The community-wide COVID testing last week felt like the biggest community gathering of the season. Turnout was high, over 620 participants. The results looked positive, (or negative) with minimal incidences of positive cases. Similarly, the school pool testing was all positive, I mean negative — boy is this language confusing! In any case, it was what we wanted — no school-related cases.
There is much to be proud and happy about these findings. It means schools can safely operate with continued safety guidelines. Scheduled outdoor recreational activities can continue. Recognizing that the restaurant and retail sectors are suffocating in another wave of restrictive mandates, the number of infections and deaths keeps rising everywhere, and the reality that there are reported cases occurring, is a grave testament to what a pandemic really means.
In high school, I took vocab. This was a college prep course to help with achievement test scores like the SAT or ACT. We learned how to decipher root words, separating suffixes and affixes to get to the meaning of the words. We learned if the root word was of Latin or Greek origin, or in some rare cases, eastern Slavic or eastern languages. Most of English is Latin- or Greek-based.
“Pan” means “all or all-inclusive” in Greek, or “bread” in Latin. “Dem” means “people” in Greek and has no corollary as a root in Latin, other than the literal translation of spoken Latin of “dem” which is “give.” So, if we look to our roots, we understand that a pandemic is “all-inclusive of people” or “bread giver.”
Let’s take the accepted Greek form. It signifies that the pandemic spares no one, it involves all of us. Even if we don’t physically contract the virus, it’s quite obvious, that in fact, all people are affected by this virus. In practical application, COVID-19/SARS 2 reached pandemic level when the World Health Organization realized it was spreading around the world, very contagious and lethal — elevating it to pandemic level from epidemic, or “around people.” A contagious, deadly disease is our current reality, and we are hard-pressed to escape it.
Now, let’s pretend, for fun, because we all need some fun, that “pandemic” originated from the Latin root “pan” and we can escape into an etymological alternate reality. Bread-giving would be the state of being we are in. Here in the valley, our bakeries would therefore be our chosen places of gathering. From the Mazama Store to Rocking Horse to Cinnamon Twisp, our community would be strong and successful in a bread-giving pandemic.
In our bread-giving pandemic, the chosen fermentation in our fridges would be an Amish sourdough starter as opposed to the half-bottle of wine that gets emptied and refilled, repeatedly, each week. Instead of masks and hand sanitizer, we would wear aprons to wipe floury powdered hands on. Instead of physical distancing, we would break bread together.
Wait a minute, that sort of sounds like what life was like in the valley before the pandemic. So maybe, we’ve been living a “pan-dem-ic” lifestyle all along but speaking the wrong language.