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Opinion: An overarching wish for 2021

This page has used the past several Jan. 1 editions to offer various wishes for the new year in Oklahoma. These have run the gamut from hoping to see the Legislature enact certain policies to keeping fingers crossed for a deep playoff run for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

This time around, one wish dwarfs everything else — an abiding prayer that in 2021, Oklahomans from Guymon to Antlers and from Vinita to Altus will actively do what they can to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. Recent stories by reporters for The Oklahoman — a handful of dozens of stories very much like them — have helped to apply a personal touch to Oklahoma’s grim statistics, which include more than 2,400 deaths directly or indirectly related to COVID-19.

Carmen Forman, writing Dec. 6:

The week before Thanksgiving, Lizanne Jennings’s mother died from complications of COVID-19. Three days later, her husband died from the virus.

A former body builder, Dennis Davis was in great shape, Jennings said of her husband. She recalled he would run up the stairs in their home and then drop and do 50 push-ups. Davis, 60, could easily beat her 27-year-old son, Brayden, in push-up contests.

But shortly after the November election, Davis started exhibiting signs of COVID-19 and later tested positive for the virus, Jennings said in an interview with The Oklahoman.

His condition quickly deteriorated. A few days after testing positive, he was doing 10 push-ups an hour to try to boost his blood flow. But later that day, his blood oxygen levels plummeted.

Anticipating the worst, Jennings called for help.

“When I saw his oxygen and I had to call 911, I knew he was never coming back,” she said. “I’m just glad that I got him for the short time that I did, but I just couldn’t save him.”

The couple had been together for 18 years.

Faith editor Carla Hinton, on Dec. 14:

The family farm northeast of town is filled with memories for Larry Annuschat, 53.

His parents Arthur and Ruth made their living there and that’s where they raised their 10 children, including Annuschat, who was the youngest.

Growing up, jokes and laughter were common in the large family and hard work was a way of life. Annuschat said he and his siblings were grateful that their parents instilled a good work ethic in them so it was no surprise when several continued working together on the farm as adults.

He now recalls those happy times with a catch in his voice. They occurred before COVID-19 struck.

In just three weeks, three of his brothers and a sister died after contracting the virus. Annuschat said he’s relying on his faith and the love and support of surviving family members, friends and his house of worship, Holy Trinity Catholic Church, as he processes the grief.

Nuria Martinez-Keel, in a story Dec. 13:

Melvin R. Todd, Ph.D, died Dec. 2 after testing positive for COVID-19. He was 87.

Born in Oklahoma City in 1933, Todd had an education career that spanned more than four decades and reached the greatest heights of any African American in Oklahoma at the time.

Todd led Northeast High School through court-ordered desegregation as the school’s vice principal in 1968 and principal from in 1969-1971. He set an example for integration work, later teaching courses on the subject at the University of Oklahoma to future teachers. …

Todd became a top administrator for Oklahoma City Public Schools before moving on in 1975 to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. By 1980, Todd rose to vice chancellor for academic affairs, then the highest-ranking educational office held by a Black Oklahoman. ...

Todd contracted COVID-19 while staying at a hospital for other health complications, his daughter said. He spent a week on the COVID-19 floor before a need for beds prompted his transfer to a skilled nursing facility.

He died within a week and a half.

Food editor Dave Cathey, in a column Dec. 16:

Loc Van Le left the world too soon but not before embodying carpe diem better than any poet could ever wax and building a brilliant legacy from equal parts endurance, resolve, and courage.

Despite being born into a wealthy Vietnamese family in Danang in 1945, the Jimmy’s Egg pioneer’s life truly began when he was 30 years old, penniless, homeless and unfamiliar with the language of his new home country.

His death from the coronavirus last Thursday has drawn reaction from all over the local food-service industry. …

As the community mourns a pioneer and the world struggles to cope with the ongoing pandemic, Le’s 75 years of living are testament to a level of endurance we could all use and a determination to build order out of chaos we desperately need.


A Nov. 29 story by reporter Adam Kemp recalled doctors and nurses on May 1 watching a military aircraft flyover meant as a sign of appreciation for their work.

“We looked up and saw this parade in the sky, almost as if it was a ‘Job well done,’” one hospital nurse told Kemp. “But everybody was wrong. Things are worse now than ever.

“And now nobody seems to care at all anymore.” …

The story quoted Dr. Rachel Franklin, medical director for OU Health physicians and family medicine, who said frustrations of health care workers grow as doctors and nurses continue to see people not following or deliberately disobeying guidelines to stay socially distant, wash their hands and wear a mask.

“The mood is bleak,” Franklin said. “Lots has been said about COVID fatigue and we are all sick of it. It makes us feel more invisible, more disrespected, more at risk and it frankly angers us.”


That anger and frustration are evident in local hospitals’ pleas for people to help by wearing a mask in public. An ad campaign by SSM Health St. Anthony drives home the point: “We can’t fight this alone,” said one full-page ad in The Oklahoman. “Please stay home or wear a mask.”

Another: “It’s your choice. Choose Active Responsibility Every day.”

The message in a half-page ad on Dec. 16 was particularly jarring. It asked simply, “Does the Oklahoma Standard still mean something?”

That the hospital felt the need to ask speaks volumes. Our hope for 2021 is that the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

The Oklahoman Editorial Board

The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Kelly Dyer Fry, Publisher, Editor and Vice President of News; Owen Canfield, Opinion Editor; and Ray Carter, Chief Editorial Writer.. To submit a letter to the editor, go to this page or email... Read more ›