I have a bit of a cautionary tale for the weekend – and yes, I’m afraid my #1000Speak post has been delayed by a week since this past week turned out to be more hectic than expected, and I’ve little free time this coming weekend. Although perhaps this post can function as a poor substitute the the meantime?
As many of us here in the US welcome the warmer weather with a loosening of pandemic restrictions, and with many of us now fully vaccinated, the hostility towards remaining restrictions, particular for businesses, is also on full display. Living in a state that’s big on less government interference – except when it suits them – that chose to override health department warnings and local governments to block further mask mandates by government agencies except for exceptions like courts, schools, etc (a clearly performative move), I now find that, despite corporate requirements clearly posted, many people don’t bother with masks, or distancing anymore. I find it more saddening than anything else.
Since the start of the recognition of the serious threat posed by COVID-19, a bit more than a year ago, I’ve been struck by the amount of resistance I’ve seen to the simple request to wear a mask when you are indoors in a public space, or outdoors unable to distance. Early on, I was high risk – both for infection and for complications – and, although I masked up & social distanced when out (and we didn’t venture out much), I still did my own weekly food shopping. So, cautious, but possibly less than ideal in the eyes of my doctor. Over the past year my spouse and I know several people who contracted the virus. A few had mild symptoms, a few had/have “long covid”, a couple became ill enough that they passed away. We were fortunate.
But now, over a year later, my generally cautious younger daughter has tested positive for the virus while between vaccine doses. Where from? Who knows. Her job is public facing, but she wears a mask. At home, with her friends and housemate, she does not. Her housemate, who exhibited similar, but stronger, symptoms a few days earlier, has tested negative. He left for an out of state road trip with friends around the same time his symptoms started, and now he’s home, still ill, and quarantining. It’s possible that her test was a false positive (although rare with the test used). It’s possible his was a false negative (a somewhat higher chance with the rapid test). The good news is that neither of them is very ill, although both have coughs. Most likely, the “between vaccine” timing worked in my daughter’s favor at keeping the symptoms relatively mild. They’re fine, and hopefully so will be any exposed friends.
The thing is, though, that we still seem to be operating under the myth that younger adults don’t need to be concerned. We also forget that symptoms vary and that having a bad sore throat with your cough does not necessarily guarantee it’s not covid. Nor does a lack of fever. We still work, travel and go out while ill, thereby raising the risk for others of whatever we came down with. That behavior a year ago likely led to at least one young adult I know coming down with the virus – and lingering after effects; and that behavior has led to the spread of many viruses over the years. It’s almost as if we have not learned much of anything by living though a global pandemic. And we are not about to make any behavioral changes.
Until enough of us have been vaccinated to come close to herd immunity – and enough of us receive recommended boosters – we need to remain aware. Not living in fear, but living consciously with the knowledge that in this, as in most things, what we do has an impact on other people. We are asked to mask up not only to protect ourselves, but to help protect others that we come in contact with. Our choices have impacts that we may never see – but that does not make them less impactful. And although our inherent compassion compels us to do for others, we sometimes don’t realize that helping to protect those we come in contact with is an act of compassion.
Perhaps more importantly for us as a nation, societies form for the common good of their members, and the level of selfishness that has been on display over the past year has been deeply troubling – and disheartening. To borrow a though from Horace Mann:
Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves. We must purposely be kind and generous, or we miss the best part of existence. The heart which goes out of itself gets large and full. This is the great secret of the inner life. We do ourselves the most good doing something for others.
Selfishness in the face of a national crisis hurts not only others, but ultimately ourselves – and our society.
Hudson River from Milton Landing, July 2020.