Second & Flume: Bad timing

Losing health coverage before surgery during a pandemic

Melissa Daugherty

By the time you read this, I’ll be recuperating from my second surgery in a month. I won’t go through the whole long and involved story, but I will give you a snippet of the scare that’s kept me preoccupied in recent months.

It began when an MRI showing a mass. That news came at about the worst imaginable time this spring. Before I could follow up with a specialist, I lost my job at the CN&R as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic. Shortly thereafter, I lost my health insurance.

I’m in good company. According to recent reports, between March and early May, roughly 27 million Americans lost employer-sponsored insurance. As of July, 30 million Americans—approximately 20 percent of the domestic workforce—were receiving unemployment benefits.

My heart goes out to the folks who have likewise struggled with medical issues during this already stressful time. I spent more than two months in limbo—not knowing whether or not I was facing a life-threatening condition. That resulted in many sleepless nights roiled by existential dread.

All things considered, though, I’m one of the lucky ones.

I was able to purchase insurance via the federal safety net known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—you know, the law President Trump keeps trying to repeal. Aside from being fairly expensive for an unemployed person, it has allowed me to get treatment and peace of mind.

When it comes to the CN&R, however, the future remains uncertain.

Our advertising base has contracted during this crisis—hence our new monthly publication schedule—as businesses adapt their operations to make them sustainable. Unfortunately, a second shutdown wrought by a surge in COVID-19 cases is likely to pose further complications.

Personally, I’m disappointed in Butte County for not doing enough to mitigate the spread. At the time of this writing, there were more than 900 cases of the virus. Seven people had died as a result of it. Some folks scoff at the mortality rate—just under 1 percent locally, as of deadline—but it’s actually quite high compared with other communicable diseases, including influenza.

For some reason, a lot of people in this region are having a hard time sacrificing for the greater good. I don’t get it. During World War II, Americans planted victory gardens and rationed supplies such as sugar, rubber and oil. Today, we can’t get through a summer without pool parties.

Somehow it hasn’t dawned on certain people that the sooner we adhere to strict social distancing norms and mask-wearing mandates, the quicker we’ll get back to life as we once knew it. Take, for example, the viral video of a woman dubbed Panera Patty, who refused to wear a mask in that sandwich shop adjacent to the Chico Mall.

Perhaps she took a cue from local mask-eschewing representatives—including a couple of City Council members, both of our state lawmakers and, unsurprisingly, Rep. Doug LaMalfa—most of whom also have pushed for early reopening.

In a way, it’s weird that residents of Butte County haven’t come together on this crisis. After living through the Oroville Dam disaster and the Camp Fire, you’d think we’d be better prepared than any community to meet this moment. Still, certain people may begin to take it seriously only after a devastating personal connection arises.

I can’t help but wonder how the return of Chico State students is going to factor into the equation in the coming months. We’re talking about a demographic that generally feels invincible and therefore has the potential to present a super-spreader effect. Local stats appear to bear this out—more than 28 percent of the cases are folks between the ages of 18 and 24.

These are but a few of the things I’m sure will be on my mind as I convalesce in the coming weeks in preparation for returning to the CN&R.

Speaking of the paper, I’ll end on a grateful note. First up, I want to acknowledge the hard work of the staff, especially longtime Arts Editor Jason Cassidy, who’s serving as interim editor. I won’t have seen this issue ahead of publication, but I know it’s in very capable hands.

Second, I want to recognize our readers for their help sustaining our work. We recently launched a new fundraising drive that will allow us to produce two more issues ahead of the general election. Thanks, in advance, for the contributions that will allow me to rejoin the staff and for all of us to continue telling the stories that are critical during this difficult time.

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About Melissa Daugherty 40 Articles
Melissa Daugherty is an award-winning columnist and editorial writer who started her career as a higher education reporter at a daily newspaper. Daugherty spent 13 years at the CN&R, seven as editor-in-chief. Comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable is her super power.

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