Story by John Murray 

Thirteen COVID-19 related deaths in Waterbury should be a wake-up call to the city, particularly (and hopefully) to those who have not been following social distancing guidelines.

Those who have been paying rapt attention to the COVID-19 guidelines already wash their hands regularly, keep a social distance, and have taken to wearing non-surgical masks in public. And those people are terrified and threatened by community members who ignore those guidelines and continue to shop and play in public.

“The numbers continue to rise, and no one in the state is safe until this is behind us,” Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary said. “The number of deaths reported yesterday was a compilation from the past five or six days.”

O’Leary spoke with the Observer this morning and said there were 342 positive COVID-19 cases in Waterbury, and about a third of the individuals have been hospitalized.

“25% of individuals infected with the virus are under the age of 60,” O’Leary said. “A 35-year old died in Wolcott last week. The virus knows know age. This is dangerous. This is real.”

O’Leary said city residents are paying closer attention to the crisis now, particularly as the number of infections and deaths continue to rise. But not everyone is listening.

“We still have a small percentage of people who are not recognizing the severity of this crisis,” O’Leary said. “We had a big problem last week with kids playing basketball and soccer in the parks, but police officers have broken up the games and the kids and parents are being more responsible now.”

As we head into the peak of the crisis everyone needs to step up their game, O’Leary said, particularly parents.

“Parents have to keep an eye on their kids,” O’Leary said. “If they are outside, are the kids keeping the right social distance?”

In following CDC guidelines Mayor O’Leary is recommending anyone venturing out into public wear a non-surgical facemask, a home-made mask, or a scarf.

Pinning down a single cause of death during the crisis has been problematic all across the globe. Many of the victims who have perished from COVID-19 have been elderly with underlying health conditions.

We are in the midst of a pandemic. There is enormous pressure on health officials and politicians to inform the public of what is happening on a daily basis. Deaths are being reported as COVID-19 associated, or linked to COVID 19, because the patients had tested positive for the virus, and it was one of the factors that led to death.

A final determination of death will be released by the medical examiner, but those results could take weeks or months to complete.

Nit-picking and second guessing a person’s cause of death right now is missing the larger point that we are in a crisis beyond our imaginations. Health experts estimate that 30% of those infected with COVID-19 are completely unaware, and show no symptoms of the virus.

That’s why the non-surgical face mask is so important.

President Trump has called COVID-19 the invisible enemy, and he is right. The virus lingers on door knobs, shopping cart handles, clothes, gas pump handles, kitchen countertops, and has the ability to float on air from one person to the next.

How we behave in the next few weeks will determine how many of us get infected with the virus, and how many of us die.

We can save partisan political finger pointing until after the crisis passes. Until then keep washing your hands, stay at home if you can, practice social distancing (6 feet apart), and wear a non-surgical mask, a home-made mask, or scarf every time you leave home.

If we all do this, we all have a better chance of staying alive….