News to know: COVID claims a Congressman-elect, pandemic politics and word(s) of the year

Congressman-elect dies of COVID-19 days before being sworn in – Luke Letlow, 41, was supposed to be sworn in to the U.S. House of Representatives on Sunday. Instead, his family is planning his funeral. The 9th-generation Louisianan had just won the runoff for the House seat on December 5. He announced on December 18 that he tested positive for COVID-19. He was hospitalized on Dec. 19, then transferred to ICU on December 22 when his condition worsened. Letlow died Tuesday evening. He had no underlying conditions. CNN reports that there were 124,686 coronavirus patients in hospitals Tuesday, the most reported on a given day during the pandemic. (Politico, NPR, New York Times)

Pandemic politics driving health care workers away – Rural health care workers are leaving small towns because of COVID-19. Not because people aren’t sick. Not because the health care workers have “given up.” They’re leaving because of the deep divide between medical workers and the ‘toxic individualism’ that turned those workers into “the enemy.” Public health administrators in rural America have had to hire armed guards. They’ve gotten death threats. And they can’t do it anymore. More than a quarter of all public health administrators in Kansas are gone this year. Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association, says, “It’s been a terrible, an absolute terrible, no good year for rural health.” (NPR)

Word of the year – Usually when people talk about a “word (or phrase) of the year,” it’s one they choose at the beginning of the year. Grace, grit, gratitude – something aspirational. This year, though, with 2020 hindsight, people are choosing a word or phrase for the year that just ended. Unprecedented. Doomscrolling. Pandemic. Words that are unprintable in family-friendly publications. The Washington Post asked their readers for input and over 2,000 responded. They responded with words like “chaotic” and “exhausting,” “ugh” and “dumpster fire.” They also included “fallow,” “limbo,” “transformative,” and “crescendo.” The best summation, they wrote, came from 9 year-old Clarke Smith. It’s “like looking both ways before crossing the street and then getting hit by a submarine.” Boyd Matheson, Opinion Editor for the Deseret News, says he thinks the top words of the year are “resilience” and “humility.” I think mine might be “reset.” What is yours?