Good grief: Apparently, America has yet to move past the anger phase regarding COVID-19.

In 1969, you see, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross described five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

According to Fast Company, researchers from Singapore, China, Australia and Switzerland analyzed more than 20 million Twitter posts from 7 million users in 170 countries to gauge people’s state of mind regarding the coronavirus.

Using keywords such as “Wuhan” and “corona,” they found “sky-high levels of fear” worldwide as COVID-19 emerged because “people were fearful of the virus and shortages of testing and masks.”

Then came anger: “first xenophobia, and then outrage around isolation and stay-at-home ordinances, the expression of which frequently involved colorful cursing.”

Months later, as much of the world returns to some semblance of normal, America remains stuck in the anger phase.


Because, it seems to me, news reports remind us daily we should remain in a high state of terror as the virus continues its spread; because some government leaders keep arbitrarily changing COVID-19 rules, requirements and restrictions; and because millions of livelihoods have been decimated and it’s anybody’s guess how this is going to play out for their future.

I place myself in the “grumpy” phase because my country continues not responding well to the situation.

Rather than unite to defeat this common challenge, we are more divided than ever.

Some of us are still in the denial stage. Cocky, self-anointed experts pontificated well before useful data came in that the novel coronavirus is not much different than the regular flu, which impacts the old and weak every year, and shutting down our economy to contain it was insane.

But as National Geographic reports, “the latest best estimates show that COVID-19 is around 50 to 100 times more lethal than the seasonal flu, on average.”

On the other end of the spectrum are those who’ve way too willingly “accepted” every restriction placed on our freedoms by bumbling political leaders who seem to enjoy their absolute power a little bit too absolutely.

The truth, as always, is somewhere in between these extremes, but we aren’t having much luck locating it. In the midst of a presidential campaign, misinformation and finger-pointing are making the situation worse, not better — and we continue not rising to this unique challenge.

I’m grumpy, because I feel like I’m stuck in the middle of this chaos.

I usually mind my own business in public, but I found myself agitated by a young man at a store who made zero effort to wear a mask. I’ve read the debates about such masks’ effectiveness, but I wear one because it’s a small sacrifice to make in an unusual time.

If that young guy gets covid-19, he’s unlikely to suffer lasting damage. But what if he gives it to an elderly customer who is?

Likewise, I’m agitated by tattletales calling government hotlines, eagerly reporting people and establishments who aren’t following restrictions to a “T” — just as I am by people in such establishments, as pubs, making zero effort to distance and not spread the disease.

Come on, America! We can do better than this.

If we can’t figure out a basic, effective path forward, God help us in navigating larger challenges headed our way.

Good grief!

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Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Send comments to Tom at


I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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