I was again in a social setting over the weekend, outside of course, and six feet away from anybody. The discussion turned, as it inevitably does these days, to the coronavirus. This particular group was familiar with the death of a universally well-liked middle-aged guy who died last week after contracting the coronavirus. This particular group was also, I would say, generally skeptical about the virus and the response to it, thinking that both have been blown far out of proportion.

The person who died was the attendance guy at the high school where my kids have gone to school. Great guy. The sort of guy who, when he answered the phone at the school, called me by my name and asked how my kids and stepkids — all of whose names he knew — were doing. This was at a 6A high school, where I’m not any sort of public figure. I’m embarrassed to say I never took the time to know him the way he had obviously taken the time to get to know some things about me and my family.

Anyway the school had announced his death, which occurred after he had contracted and then presumably beaten the virus. After leaving the hospital, he returned to a rehab facility, then all of a sudden, he was dead.

I gather that he may have had other medical conditions, but the tone of the conversation about it became strikingly prickly: He must’ve not REALLY died of the virus. He must’ve REALLY died from something else. You’ve heard about the guy whose mother died in January and he just now got in the mail an announcement that she died of Covid-19? Yeah, I don’t know. I think they just make it all up. I mean, I know it’s a conspiracy theory, but it does all kinda fit together with that thing Bill Gates wrote about population control, doesn’t it?

Yeesh. One of the truly unfortunate aspects of the coronavirus pandemic is the way it has politicized illness and death.

I got up and got myself a Corona. No kidding. I wanted to say: There may well have been other medical issues, but that fact doesn’t make this very kind man any less dead. He caught the virus, and as a direct or indirect consequence of that, he now no longer walks the earth.

But I had no interest in a political argument in my off-hours, and so I just settled in to listen. I couldn’t change the topic to K-State football, either. Too depressing.

Another guy said he thought it was malarkey that we as a society were making so much of the number of college kids catching the virus. None of them get sick at all, he said. We ought to just let them all get it. Because sooner or later, he said, everybody who has already had the virus will be able to do anything, while those of us who haven’t had it yet will be stuck at home.

I had to suppress the urge to say anything about the story we published Sunday about the woman from Manhattan who turned 21 at KU Med, having part of her lung removed, in so much pain that she asked her dad to just let her die. She had the virus. She had nothing else. She was in good shape before catching it.

Rare? Yes, of course. True? Every bit of it.

Just like the guy at the high school. True story. He’s dead.

But I didn’t say any of that. I just waited, and fortunately the conversation turned to KU football, I could finally breathe a little easier.

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