Daily COVID-19 Update: April 14, 2020

Dear Bereans,

This is the update for Tuesday, April 14, 2020.

The latest concerning COVID-19 in Kentucky

Governor Beshear announced last evening that we are at about 2000 cases in the State and 100 deaths in Kentucky.  Sadly, the biggest issues right now seem to be centered on nursing homes and prisons.  Thanks to early and rigorous social distancing guidance, we continue to be doing markedly better than neighboring states.

An announcement

I regret to inform you that we have been informed that a Berea College employee has just recently tested positive for COVID-19,  The individual has not been on campus or in contact with other Berea College staff or students since early March, so we believe that there is minimal risk to the campus community associated with this situation.  Our employee is in daily contact with medical personnel and is managing at home because no hospitalization is needed.   I know you will all join me in wishing this fellow Berean the very best and a rapid and full recovery.

A new Kentucky Colonel

Junior Philosophy major Carter Heller was recently commissioned as a Kentucky Colonel by Governor Beshear in recognition for the volunteer service work he has done off campus.  Carter notes that, “As Bereans, we are called to help others, especially the most vulnerable within society. That message is being echoed over and over right now.”  Congratulations to you, Carter!

An announcement from Marketing and Communications

We need your help to celebrate our May graduates! Normally, we would be snapping and gathering photos and capturing videos of our soon-to-be alumni to compile a highlight reel to be shown at Senior Celebration. This year is a bit different. Please submit any photos and videos you’ve captured of them, especially if you have some from impromptu celebrations shared with our seniors before leaving campus. Submissions can be serious or silly! Use the form, linked below, to send us your contributions.

Submit your photos or videos

For today’s perspective, I proud to let you know that Berea College student Anna Keller wrote a piece for the on-line journal Telos, and it was accepted.  The link to the full published article is located here. A somewhat shortened version is included following as today’s perspective.  (Warning—this is a hard-hitting piece!)

A perspective: The Unremarkable Deaths of Social Distancing

By Anna G. Keller, senior Health Sciences major

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 are concentrated where global travelers, professionals, and creatives live. When risk for those populations is controlled to a level they can accept, expect panic to ease. Socially-distanced rural suffering will outlast urban panic. Kentucky expects our COVID-19 crisis to peak next week, on Friday, 24 April, with 1,600 hospitalized and 300 in ICU beds on our worst day. Peaks in New York and Louisiana were expected and observed on 8 April. As resource use and deaths rise in rural areas, the urban wave of the pandemic is expected to decline.

The virus is more deadly for aged rural people and people with less than a college education, but Kentucky expects under a thousand COVID-19 deaths this year. We also expect our normal of upward of ten thousand heart disease and cancer deaths, 3,500 chronic lower respiratory disease deaths, 3,300 accidents (1,600 will be drug overdoses. 730 will be firearm deaths, mostly suicides), and over 2,000 strokes. Early death from all these causes is concentrated among people with less than a college education, and unremarkable. It is too early to say how this spring’s events will affect normal causes of death in Kentucky. Since at least Durkheim’s 1897 study on the topic, it has been known that social isolation increases the suicide rate. Without significant political pressure, increases in hazard that are largely contained away from professionals and creatives will be tolerated.

In a fiery essay in the Players Tribune, Miami Heat’s power forward Udonis Haslem described the consequences of the selfishness of Miami spring-breakers.

You see that video going around of these silly a** college kids down in South Florida on spring break? Talking about, ‘If I get corona, I get corona, bro,’ and all that nonsense?   For a lot of kids, the truth is that school is the only structure they got. It’s the only food they can count on. It’s the only safety that’s guaranteed. You take that all away? You better be prepared to protect them…. If you got a roof over your head and some food in your fridge and you don’t have to go to work to feed your family, just do the easiest thing in the world, man. F*** your spring break. Just keep your a** at home.

What Haslem wrote about spring-breakers could easily be said of cosmopolitan urban professionals in the hardest hit cities–New Orleans, New York, and Detroit. Those three cities were the most attractive to highly mobile creative-class people I’ve known in the last decade. Through conferences, weddings, vacations, and other irresponsible travel, mobile professionals and creatives and their wealthy patrons spread a plague that will ultimately hurt them far less than it will hurt people they don’t think matter.

I live in a poor county within an afternoon drive of some of the poorest in America. The last two hospitals I worked in routinely take patients from 300 miles away and employ staff who commute a hundred miles each way (eg. Lost Creek to Lexington). In the New York Review of Books, Helen Epstein described how my rural neighbors may react to an economic shutdown and mass unemployment without mobilizing politically. Instead, suicide, conspiracy theory, and physical pain may be our local legacy of social distancing. Social distancing is both necessity and threat. What do forgotten people who live in our neighborhoods or our counties need, materially and culturally? What will we need once our betters feel safe and have liquidity, but the place we used to work has closed forever?

We live together on the Titanic. If first class cabins have taken on water, steerage was long ago flooded to its roof. The federal executive and legislature of my country are enacting economic policy like the CARES Act that reward first-class citizens by pumping money through Federal Reserve special vehicles while drowning those in second-class and third-class cabins as their money is gatekept and slowed by second-class institutions like the Small Business Association and third-class institutions like unemployment insurance. Debt forgiveness, uncapped federal programs with clear qualifying events, and the universal, legally-enforceable right to healthcare and paid work would be a whole new boat. The source of our present panic is an apocalyptic moment spread by and touching the lives of those who at best administrate the apocalypses of others in what they consider normal times.


Take care and be safe,

Lyle Roelofs, President