This post has been edited/rewritten for clarity from it’s original version with the author’s full permission.
Trigger Warning: Language & Discussions of Death
My husband and I went into social isolation on March 17, 2020.
We went into isolation “early” because I am a part of a vulnerable population. I’ve had Type 1 Diabetes for 29 years this year and I’ve had asthma for around five years. Many of the stats I’ve read and research shared by major medical organizations and trusted groups states that I’m at least three times more likely to die if I contract COVID-19. Way more likely to have COVID long term complications or be a “COVID Long Hauler”. If I were one of the lucky to survive, the chances that I would make it out without at least some serious complications are slim.
I am not writing that out because I want your pity. I am writing it out because it’s important to me that you can put a face, my face, with statements that I’m hearing/seeing being shared.
You know someone like me. Someone who doesn’t “look sick” who deals with a health concern that puts them in a high risk category. You probably know several people who fall into a higher risk category you can see also (such as anyone older than 50).
When you say it is your right not to wear a mask, you are correct. You have the right to put yourself in danger. That said, your mask is more of a protection for the people around you, so you’re actually putting other people in danger by not wearing one. You don’t have the right to put other people in danger. That’s why we don’t allow people to drive when they’ve been drinking.
This pandemic has become a political discussion, when it should be a people discussion. Our collective health and well being, as a nation, is in more danger than ever before. The virus, the death count, our overwhelmed health care system, and the financial ruin health care bills will leave for millions when this is all said and done are reasons enough to show caution. They’re more than enough reasons to do whatever we can to stop COVID.
People I’ve known for many years and have always thought were reasonable have posted about their rights being taken away when they are required to wear masks. There is outrage about vaccines and wondering aloud how employers can make things mandatory. They’ve questioned if all of this is worth the income they’re losing. They’ve griped about the government infringing on them and they’ve said they don’t understand what the big deal is. They’ve posted pictures where they haven’t socially isolated from people they care about, because, why would they do that? They feel fine.
But anytime someone questions the validity or shares misinformation, even just wondering in a public forum if it’s true, I find myself overwhelmed with one of the stages of grief. I never get to acceptance. I continue to hold out hope that my belief in the goodness of all people will win. That hope is more strained all the time.
Now, while millions of people are awaiting the vaccine, and we’re having the deadliest days in American history, I continue to hear people question if the science is real. If this is really necessary when “only a few” die from the virus. We are still having this conversation, so many months in. But really, it’s only 1%, maybe, of US citizens that will die right? And mostly just the sick and elderly. That’s really not that many? That’s not a big deal, right?
Keeping in mind that 1% of the US population is roughly 3.3 million people, yes, it’s a big deal.
Many people continue to cite the rapid creation of the vaccine as a reason to fear it; others simply share their mistrust of any of the information put out regarding the vaccine. Some argue against vaccines in general and use peer pressure and unsubstantiated rhetoric to ignite fear in other people. The misinformation travels even faster than the virus does.
So this is my challenge to those of you who want to reopen immediately and “get back to normal” without additional precautions in place. Who question the science and validity of the science because your political affiliations don’t like Dr. Fauci. This is my statement to the people saying “We’ll lose a few people but ONLY the sick and the elderly.” Or “The strong will survive”.
I want you to see my face, hear my voice, and listen.
Call me and tell me why I don’t deserve to live.
If the economy is the most important piece; if it is truly just a numbers game, if the “strong will survive”…imagine having to look someone in the face and actually say that: “You don’t deserve to live”.
If I’m not available to take your call, I have hundreds of people (friends, family, my spouse, etc.) you can call. I’m very fortunate to have lived a life filled with wonderful people. If you can’t imagine delivering that statement, “Your friend, sister, daughter, wife, granddaughter, niece, etc. doesn’t deserve to live,” then it’s time to stop delivering unhelpful rhetoric regarding vaccines and pull your mask back up over your nose.
For the record, I don’t necessarily care if other people choose not to get the vaccine, with some exceptions (those in direct lines of healthcare, those working in care facilities, teachers, etc.). You do have the right to choose what goes into your body, and I believe that stands for everyone. I’ll be getting my shot. I hope to see you there, even if it’s not to save yourself. Even if you “don’t know for sure” the virus is a real threat. I hope your empathy wins if you can’t reckon with the science.
Also, I recognize this is incendiary. If you don’t believe the stats on masks and vaccines saving lives, then I’ll be forced to appeal to your humanity. I recognize that I’m making the choice to stay very socially isolated and we’ll probably be okay because of that. But every time you or someone you know chooses not to wear the mask, or chooses not to self-isolate, or chooses to continue spreading misinformation and doubt about the vaccine, you’ve made a choice to bring that virus closer to my door. You make a decision that those of us that are already fighting every day don’t deserve to live.