Walkin’ It Out
Immunocompromised. I only say it quietly, even in my mind. Coronavirus could hear. It might pick up even the faint whisper. It could come after me, track me down or sic someone on me. And one is all it takes.
One chance meeting.
One sneeze hanging in the air.
One coronavirus infection.
One badass case of COVID-19.
One more potential death.
The “ones” apply not just to the immunocompromised, like me, but to anyone and everyone. My quiet mind keeps coming back to this.
I have rheumatoid arthritis. I take heavy-duty medications to dampen the pain, but even with them I deal with pain every single day. In medical terms, they “impair my immune response.” Which means I am more likely to be infected with coronavirus, which is more likely to develop into COVID-19, which is more likely to be severe, which makes it more likely I’d need a ventilator to survive.
I don’t tell you this for the sake of sympathy. I have a disease. Some people have this or other diseases that are much worse.
I tell you because it will provide some perspective regarding my thoughts on coronavirus, COVID-19, states “reopening” and people who refuse to social distance or wear masks in public.
The Republican governor of my state reopened a little more than a week ago. In doing so, he commended citizens for exercising “personal responsibility” in following his coronavirus/COVID-19 guidelines in previous weeks. He said this amidst a continuing rise in the state’s coronavirus cases and COVID-19 deaths. As of this writing (May 16, 2020), the number of cases in North Dakota continues a general climbing trend.
The next day a woman celebrated her re-found liberation on Facebook. She was excited about jumping back into pre-coronavirus normal, she said, more than ready to go to stores and restaurants and bars. Since she was healthy, she wouldn’t need to wear a mask to do it.
I could not believe I had to say this yet again –
All it takes is one person with coronavirus, like you or me, to infect dozens or even hundreds of other people. It doesn’t matter if you test negative. The test is simply a snapshot in time; at any time – from the moment a test is completed – you can become infected and begin infecting others, even if you have no symptoms yourself. Every day you get out of bed and feel good could still be your first full day of infection. And maybe you feel you don’t need to worry about yourself, but what about the dozens or even hundreds of people you come in contact with every week? You can still be spreading coronavirus to them, and each one could infect dozens or hundreds more. This is not just willful ignorance; it’s absolute disregard for the health and safety of everyone around you.
One thing I didn’t write in my response is that wearing a mask is as much about protecting other people as it is about protecting oneself.
Something tells me she wouldn’t have cared much, anyway.
A few days later, someone else posted this:
As governors are trying to figure out how to ease back into a new normal, please remember:
- Some people don’t agree with the state opening … that’s okay. Be kind.
- Some people are still planning to stay home … that’s okay. Be kind.
- Some are still scared of getting the virus and a second wave happening … that’s okay. Be kind.
- Some are sighing with relief to go back to work knowing they may not lose their business or their homes … that’s okay. Be kind.
- Some are thankful they can finally have a surgery they have put off … that’s okay. Be kind.
- Some will be able to attend interviews after weeks without a job … that’s okay. Be kind.
- Some will wear masks for weeks … that’s okay. Be kind.
- Some people will rush out to get their hair or nails done … that’s okay. Be kind.
The point is, everyone has different viewpoints/feelings and that’s okay. Be kind. We each have a different story. If you need to stay home, stay home. But be kind. If you need to go out, just respect others when in public and be kind! Don’t judge fellow humans because you’re not in their story. We all are in different mental states than we were months ago. So remember… BE KIND!
It’s a nice set of sentiments, and I agree it is important to be kind, now more than ever.
But I must confess:
It’s difficult for me to fight through frustration and fury to get to kindness when people either are willfully ignorant, truly not bright enough to grasp the magnitude of what is happening or just don’t give.
It is decidedly NOT OK to have voluntary surgery, attend interviews or rush out to get hair or nails done right now, and unless the “viewpoints” are science-based, they carry zero weight.
Really listen to medical experts and scientists, and you’ll hear the hard facts: you risk yourself and others every single time you come near another person, and right now coronavirus is too prevalent to risk it.
This is not a matter of kindness, common courtesy or consideration. It’s a matter of life and death.
Because all it takes is one.
Why can’t people understand that judgements about what is good for society often are not good for individuals?
Once decision-making moves beyond yourself and the people you’d truly take a bullet for, a whole slew of considerations that have nothing to do with your health and wellbeing come into play. It’s an exercise in trade-offs. And, unfortunately, in the case of coronavirus, the trade-offs include factors such as:
- How many deaths are we willing to stomach to get the economy going again?
- How many more people will die if social distancing recommendations/requirements are lifted?
- What categories of people will die if social distancing recommendations/requirements are lifted?
- What will this decision mean for my political future?
Elected officials are actually pondering questions like these, even as the recommendations by medical experts and scientists remain consistent:
- Do not reopen if cases of coronavirus or COVID-19 deaths are increasing.
- Do not reopen if cases have not been dropping for at least 14 consecutive days.
- Do not reopen if you do not have sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) to handle a significant spike in cases.
- Upon reopening, ensure social distancing continues.
So when the government says it’s safe to reopen…
- It does not mean it’s safe for you, business owner, to reopen.
- It does not mean it’s safe for you, citizen, to patronize businesses that do.
- It does not mean it’s suddenly safer for people who already have been risking their lives because of an “essential worker” designation.
Nor does it mean people who refuse to wear masks or social distance deserve kindness.
I remain under self-imposed shelter-in-place rules. I also pay attention to mental health experts who say it’s important to get outside, exercise a little and give my mind a break from the pandemic.
So I walk our two dogs, Zoey and Lucky, as I always have. Two-point-two miles, every day. The fresh air makes me feel better, clears my head, quiets my mind. Sometimes it even blunts the sharp point of fury, if only a little.
From mid-March until mid-April there were few people out there to avoid. When I did see someone, I crossed to the other side of the street to keep 40 or more feet between us, not just 6. By late April there were more people. I began wearing my mask around my neck so that, in addition to crossing the street, I could quickly pull it over my nose and mouth if necessary.
Then, two weeks ago, the Republican governor reopened my state. No longer was I crossing paths with the chance person. People seemed to be jumping out at me from every driveway and around every corner, and I was crisscrossing streets like mad to avoid them. A couple of days ago I counted about 40 people, not including those who drove by with their windows open. Not a single one wore a mask.
I’ve been wearing mine door-to-door.
What to do?
I could quit taking my heavy-duty rheumatoid arthritis medications, remove myself from a high-risk coronavirus/COVID-19 category and hope researchers develop a vaccine quickly. I can’t be off of them for very long, though, maybe a few months to half a year; any longer and I could damage my joints permanently.
That does not appeal to me.
I can hope people choose to apply their vaunted “personal responsibility” to doing what medical experts and scientists are telling all of us.
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