Oliver: Surging COVID-19 cases mean we must do more to get this under control

Joan Oliver
Joan Oliver

The scientists and health officials said we’d see a second, more severe, wave of COVID-19. Some of us weren’t listening or refused to believe it. Yet here it is.

The scientists and health officials told us that once we spent more time inside together, we’d see a second wave. Some of us must have thought this warning was for other people, not us. Yet here we are in McHenry County with a 21.2% positivity rate for COVID-19 as I write this.

The scientists and health officials told us to limit the number of people with whom we come into contact. Some of us seem to believe the virus can differentiate between people we know and people we don’t and that it only will spread between people who don’t know each other well. Yet, many, many cases of transmission have been traced to family gatherings and parties.

The scientists and health officials said indoor activities are more risky than outdoor activities. Some of us must have not been paying attention despite skyrocketing rates of infection throughout the state. Some people still are demanding that their children go back into the classroom.

Now we find ourselves at a point where we face having to be restricted again.

Some of us want to blame government officials for this imposition on our rights and liberties. Yet maybe we should look in the mirror.

If we don’t want to see our restaurants and other venues go out of business, then we should have done a better job of policing ourselves. Instead of lamenting how unfair it is, maybe we should do what needs to be done to get this virus under control and support our local businesses as much as we can in the ways we have available to us.

To those who have been diligent and mindful of physical distancing, mask-wearing, disinfecting and hand-washing, I say thank you. Clearly some of us have been trying.

Some of us haven’t been in a store since March, haven’t had a haircut since February and basically live in the kind of lockdown that so many people fear and resent. Try being in it for eight months with no end in sight.

As hospitals fill up with COVID-19 patients – and at the rate we’re going, they will – health officials will have to start making very tough choices. At this writing, 42% of intensive care unit beds are available in McHenry County. That means more than half of them are being used.

If ventilators become scarce again, people like my husband, who has Alzheimer’s disease, may not be at the front of the line to be helped. If it’s a choice between a 30-year-old with no known health conditions and me, who has respiratory issues and cancer, who do you think is going to get that ventilator?

And without access to ventilators, some people could die. It might be someone you know or who is a family member. We don’t want a doctor to have to make such a terrible choice.

Yes, a lot of people do recover from COVID-19. Yes, a lot of people who die are older and some have underlying health conditions. But not all of them. Young people have died from this, too.

We need to do more than we’ve been doing to get this virus under control. We need to take this seriously if we haven’t done so already.

What we’ve been asked to do isn’t hard: Stay at least 6 feet apart and wear a mask and wash your hands frequently. If at all possible, stay away from people who are not in your household.

We can do this. We have to.


• Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

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