As strange as it seems, I got bullied a lot when I was a kid.
I could hardly blame the other kids; I was a prime target for bullying. By the time I was 11, I was overweight, wore glasses and those old metal braces, and had a really bad complexion. With five kids, money was tight, and my mom, God love her, made a lot of my clothes herself. And cut my hair herself.
Not a pretty sight!
I was big enough to beat up the kids who were bullying me, frankly. But then, as now, I found that violence really never got me anywhere. I needed another way. It was a dark time for me — I was quite miserable, and I struggled to really see a way out. Even now, it depresses me to think about it.
But like all dark times, it didn’t last. By the time I was 14 and discovered running and the weight room, I had grown to an athletic 6’1”, 190 lb.- guy with clear skin, contact lenses and nice, straight teeth! In the interim, I had read a lot of books. LOTS of books. So, I had brains to layer on top of my newfound good appearance and health. Things got much better.
Times Are Dark Now
In many ways, Louisiana is experiencing a dark time right now. We are being bullied by an economic slowdown, ongoing unemployment, hurricane damage, low oil prices and COVID-19. And that last one is the biggest bully of all.
As I sit here writing this on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021,, the number of Louisianians hospitalized with COVID-19 has hit an all-time high. Things are getting worse, we’re running out of hospital beds, and we are losing more than 40 people on average every single day to the disease. We’ve battled COVID-19 for 10 months, but one quarter of all cases came in the past month.
Check out this latest graph of hospital cases, and you can see why — case counts are up 300% plus since November and still going up rapidly:
If you think you can stop masking up, social distancing, washing your hands and limiting your gatherings with people outside your household, you are wrong. We’ve got to keep doing those things.
I’ve already told you to make sure you get vaccinated as soon as you can.
Looking for the Light
But today, I’ve decided to dig and dig and find all the bright spots I can find in our situation. I’m no Pollyanna; I know we’ve got problems. But there is a lighter time on the horizon, and I want to explore that a bit so we know what to do next. Ready?
First — the biggest bully, COVID-19, can be virtually eliminated as a problem for Louisiana by the vaccines coming onto the market. More than 138,000 people in Louisiana have gotten the first of a two-shot vaccine series as of Tuesday, Jan. 12, and that’s with limited supplies of two vaccines on the market. By the summer of 2021, I expect us to have up to five vaccine options and plenty of supply to get us to “herd immunity” by vaccinating 3 million Louisianians. It can and will be done. Even the new strains of COVID-19 popping up are responsive to these new vaccines.
And of the 9 MILLION people who have gotten at least one shot of the either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine so far in the U.S., only 29 people had any kind of allergic reaction. And the majority of those people had reactions to OTHER vaccines they had previously received. This is GREAT NEWS. It doesn’t mean we can relax right this minute; we still need to keep doing the right things until we get our shots, but the solution to COVID-19 is a bright spot on the horizon.
Can you see it? Keep looking!
Second — global players in the oil business like Saudi Arabia have agreed to limit their production of crude oil for an extended period of time. Why do we care about that? Because limiting the global supply is nudging prices back up and defeating the bully of depressed demand for oil. Last week, West Texas Intermediate Crude prices went over $51 per barrel of oil for the first time since February 2020. Sustained prices in the high $50 – low $60 range mean lots of good-paying jobs return to Louisiana. My petroleum economist friends didn’t expect to see prices recover this much until summer 2022! GREAT NEWS! The oilfield recovery is ahead of schedule, and that’s GREAT for Louisiana.
Finally — the incoming Congress and presidential administration are highly likely to continue to subsidize unemployment benefits to a reasonable level and deliver more stimulus payments to Louisiana residents to help us knock out the bully that threatens our financial futures, rent payments and mortgages. I also expect them to create new levels of subsidy for people trying to buy health insurance on www.healthcare.gov, eliminating the current cliff where benefits disappear at 400% of the Federal Poverty Level. Lots of people forced to retire prior to age 65 (the age at which you qualify for Medicare) don’t have many good healthcare coverage options because of this. These are GREAT THINGS for Louisiana! Another bully bites the dust!
And don’t forget those Saints! A playoff win!
Here at Blue Cross, you can bet we will continue to battle every day with the bully of high healthcare costs and social factors that stop people from getting the healthcare they need. It’s a big commitment, but one our hard-working employees will continue to tackle every day. You have my word on that.
So Louisiana, while you might at the moment feel a bit like an 11-year-old boy with bad skin, too much weight, glasses and braces, it’s only a matter of time before you transform into a healthier, taller, stronger, more athletic person who is ready to face life’s challenges head on.
Straight Talk is, make sure you keep the faith while things look dark. The light is coming!