Tue | Jul 27, 2021

Orville Taylor | A Sharpe turn on the COVID-19 journey

Published:Sunday | April 25, 2021 | 12:26 AM

Minutes to seven in the morning, it is week five of the battle with COVID-19. Virus free for 17 days but pneumonia taking its own time to leave. One check with the oximeter; numbers good; a small prayer giving thanks for life; I suck in a deep breath of sweet air and rejoice that my colleague Dionne Jackson Miller was back on air. My time soon; but patience, Man in Black. A check of the cell phone, Michael Sharpe is dead! Tears! ...There, but for the Grace of God, go I.

Nightmare! It is not one of those COVID-19 hallucinations; this is real. Then Milton Walker, our friend and colleague, reads the 7:00 a.m. news on Radio Jamaica 94FM. He is struggling through it, hear the emotions crackling his voice. Milton has been our centre-half as the Radio Jamaica triad battled for the three points, checking up on us daily, giving us each updates on the other. Devastated!

There is an imbecile on social media, passing on conspiracy theories, misinformation, and saving his brain for use later on in life. There is no conspiracy – at least not one I am part of. There is a battle; part of a war that we are fighting. A team of three fighting a present but invisible enemy. One soldier down, one out of the field of fire, and the third must keep firing. Sharpie’s death hits hard and close. For those of us who shared Studio 94FM, this is an awful throwback.

BEST DUO ON JAMAICAN TV

Two years ago, in the same month and same period, we were praying for the life of Dorraine Samuels, the other half of the best pair of news anchors in Jamaican television history. You might not have noticed, but it was on the very anniversary of her death that the insidious rumour of Sharpie’s premature demise broke while we two are fighting to get back. He died days after her funeral date.

Sharpie is dead, and it was not the nurse who killed him. Reactive threats dishonour his persona, legacy, and his love affair with law and order. Prophetically, he was the one who distributed the COVID-19 data daily and warned us of the danger. The lesson is that even with the best of precautions, some of us will get it. However, with no or little safeguards, the death toll will be astronomical.

At the time of submitting this column for publication, 750 Jamaicans had died from COVID-19, with more than 44,600 confirmed. Thousands more are walking around with mild symptoms or none. Countless who have ‘bad sinus’, a fresh cold, a little flu or ‘bad feelings’ but do not develop more severe symptoms, such as ‘blowing short,’ dismiss it.

Most individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will survive and only about three per cent will likely die. However, that does not factor in the amount of pressure on the health system. Overworked nurses and doctors in short supply, coupled with beds in both hospitals and field hospital being fully occupied, any sustained surge will see the system reaching breaking point. More infections mean more fatalities. Whatever the percentage, post-COVID-19 symptoms may last a lifetime.

REDUCING RISKS

Debate about the efficacy of the vaccines if we wish, but the evidence is that they do help in reducing the likelihood of getting ill from the virus or dying. Only God is perfect. Moreover, the overwhelming scientific consensus based on the myriad data, is that, without it, more people are going to get severely ill and a larger percentage will die. Simple! In any event, we cannot vaccinate ourselves out of this pandemic.

If we continue to have this rate of infection, every family in this country will have a relative who has either died or had a close brush with death. And it might very well be you.

We still have too many ‘bulletproof’ nonchalant and dismissive people. Too often in public places, someone comes close and ‘grounds you out.’ On telling him to put on his mask or keep his distance, this ignoramus says, “Nuh scorn me cause me no have no Covitz!” Crowds will kill many!

Of course, even with the best of efforts, some extremely careful persons will still get it. I did. Duh! Doctors and nurses have died. However, large numbers of carefree people will create a disaster.

COVID-19 means that we need radical cultural and behavioural change; physical distancing, small gatherings, respecting the curfew and other restrictive measures. Basic hygiene must improve. How can one person, who is not the lover of the other, share a drink? That is a kiss! And how does a ganja man, who ‘bun out’ intimate relations among men, share a chalice with other men? Smoking a spliff built by another, outside of COVID-19 is just nasty.

No handshakes, especially those weird, thumb-rubbing bromance gestures between two Gs. No need to be talking up into another person’s face so closely that they can smell the mammalian flesh you had for your dinner last evening.

The danger is real, and Michael would appreciate my saying that our behaviour must take a Sharpe turn to the right.

- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at The University of the West Indies, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.