you to believe that the really disturbing thing was someone facing the minor inconvenience of a mask? There’s something wrong with them—and I say that with real sympathy. They need help. Unfortunately, many of them are determined to prevent our society as a whole from recovering from this trauma in a healthy way, and for that, they deserve condemnation.
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Kerry and Markos talk about what is happening in Ukraine, what needs to be done, and why the fate of Ukraine is tied to democracy’s fate in 2024.