The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Upsides and downsides of the pandemic

Lori Smyth, owner of Tidepool Toys and Games, prepares her store for visitors on May 21 in Bethany Beach, Del.
Lori Smyth, owner of Tidepool Toys and Games, prepares her store for visitors on May 21 in Bethany Beach, Del. (Amanda Voisard/or The Washington Post)
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Alex M. Azar II’s May 22 Friday Opinion essay, “We have to reopen — for health reasons,” told only part of the story. Shutting down the economy also saves lives. There has been an unprecedented decrease in air pollution, which is responsible for more than 200,000 deaths in the United States each year, particularly among those with respiratory problems (almost certainly including covid-19). Driving has plummeted, and crashes kill well over 30,000 a year. Isolation is also effective against many other diseases — the flu kills an average of 30,000 a year. Even without covid-19, we might be better off with the economy partially shut down.

Bobby Baum, Bethesda

As a pediatrician, I am grateful that news reports are focused on the alarming consequences of the novel coronavirus on the mental health of so many Americans. I wish The Post would highlight the deleterious effects of this pandemic on children’s mental health, so often underreported and so consequential to their development. 

Stable relationships with adults, peer friendships, and education and wraparound services in schools are critical factors that help children thrive. Yet children are experiencing the devastating loss of parents and other loved ones to the novel coronavirus, grief from missing connections to friends and anxiety without their usual supports in school. Younger children struggle to understand this, and older children ache with a pain of missing milestones such as graduations. Black, Latino and Native American communities have been especially affected by worsening inequities. 

I worry that these traumatic experiences will have lifelong mental and physical health effects. Pediatricians are trained to address mental health concerns, and I encourage parents to consider their pediatrician a source of support and guidance. Now more than ever, we must prioritize the mental health of children and adolescents.

Lanre Falusi, Silver Spring

The writer is a pediatrician at Children’s
National Hospital, national spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics and past
president of the D.C. Chapter of the AAP.

In the May 24 Business article “ ‘I had to choose being a mother,’ ” readers witnessed evidence of why women’s participation in the paid workforce, particularly in the sphere of entrepreneurship, will be limited for decades to come: the attitudes of their partners toward sharing caregiving, household responsibilities and earning income. One partner’s unwillingness to assume solo parenting duties for a limited time results in the collapse of a partner’s business and their means of support. Whatever accommodations corporations and businesses may make to advance flexible conditions for workers, unless partners choose to give wholeheartedly of themselves to the arrangement, those efforts will be ineffectual when facing a crisis of caregiving.  

Caregiving is physically exhausting, emotionally draining, taxing of one’s self-control, rarely remunerated and usually not intellectually stimulating. Historically, women have undertaken this work. That some men are unwilling to make the reverse arrangement work for their families is the true limiting factor in achieving parity of the sexes. 

It is incumbent upon parents to raise their children not to expect that someone else will always be available to co-parent or solely provide care for their family members. The assumption, rather, should be the understanding that at any time a capable, available person may be called upon to become a sole caregiver to children or the elderly and that that duty should be fulfilled willingly and selflessly — not necessarily indefinitely, but at least until the family’s circumstances can provide reasonable alternatives.

Eva St. Clair, Silver Spring

As a senior citizen, I certainly agree with Dana Milbank that all measures reasonably possible to protect the elderly, especially those in nursing homes, should be taken [“Sacrificed on the altar of reopening,” Sunday Opinion, May 24]. But what that has to do with reopening the economy is less clear. There are now 38 million unemployed people in the United States. These are young, healthy people with a significantly lower risk of serious complications from the novel coronavirus.

I do not want to be the reason these folks remain unemployed. I and others like me can remain sheltered until there is a vaccine, and additional steps can be taken to better secure nursing homes. Additional safeguards also may be necessary for those such as Mr. Milbank with elderly family members. But to suggest that the economy should remain shut down until there is a vaccine is a bridge too far.

Edward Basile, Washington

So President Trump “called on states to allow places of worship to open immediately and threatened to ‘override’ any governors who do not comply with his demand” [“Trump orders states to allow houses of worship to reopen, sparking debate,” news, May 23].

My parish community at St. James Episcopal Church never ceased worship. Meaningful services have been streamed online since the governor’s stay-at-home order was issued in mid-March. And the bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Virginia, the Rt. Rev. Susan Goff, recently stated, “We will continue our fast from public in-person worship in our church buildings for a while longer” as church leaders work on plans for a safe and phased regathering of congregations, as, I trust, do other responsible leaders from across faith communities.

Timothy J. SchottLeesburg

The May 22 photographs of a hopeful store owner opening her boardwalk shop, masked and cautiously optimistic, juxtaposed with the same owner viewing her potential customers, unmasked and thus defiant, is exactly why this pandemic continues to rage. There will always be people who think that they are above the cautions the rest of us take seriously. A scan of the beach and boardwalk cameras last weekend showed a few people walking the boardwalk, some masked, some not, but it is clearly uncrowded, so perhaps the message did get through to the majority of visitors. Locals still appear to have the sense to stay home.

Pen SuritzOcean View, Del.

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