Dear COVID-19: A personal note from Chancellor Tony Frank

Editor’s note: The following essay appeared in the April 27 edition of monthly e-newsletter from CSU System Chancellor Tony Frank. To see the complete newsletter, and to subscribe, go to the website.

Dear COVID-19:

I’m writing to get some thoughts off my chest as I sit here late at night, unable to sleep, thinking about a 25-year-old woman. She’s tough as nails, but she has viral pneumonia and she’s alone and she’s scared.  You’ve made a big impression on her — on all of us, for that matter. And I know you’re not done yet.

You’ve made uncertainty and even fear a part of our everyday lives. You’ve disrupted weddings and birthdays, postponed graduations, ruined plans, and dashed more than a few dreams so far. You’ve forced hardworking people onto the unemployment lines and left small, family-run businesses struggling to hold on.

You’ve given those of us who work with infectious diseases a new understanding of the individual lives behind our graphs and curves. You’ve surprised us: your silent carriers, your diverse symptoms and clinical presentations — much about you has us struggling to catch up.

Tony Frank
CSU System Chancellor Tony Frank

You’ve pushed our doctors and nurses to the brink. And you’ve taken loved ones from us, sometimes dying in the hands of strangers with even their funerals held in isolation.

You’ve exposed some of our societal fault lines — painful gaps between rich and poor, rural and urban, the young and the old, the technologically connected and those with limited access, the healthy and those whose health is compromised even in unseen ways.

You’ve made your mark in our history books — you will be remembered.

But what’s more important to me is what you can’t do. You can’t keep us from adapting. You can’t stop our creativity and humor. You can’t stop us from caring for each other. You can’t stop us from expressing our diverse opinions as human beings. You can’t keep us from expressing our beliefs in something larger than ourselves. You can’t separate us from the love of our family, the compassion of our friends; even the gentleness in the touch of a total stranger for those who are in your final grasp is beyond your ability to prevent.

And you can’t stop us from learning, from innovating, from working together in unexpected ways to fight you. Right now, we’ve got scientists who have shut down their own work just in the last month to help private companies test their existing drugs and chemical compounds to see if any of them can stop your spread. We have volunteers lining up to give blood, hand out free meals at school sites, take in foster pets, and go shopping for strangers. We have front-line employees in grocery stores, hospitals, and campus residence halls who are putting themselves on the line to make sure their communities are safe and cared for.

We are strongest together — and you have reminded us of that, in ways we should never have forgotten.

So go ahead: Unleash whatever havoc is within your power, but do so knowing that we are relentlessly resisting you, learning about you. And we will win. Throw your worst at us, and realize that it cannot hold a candle to the beauty of the better angels of the human spirit.

Goodbye.

– tony