Where is Allen Funt and Ashton Kutcher when we need them?

I know this is actually happening.

There is no doubt about it. Absolutely none.

The news reports are real, as are our worries.

Millions of children are out of school. Millions of businesses are in jeopardy.


At the writing of this, there were more than 1 million confirmed cornoavirus cases around the globe and more than 50,000 deaths.

Lord know how high those numbers will be by the time this column reaches you.

I know this is not just a nightmare. We all do.

Still, I can’t help but wondering and hoping this is just some kind of bad joke.

That Ashton Kutcher is somehow trying to revive MTV’s “Punk’d” by pulling the sickest prank the world has ever seen.

There doesn’t seem to be another explanation.

The economy was generally chugging along great just a few days ago. Here in Dayton, people were excited about development downtown and at that fresh life was finally being breathed into the Arcade.

It is inconceivable now that 10 million American workers have filed for unemployment in the last two weeks. In Ohio, 468,414 filed — which is more than the 364,603 filed in all of 2019, state officials have said.

There is no way more than 50,000 people have been killed by a virus hardly anyone was talking about a few months ago.


There is no way that a problem that started in a Chinese seafood and poultry market has closed down much of the developed world.

There is no way that trusted people, those who would know, would have to warn against standing within six feet or each other or encourage people to wear masks.


This must be a joke.

OK, Allen Funt — you can come out now. You got us. We want to smile and be on “Candid Camera.”

We can hope it is a joke and wish it is joke, but the closed businesses, dying, sick and hungry prove that it is not.

History books contain records of plagues, epidemics and pandemic of the past. This one is being compared to the Spanish flu of 1918 to 1920.

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According to an estimate used by the Centers for Disease Control, about 500 million people — one-third of the world’s population at the time — became infected with that virus. Roughly 50 million people worldwide, about 675,000 of them in the United States, died.

According a recent piece by my colleague Tom Archdeacon, 657 people in Dayton perished that year and 44 more died in January 1919.

Dayton's Health Commissioner, Dr. A. O. Peters, closed schools, theaters and churches to stop the spread of the disease, according to Jackie Frederick's "An Epidemic Checked: A Chronicle of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic in Dayton, Ohio." Saloons, soda fountains, and poolrooms followed, as did other places people gathered for "non-essential activities," says the report published on Dayton History Books Online.

Certainly some of those people thought the flu had to be a joke. We know it wasn’t, and isn’t. We see it happening.

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Ohio, a state that took drastic steps to limit the community’s activities, had 81 deaths and at least 2,902 cases of coronavirus case Thursday. Six days before there were 19 deaths and 1,137 confirmed cases.

Make no mistake. This new reality is a nightmare, but it won’t be the reality forever.

Our schools, and our modern-day saloons, soda fountains, and poolrooms will reopen and nonessential activities will resume. We will stand shoulder to shoulder again one day at concerts and in long lines for grub at food-truck rallies.

Fear and suspicion will not poison the air and we will shake hands, hug and smile with or without Allen Funt and Ashton Kutcher.

I am not joking. It is going to happen.

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