It was more than a century ago that Jane Alice Peters, the future Carole Lombard, avoided catching what was known as the Spanish flu. At this time last week, many of us viewed that disease as ancient history. From an American's admittedly skewed perspective, the world seemed so, well...normal.
This University of Maryland alumnus, celebrating the Terrapins' Big Ten titles in both men's and women's basketball, awaited their appearances in the forthcoming NCAA tournaments.
The Washington Capitals were a few weeks away from the Stanley Cup playoffs, and the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals were preparing to defend their crown.
It all seems so long ago now, and so unimportant.
From out of seemingly nowhere (actually Wuhan, China), a highly communicable respiratory disease, calle coronavirus or COVID-19, spread throughout the world, changing global habits from Asia to Europe and then North America. At last count, more than 7,100 have died of it and tens of thousands of others have suffered milder strains. Those aforementioned NCAA tournaments were quickly canceled, while the NHL and NBA have suspended play and baseball may not get underway until at least Memorial Day...if it plays at all.
As if a blizzard enveloped all of the U.S., people have jammed stores in search of hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Schools, libraries, restaurants and theaters have closed in many big cities; nearly all film and TV production has shut down, something unprecedented in the industry (including my favorite sitcom, "Mom," which had two episodes left in its seventh season). COVID-19 has turned us into semi-hermits; it's the 9/11 of health. "Social distancing" is now the keyword of the day.
By now, all of you should know the drill from government and health officials. Limit travel to a minimum, especially if you are elderly or have a history of respiratory problems. Wash your hands frequently, refrain from touching your face if possible and use the phone and social media in lieu of face-to-face contact.
Despite some initial missteps in 1918, America overcame the Spanish flu, and we can do it again. We're all in this together. Please stay safe.