Covid-19: Voice of the Dead

As of the writing of this post 968,663 people have died of Covid-19. That’s more people than the entire populations of the states of Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Sometime in April, the State of Delaware will be added to that list. That means, nearly everyone in America knows someone who has died of Covid-19.

I personally know 5 people who have died of Covid-19. Among the people I know, the deaths of Don and Sharon Fiscus seem the most mind-boggling. One day he and I were chatting at the Potlatch Community Library while the kids did homework—3 weeks later he was dead. Sharon died the week after that.

Don was as open-hearted and generous as he was surly. He and his wife, Sharon, adopted their 3 grandkids and did their best to provide them with a stable household and a good life. I frequently ran into the pair of them, and the kids, at the Potlatch Library. When the pandemic hit, Don hauled potatoes from farmers unable to sell them in order to distribute them to the hungry families in several rural Latah County communities. That was when I knew I needed to get to know them better.

Being on opposite sides of the political spectrum, Don and I butted heads regularly, so it was not surprising that we found ourselves sparing over the pandemic. Don was anti-mask and anti-vax. I was pro-public health, science, and reason. This is not to say we didn’t get along. Truth was, we liked each other, mostly because neither of us would shy away from a good debate.

As I writer, I frequently use the Latah County Historical Society archives and know the value of well-preserved history. Some of my favorite items in the archive are the oral histories. The problem with oral histories is that they are often remembrances of long by-gone days, clouded by passing years and declining memories.

When the pandemic hit, I wanted to create an oral history project to record people’s thoughts as events unfolded, rather than rely on faulty memories fifty years hence. The Latah County Historical Society was not able to take on such a project because of the number of permissions necessary to “conduct research” on human subjects. As a private citizen I was bound by no such rules or regulations. I was determined to conduct interviews on my own and donate them to the archives later. That’s how I came to possess this interview with Don Fiscus.

My willingness to interview Don was actually the source of much debate between myself and Zach Wnek, the historical society’s former curator. Zack did not think there would be much value in interviewing and anti-masker. I insisted that if we were to preserve history, we must preserve all of it. Besides, I already had an anti-masker in mind.

Each of my interviewees signed a waver stating they agreed to have their interviews donated to the historical society archives. All of them also agreed to be interviewed again at the end of the pandemic. Unfortunately, Don did not live to see the end of the pandemic. His interview is below:

Don and Sharon remained staunchly anti-mask and anti-vax until the end. In fact, they were so opposed to mask mandates that Sharon ran for Potlatch School Board in order to oppose the incumbent who voted in favor of requiring masks in the Potlatch Schools. Sharon didn’t live to see the election. Neither did Don.

Donald Fiscus died Tuesday, September 28, 2021, at Deaconess Hospital in Spokane. Sharon Fiscus died Tuesday, October 5, 2021, at Gritman Medical Center in Moscow. Both of them succumbed to covid-19. Their three adopted children joined the ranks of the 5.2 million covid orphans—children who lost parents or caregivers to covid-19.

At the time of their deaths, I reached out to their pastor, Lee Nicholson at Faith Church in Onaway, Idaho wanting to send my condolences and candy bouquets to the children. I also offered to write obituaries. The pastor refused to return my calls. I had to coordinate with a mutual friend who had kids in the same grade to send sympathy cards to Don and Sharon’s kids. But there would be no obituary. No funeral either.

The Potlatch community and the Fiscus’s family had delved so deeply into the anti-covid propaganda that they preferred to simply pretend Don and Sharon hadn’t died of covid-19. In fact, many community members tried to pretend they hadn’t died at all. Some people continued voicing their support of Sharon for school board after she had passed away.

Any mention of their death’s or even posting links to the death notices in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News were met with harsh criticism and the admonishment to “stop making the election political.” If elections are not meant to be political I don’t know what is, but that is neither here nor there. Sharon ended up receiving nearly 30% of the vote, despite being dead.

Way back in the spring of 2021, when vaccines were first becoming available, the CDC and WHO officials predicted the pandemic would end if we reached a 70% vaccination rate. That prompted President Biden to set a goal of having 70% of US citizens vaccinated by July 4, 2021. Republicans dragged their feet and the pandemic dragged on as many refused to get vaccinated.

Now that we are approaching the 70% vaccination rate, daily cases and daily deaths have declined significantly and pandemic restrictions are being lifted. That doesn’t mean we are out of the woods. The unvaccinated are still 3 times more likely to contract covid-19 and 10 times more likely to die of the disease. With a little over 30% of the population still unvaccinated, that means more deaths are still looming on the horizon.

If there is one thing I know about Don, it’s that he’s a man who would not tolerate being silenced. He deserved a funeral. He deserved an obituary. He deserves to be remembered—for the way he lived and the way he died. That’s why I’ve posted his interview here. May his life, and death, be a lesson for us all.

Source: New York Times, Accessed March 18, 2022


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