top of page

The Great Culling in the Time of Coronavirus

Libraries call it “weeding” the collection when going through and discarding old, damaged, unused, irrelevant, or out-of-date books. 


Gardeners call it “thinning” plants in a row of seedlings so that the remaining ones will have less competition for water, nutrients, and room to grow. They also “weed” unwanted plants that can choke out the wanted ones. 


In 4-H or Future Farmers of America (FFA) livestock shows, it’s called “sifting” potential show animals for eligibility, which involves meeting a minimum weight and other standards. 


In competitive sports, it’s called making “cuts” when there are more trying out for a team than there are spots available.


In the livestock business, it’s called “culling” when removing inferior animals from a herd to keep the undesirable traits from propagating. Colleges even use the same term when it comes to limiting applicants to only those that meet certain criteria. 


Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection states that the strongest are the ones who survive. Although Covid-19 has resulted in many more people experiencing minor or no symptoms rather than serious illness, the virus also takes deadly advantage of the elderly and the many with underlying health conditions and compromised immune systems, which has devastated so many lives. But when some say the culling of the weaker older ones in our society is a sacrifice that has to be made in order to save the economy, we’ve lost our compassion for a large segment of our population. Why can’t we save both?


Someone told me a few months ago that wearing masks prevents herd immunity, which is achieved when 70 percent (1) of the population has been infected and ultimately slows or stops the spread of the virus. If no vaccine were developed and at the rate Covid-19 spreads, herd immunity will not occur until after 2021. 


As I checked on September 29, 2020, almost 7.2 million Americans have tested positive for the coronavirus and almost 206,000 have died (2). That number will be much higher by the time you read this. But when you convert herd immunity to actual numbers rather than percentages, that means over 200 million Americans would have to get the virus, and with its mortality rate, over half a million (500,000) Americans would die. (1) Herd immunity should not be something we strive for. The cost is too great. 


Recently, misinterpretation about the CDC’s number of deaths and that only 6 percent of the death certificates reported Covid-19 as the only cause of death led many to believe that the numbers of deaths attributed to the virus were greatly exaggerated. But that isn’t the case. This video (thank you, RJ), CDC 6 Percent Covid Death Rate, explains the numbers well, and it’s worth listening to until the end. It is nonpartisan, so don’t avoid it for that potential reason. 

It’s easy to be callous with percentages and numbers when Covid-19 deaths haven’t impacted you personally or if your contact with the virus has only been mild. It’s easy to discount the science and the facts when we think we have to filter everything through our political views and take sides, right or wrong. But none of us can deny that a great tragedy is occurring in our country this year on many levels: 

    • An apolitical, emotionless, invisible organism is culling our population and devastating hundreds of thousands of families and circles of influence.

    • Businesses small and large are fighting to survive, and too many are going under.

    • Schools have had to create new paradigms of learning, which has worked well for many, and not so well for many others, especially those parents who have to go to work and can’t stay home to home-school their children. Thank you, grandparents and friends who are stepping up to help. Thank you, educators, for going the extra hundred miles to make all of this work as best as it can.

    • Millions of people are out of work; financial resources are drying up; and many are losing their homes.

    • Even healthy minds are feeling the stress of isolation and lack of physical contact and community, but it’s overwhelming for those who were mentally struggling before the pandemic.

    • A war over one’s civil rights by not wearing masks versus wearing masks has strained social civility. Respect and consideration toward others' health should be nonpartisan.


To get through this time, it helps me to put things in perspective. Look around to see how others are coping or adapting in this shifting world. I see Hertz rental vans delivering packages in my neighborhood. The owner of a bed and breakfast a block away rented out her pool by the hour for individuals, families, or very small groups since our public pool remained closed during the warm months. When jobs in one sector slowed, other sectors have sky-rocketed. 


I believe that if it hadn’t been for the pandemic, which showed that many people can do the same quality of work from home as on-site, my son-in-law wouldn’t be taking his DC job with him when he and my son move to another state. New models of business and worship and education and more are emerging, which tells us a creative, entrepreneurial, hopeful spirit is alive and well in the world today. 


Another way to put the pandemic in perspective is to see historically how people went through life-altering times of difficulty and survived. Up until the late 20th century, people didn’t have the extraordinary technological tools that we have today. I’m so grateful we have instant messaging, FaceTime, Zoom applications, and such to communicate with. If we cannot see how fortunate we are to live in this time with the tools we have to cope with the changes the pandemic has brought to our lives, we need to do some serious mental recalibration. 


During this pandemic, some good words to remind ourselves are: “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” (3) Of course that was a fictional Christopher Robin talking to an imaginary Winnie the Pooh, but A.A. Milne’s words from the 1920s still apply to us all. 



Donna Van Cleve

October 2020

Current Events; Pandemic

Casey family photo taken by Joe or Lance Casey; faces blurred by me to illustrate a point







3.   Milne, A.A., quote from Winnie the Pooh’s Most Grand Adventure

bottom of page