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Aftermath of the lockdown

by Bob Shillingstad
| May 30, 2020 1:00 AM

First of two parts

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” — Matthew 5:4

As the final stages in Idaho of lifting the sanctions happen, we can now step back and look at the effects. What happened to us not only as a nation or a state but even more specifically as a county? What are some of the unseen effects that may have deeper, long-term consequences?

First, we need to have an overview of what has happened and who was most affected. How should the church, Christian ministries and Christians react?

Nearly 100,000 deaths nationally out of 1.8 million cases we know of. About 50% were elderly and 43% were in nursings homes, not strikingly different than similar outbreaks like the Hong Kong Flu.

In Idaho there were 2,700 known cases and 81 deaths (61 confirmed, 20 probable), the vast majority were over 80 years of age and no one under the age of 50. 56% of the deaths in Idaho were in nursing homes. These statistics are representative of deaths across the world. Fortunately in the five counties in our health district there were 73 cases, most in Kootenai County, with no deaths.

The impact to health care from the virus was minimal here; however, with a limit on elective surgeries and care the impact was huge. The impact of missed treatments from stroke or cancer diagnosis may cost many lives, according to health professionals. Stroke evaluations are down 40%. Three fourths of new cancer screenings aren’t happening. Living donor transplants during this period are down 85% compared to last year.

On the economic front it has been horrendous: 30.5 million jobs lost the last six weeks in America; we have lost more than double that in the financial crisis of 2008. We wiped out nearly a whole decade of job gains in two months. Unemployment in Idaho has reached a record high with 103,000 unemployed in April and nearly 13,000 in Kootenai County alone. Each unemployed person is a person whose life is now in turmoil. Health care workers struggle also, losing 1.2 million jobs in April alone. Jobs are important to families and their American Dream.

We have ripped the fabric of our institutions and ministries by bringing everything to a stop and “social distancing.” No school, church, Scout meeting, Awana, Sunday School, service club luncheons, book clubs, libraries, graduations, organized sports including T-ball. The list goes on and even includes the coffee or lunch group at the local diner.

Lee Flinn, director of the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, said, “During a pandemic it’s really an odd time. It’s like no other time we have ever lived through. It does add to the difficulties a lot of Idahoans feel. Some are feeling an increase in loneliness and interpersonal conflicts. Those existed before, but the pandemic does complicate a lot.”

It affects parents who depend on the school breakfast and lunches for their children or the Senior Center that hosted lunches and activities.

Timothy Carney wrote a best selling book last year called “Alienated America,” which tried to bring understanding to the 2016 election and why voting was so different in areas. He pointed out the loss of the American Dream in many parts of the country with losses of millions of factory jobs and unemployment over four decades.

Carney wrote, “The materialistic view of the American Dream, however, misses the point. The worst analyses assume that wealth or the opportunity for wealth is the American Dream … But maybe the things we think accompany the American Dream are the things that really are the American Dream. What if the T-ball game, the standing room-only Christmas concert, the parish potluck, and decorating the community hall for a wedding — what if those activities are not the dressings around the American Dream, but what if they are the American Dream?”

What did the quarantine do to the American Dream?

Churches have certainly been affected with all that has happened. In the future will we think about church in terms of “BC … Before Coronavirus,” and after? Maybe, in many ways, the coronavirus hasn’t so much created problems for the Church as it has revealed and accelerated them. In either case we desperately need God, not just to explain the changes we see but to bring truth and peace to a troubled world.

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” — John 14:27.

The purpose of this column is not to assign blame for what has happened or bring about fear for the future. As the saying goes, “We cannot talk about standing on the Rock of Ages and then act as if we are clinging to our last piece of driftwood.” Next week we will look at the history of the church in times of challenge in our country and the positive response that was there.

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Bob Shillingstad’s columns appear Saturdays in The Press. Email Bob: bjshill@mac.com