I was so blessed growing up. I was a small-town boy (Morgan City was a city in name only!), an oldest child with four brothers and sisters, and had an incredibly talented, hard-working mom who stayed home with us until I was in high school. I was raised with a hard-working, strong moral character of a dad who had a job that allowed him to spend two out of every four weeks at home. And just for a little spice, his mom, a hard-charging, widowed “Maw-Maw,” lived two blocks away and worked well into her 70s. My Paw-Paw, her husband, passed away three years before I was born, when she was in her 40s. She never remarried.
Maw-Maw Bertaut was strong, opinionated, focused and would do ANYTHING for her five grandchildren. Since my dad was an only child and she lived so close to us, we got her full attention every single day. She drove my poor mom up a tree, but as kids, we had no idea how lucky we were. She was full of wisdom and care, and we got the entire benefit of it, since she was still kicking when I was well into my 30s.
COVID-19 – Bad for Everyone But Worse for Older Adults
Reflecting on my grandmother makes me realize that there’s a full-blown tragedy underneath the tragedy of COVID-19. How much Maw-Maw and Paw-Paw wisdom we have lost prematurely to this disease because COVID-19 kills older folks at a much higher rate than younger folks? And this makes me sad.
It also gives me an opportunity to show you some facts, now that I have six solid months of data on how COVID-19 has affected Louisiana. The state now has case counts of more than 157,000, and has tracked more than 5,000 COVID-19 deaths. These data look at a variety of factors, including age. This shows us when people catch COVID-19 and what percentage of them are likely to die from it, with age as a consideration. And that latest data looks like this:
What this data and graph tell us is that for every five people aged 70 or older who caught COVID-19, one died. One out of every five. How horrible is that? That’s a lot of Maw-Maws and Paw-Paws who are passing away prematurely.
Even if we go down a bracket, to one that is getting uncomfortably close to my personal age (I’m 59), we can see in that 60-69 age group, for every 100 documented cases of COVID-19, five people died. And even in my age group (50-59), we’re losing two out of every 100 people who get COVID-19. This is roughly five times as many people who would die from the flu in a typical year.
Thankfully, in the lower age groups, we see that COVID-19 is not killing nearly as many people, which is a blessing.
Slow the Spread and Save Your Loved Ones’ Lives
This data inspires me to say two very important things:
FIRST, I’m unbelievably thankful to all of you in the age brackets 40 and younger, where COVID-19 rarely takes a life, for the cooperation and caring that you are showing the rest of us when you mask up, socially distance, or pass on partying or bar-hopping. You are doing that DIRECTLY on our behalf as older folks, and I don’t think you get nearly enough appreciation for it.
For all of you younger than 40 who are cooperating, especially those in your 20s who are foregoing key parts of your college and young adult experience – THANK YOU! You are a blessing to all of us, and us older folks literally owe you our lives.
I also am grateful to everyone who, like me, is talking to your healthcare providers about getting a flu shot soon, or has gotten one already. This is a great thing to do every year, but it’s REALLY important this year. Not only do we need to avoid overwhelming our healthcare system while medical providers and hospitals are still in the thick of battling COVID-19, we don’t need to be spreading another virus to each other right now. Although we’re more used to seeing it than COVID-19, flu still kills thousands of people every year and can be pretty dangerous for older adults, pregnant women and young children. I’m happy to see so many people seem to be paying more attention to the flu shot and taking steps to make sure they get one.
SECOND, I’m disgusted that there are people out there who STILL want to treat COVID-19 like it’s no big deal simply because they don’t want to be inconvenienced or have to acknowledge the reality that is right in their faces. COVID-19 is a killer. It targets the older and more vulnerable and kills them, often. Before it’s their time. Can’t you find it in your heart to take 30 seconds and put on a mask to save someone’s life? Or stop gathering in an unsafe way for awhile? Or wash your hands? Is that really asking too much?
If you run a business and you are fighting for your right to not mask up, who are you really fighting for? The right to spread a dangerous virus to your customers? Is that the hill you want to die on?
All I know is this: COVID-19 is taking away too many Maw-Maws and Paw-Paws, and we can actually do something to slow it down or stop it. And we need to do that. Period.
The Straight Talk is, the Maw-Maw or Paw-Paw you save might be your own.