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Letters: Congress should be thanking Dr. Anthony Fauci for saving lives

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With regards to those in Congress criticizing Dr. Anthony Fauci and others in regards to the pandemic: It’s critically important to remember the conditions early on at the time decisions had to be made.

As a physician who worked in several Chicago-area hospitals throughout the pandemic, I can attest to that: These hospitals were filled to the brim with COVID-19 patients. Any additional patients would have been left in the halls or in the emergency room, waiting for a bed, nearly uncared for. Thus, plans were made for McCormick Place to be turned into a makeshift hospital — or, really, a way station to the morgue. There were so many COVID-19 patients who were so sick that physicians could barely tell them apart.

We ran out of critical supplies; for example, dialysis had to be rationed. Hospital personnel were stressed to the breaking point; in some hospitals, physicians such as nephrologists covered in the intensive care unit, where they were wholly untrained for the task. Hospitals in some areas kept refrigerated trucks outside to hold bodies.

Allowing COVID-19 to spread unchecked throughout the community would have led to large numbers of infected people without effective treatment available and even without hospital rooms. And alarmingly, no one knew when the virus would ebb, or when or even if there would ever be a vaccine or effective treatment. For all we knew at the time, there was no end in sight; perhaps, even a Black Death-like toll loomed. (If you think that’s an exaggeration, you were not working in a hospital.)

That was the context in which decisions were made about masks, distancing, schools, lockdowns and the like. Not surprisingly, pretty much every country in the world acted in the same way, trying to prevent huge numbers of deaths.

Sweden, an exception, was more lax and suffered four to 10 times the COVID-19 death rate of its fellow Scandinavian countries in the first year. Sweden then changed course.

But only in the United States do we have congressional hearings in which some lawmakers call for the jailing of our most respected health care providers who did the best they could with limited information in hellacious circumstances and came to the same conclusions as other experts around the world.

Fauci estimated that COVID-19 precautions saved 1 million lives here.

In the absence of political self-interest and/or self-aggrandizement, we thank those who helped save those lives.

— Dr. Sheldon Hirsch, medical director, Fresenius and DaVita Dialysis units, Chicago

Fauci a caring public servant

My husband and I were devastated to see the recent clip of U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green. Her rudeness to Dr. Anthony Fauci was incomprehensible, and the blame she puts on Fauci is insensible. Unfortunately, many of her Republicans cohorts are also unreasonable.

Fauci was our light in the darkness of the pandemic. We were so thankful that someone knowledgeable and with such an impressive resume was working on COVID-19. We were grateful he was working and caring when he could have retired.

He does not deserve the treatment he is getting from some knuckleheads.

— Mary Winkler, Mount Prospect

Devaluing of art and thinking

Thank you for the June 5 editorial about the crisis of higher education art schools shutting down (“Art university’s collapse is a cautionary tale for Chicago”). This issue is not getting the attention it deserves.

With so many art schools shutting down all over the country, more and more students will lose the access they deserve to receive a liberal arts education. I’d add that the increasing prevalence of artificial intelligence in schools is also contributing to the demise of these colleges and is a major cause of lower enrollments. With each year that AI infiltrates schools, students are learning that the crucial stages of writing, drawing and, indeed, thinking itself are not important to their education or to their mental health.

We know that art expression helps students who are struggling with anxiety and depression. It is these very schools that help students feel better that are in danger of closing.

As a high school teacher, I have seen the effects of schools outsourcing creativity and imagination to large tech companies rather than helping students learn the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that make them feel better in and out of school.

With more art schools closing, we should be prepared for far more than an empty downtown area; we will be seeing an entire generation of students who have been taught that their creativity, imagination and their own original thoughts — skills they hone in these art schools — don’t matter.

— Liz Shulman, Chicago

Going to museums as a child

When I was a child, there were no children’s museums. On days when weather interrupted our outdoor adventures, our father took my brother and me to a museum: in order of frequency, the Museum of Science and Industry, Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium. We each had our favorite exhibits at the museums and made a point of seeing all of them as part of every visit.

As kids, this helped us understand that others’ wishes were as important as our own. Dad was able to translate or explain anything that was above our age level.

Do today’s children’s museums reflect parents’ ignorance or unwillingness to keep learning and growing? I think they shortchange both children and the adults who accompany them.

— Muriel Balla, Chicago

A home for disputed statues

In reading Rick Steve’s article about Budapest (“Visitors soak up Budapest’s thermal baths,” June 2), I was impressed to learn that this Eastern European country has seemingly handled the display of controversial historical statues in an innovative way: It has a Memento Park where its Soviet-era statues are displayed.

Perhaps American cities could designate similar parks where all of our controversial yet important historical statues could be displayed together. This would acknowledge that these people and these issues did, in fact, exist without unduly “honoring” them.

— Deanne Born, Barrington

Dining in frigid conditions

Why do so many restaurants waste their own money by deep-freezing their dining rooms with air conditioning set so cold?

Save the money and be more ecologically minded, restaurants!  And you’ll have the added benefit of allowing your customers to be more comfortable.

— Douglas Peterson, Naperville

Boomers living dangerously

The nurse poked her head into the room and with a cherry voice announced, “Put your cigarettes out, ladies. We are bringing in the babies now!”

Not only was it common to smoke in the maternity ward in 1974, but we also all smoked throughout the entirety of our pregnancies. And we took aspirin for headaches. And we enjoyed the occasional glass of wine. And if you tried to take away our morning cup of coffee, you’d likely be drawing back a bloody stump, as the old joke goes.

Millennials shake their heads in disbelief and ask, “Didn’t you even care about your unborn children?” Of course, we did. But back then, no one knew that smoking, and aspirin, and alcohol, and coffee were bad during pregnancy. Or at least, they never told us. (“They” refers to scientists and doctors, and “us” refers to boomers.)

Millennials have also been known to shake their heads in dismay when asking, “Why didn’t boomers wear helmets when they rode their bikes?” Well, I have a good excuse for that, too. There were no bike helmets. And had I chosen to wear one, I would have had to persuade a local high school kid on the football team to lend me his.

Millennials also wonder why we boomers never wore seat belts in cars. I have a good excuse for that one, too. There were no seat belts. Early on, some cars did experiment with installing lap belts like the type seen on airplanes. But those were soon abandoned when it was learned that they tended to break the spines of the accident victims. So, then it was back to no seat belts, and I ask: “How could I buckle up if there was no belt to buckle?”

Every generation goes along with the accepted modes of the day. Maybe future generations will choose to wear walking helmets. Then the next generation of young people can marvel at why millennials chose not to don their helmets before stepping out for their morning walks. And then millennials can respond, “But there were no walking helmets!”

— Megan Bedard, Round Lake Beach

Submit a letter, of no more than 400 words, to the editor here or email [email protected].

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