I’m Angry That People Aren’t Taking COVID-19 Seriously

covid

Image Description: A person with light skin, brown hair, and brown eyes looks into the camera while wearing a blue mask with small white flowers. Public domain image.

I’m angry that many people aren’t taking COVID-19 seriously.

This is causing severe effects on individuals, families, and whole communities. And some of it — in some places, even a lot of it — could be avoided if people would take this seriously. They haven’t, and some still won’t; here we are.

— I’m very close to a couple that lives in San Antonio. She works for the city government, and he is an Emergency Department physician. After the governor in Texas was determined to open quickly, and after he signed an order that cities were not permitted to take any action on their own to limit or close establishments and events, their numbers of cases and their numbers of hospitalizations are skyrocketing. And… people aren’t numbers. They are grandparents, parents, siblings, children, friends, and neighbors. They are people in their 30s who die unexpectedly and unnecessarily.

The door was opened for people to go about their routines with few if any limits, and people did it. Some workers are forced to do so economically; others are careless about putting workers and neighbors at risk. This has serious effects: Last week, the governor in Texas put a halt on elective surgeries in order to make more space within hospitals to treat COVID-19. Given the numbers, this is the right decision now, but it’s a situation that could have been avoided. Elective surgeries are not insignificant surgeries. To give only one example, I work with people who have epilepsy. For some, when they’ve become a candidate for epilepsy surgery, it’s because medications aren’t working, and they are having uncontrolled seizures. Without surgical options, some of these individuals are at risk for SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy). The surgery might not be life or death in this precise moment, but these individuals are living at higher risk when their surgery options are prolonged. The same is true, of course, for many other medical conditions. As my friend said, “How is it okay to keep people from elective surgeries (which are often medically necessary and important), yet it violates individual liberty to wear masks?”

This makes me angry.

— Closer to home for me, a couple of days ago, I tuned into the podcast This American Life, and I was surprised to discover they just released an entire episode spotlighting COVID-19 treatment at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. At the Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan, I work alongside a number of physicians, therapists, and staff at that hospital. I respect them deeply, and I felt that all the more as I listened to the care that people are providing within this hospital.

This episode told such human stories. It brought home several things that I already knew, but I felt them even more deeply: COVID-19 is a serious illness; it is impacting entire communities and cities at alarming rates, particularly among Black and brown people; and it is harming frontline care workers as some contract the illness and as many are traumatized by what they see. “I’ll probably have PTSD after this,” one physician said. They are running low on personal protective equipment, and they are devastated as they seek to provide comfort and dignity to people hospitalized alone.

This makes me angry.

— Yesterday, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) said an alarming statement. Before clicking on the article I saw, I shook my head at the title. “The CDC says U.S. has ‘way too much virus’ to control pandemic as cases surge across country.” This is not comforting. Here’s a quote from Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC:

“We’re not in the situation of New Zealand or Singapore or Korea where a new case is rapidly identified and all the contacts are traced and people are isolated who are sick and people who are exposed are quarantined and they can keep things under control… We have way too much virus across the country for that right now, so it’s very discouraging.”

It is very discouraging, and this makes me angry.

You know me: I look things square in the eye and dare to be hopeful, though not unrealistic or pollyanna. We can have positive effects in each other’s lives. This is not the moment to become so discouraged that we to throw our hands up in the air and think we can’t make choices that save lives. We can.

But am I angry? Yes, I am.

When we don’t take COVID-19 seriously,
people die unnecessarily,
people survive with complications and new, life-long associated illnesses,
people can’t visit their loved ones in nursing homes and memory care, and
people die alone.

When we don’t take COVID-19 seriously,
people lose their jobs,
people are forced to work in ways that compromise their health,
people lose funding for the nonprofits and organizations that help, and
people can’t pay their bills.

When we don’t take COVID-19 seriously,
people stay isolated even longer,
people forgo touch and hugs (It’s been 100+ days since I’ve had a hug)
people cannot visit their families and closest friends, and
people develop mental health challenges.

Please take this seriously. Our actions and our inactions have huge effects on the lives of those around us, as well as our own. Social scientists have discovered that we are always impacting and being impacted by three degrees of separation. Our actions impact our friend’s-friend’s-friends, and our friend’s-friend’s-friends are impacting us. When you do the math (I’ll link more about this here –>) you impact on average 8,000 people every day of your life.

As much as we take this seriously, we also add real, tangible hope. We can care for our neighbors. We can care for ourselves. Yes, it’s a bummer, but stay home when you can. Wear masks when you can. It saves whole lives and whole livelihoods.

-Renee Roederer

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