Eep! Eep!

That scratchy sound aptly describes the reaction of many of us when we encounter something unexpectedly unsettling.

That happened with the front page of our Sept. 8 edition: “DuBois Nursing Home reports increase in COVID-19 cases.”

When our friends, neighbors and fellow local residents are stricken, we wince aloud or silently as we focus on the news. The DuBois Nursing Home reports that instances of COVID have risen to 22 among residents and 14 among staff as of Sept. 8.

According to an update posted on the DuBois Continuum of Care website Sept. 14, the DuBois Nursing Home is now reporting 34 confirmed resident cases and 19 confirmed staff cases.

The Sept. 8 story, though serious, was not grim. It detailed illnesses, not deaths or months-long comas to permit artificially assisted breathing via ventilators.

But COVID anywhere close to us is unsettling.

Think, though, about how our reaction has changed in the six months since COVID and “coronavirus” morphed from exotic biological minutiae into economy-wrecking, life-threatening portents of possible doom.

Back then, we were assaulted with doomsday predictions of two million dead Americans as the virus ravaged populations without antibodies to this (to humans) entirely new viral infection — not susceptible to the antibiotics that have tamed, if not eradicated, tuberculosis and Lyme disease or the vaccines that have conferred de facto herd immunity on once plague-like outbreaks of polio or smallpox.

Slowly but surely, we are learning how to live with COVID-19, even as some among us die from its effects — perhaps.

The “perhaps” comes from the penchant of public health officials to declare deaths as COVID-caused when that coronavirus is present, even though the victim might also have suffered from cancer, diabetes, heart disease or influenza.

The “perhaps” also comes about because, in a collective episode of nationwide stupidity, we have allowed our response to this disease to become politicized. President Trump has been notably terrible in this regard, sowing confusion, outright falsehoods and false optimism with dismaying regularity.

But our own state’s Gov. Tom Wolf, though much calmer and soft-spoken, has added to our distrust of official figures by his actions.

Wolf has “trusted the scientists” — only the scientists. Economists, psychologists, educators, law enforcement and food and drink purveyors should also be consulted, because COVID not only makes us sick or dead; it has also upended our entire way of life.

What to do? We can read, perhaps offer a prayer, and then warily return to school, to work, to shopping, to socially distanced restoration of our sense of community.

— Denny Bonavita