Is Covid Coming Back? Maybe so, but it could all be a lot worse.

By Joe Darby

When, oh when, will we finally get this Covid disease behind us? From the looks of it, it may be quite a long time, or maybe never. Like the common cold and the flu, it may be with us for ever.

People I know, friends of people I know and some I don’t know at all, but have heard about, have contracted the persistent bug in the last couple of weeks. This latest outbreak appears to be a good bit milder than the early versions, and that is a fact much to be thankful for. It seems to be more like a mild flu or bad cold — headache, sore throat and fatigue, but not so much the life-threatening breathing problems that we feared so much in 2020 and ’21.

Of course there’s always the possibility that another mutation will spawn a new strain that will be as bad as or worse than the earlier versions. The world and this country, with all the current turmoil, definitely does not need such a plague upon us.

I use the term plague deliberately because, as a history buff, I look for comparisons and similarities of past events to what’s going on today. I know you have heard of the Bubonic Plague, or Black Plague of the Middle Ages. It was the worst pandemic in the history of mankind.

It was brought to Europe by the rampaging Mongol hordes, who were bent upon conquering the world in the 1200s and 1300s. It seems like they were well on their way to doing so when the plague broke out, first in Asia, then transmitted over trade routes, ending up in the Mediterranean before spreading to first southern then northern Europe in the late 1340s.

Allow me a quick aside here. More and more historians are blaming Christopher Columbus and all the European settlers who followed him to the new world for bringing germs that the native American tribes had never encountered and for which they were thus very vulnerable. These historians make it sound like this was a deliberate thing, although the Europeans had never heard of nor could conceive of, the microscopic germs that caused the spread of the various diseases in the New World. But, strangely, I have never read of these same historians blaming the Asians for bringing the Black Plague to Europe. Just saying.

The plague, spread by the bites of fleas whose basic hosts were rats, was utterly devastating. From the time of the first symptoms, swelling and pain in the glands and bleeding from bodily orifices, the patient was often dead within 24 hours.

The dead had to be buried in mass graves because people were dying so quickly that there was no time for regular funerals. Folks reacted in various ways. Many prayed and became more devout and some thought the plague was the wrath of God upon mankind for its many sins. Some walked through the streets of Europe’s cities, flagellating themselves in penitence, hoping they could assuage God’s wrath. Others reacted just the opposite, eating, drinking and making merry, because they were pretty sure that tomorrow they would die. Extended drunken orgies were common.

Estimates are that between 30 and 60 percent of the European population was wiped out. Let’s apply those figures to Natchitoches, whose population is about 18,000. Between roughly 5,500 and 11,000 of us would have died. Louisiana, with a census of about 4.5 million, would have lost between 1.35 and 2.7 million. In the United States, with about 330 million, the death toll would have been between 100 million and 200 million. Unimaginable numbers, to be sure.

So, as bad as Covid has been, it certainly could be a lot worse.