Last night, I was really upset seeing those photos of WVU students not social distancing or wearing masks downtown. I went to bed angry, and I felt that anger rising in me this morning. Instead of indulging the anger like I did last night, I wanted to share some thoughts, not blame.
No one is enjoying this pandemic. No one wants the anxiety, worry, anger, or just plain sadness that has ruled our lives for the past six months. This is not a vacation for anyone. But, when I hear folks call the virus “fake” or “just like the flu”, I cringe. It is a brand new virus. We’re learning about it right now as we go along.
We don’t know the long-lasting effects of this virus. Is it like the flu? My kids get the flu, are miserable for a few days with a high fever and then bounce right back. We know that isn’t COVID-19 because it takes people months to feel normal again, if they recover fully. Is it like the chicken pox? So many of us have had the chicken pox as children… and that virus stays dormant until some of us develop painful shingles in adulthood that rise up due to physical or mental stress. We don’t know. This virus has only existed for nine months. We literally do not have that data. So, when you repeat some stat about who dies from COVID and who doesn’t, remember, death isn’t the only outcome that many of us are worried about.
I don’t want to take school away from our children. I don’t want to take sports away from kids. My kids are missing ballet and karate, but when I ask them if they want to do it in person. with masks and social distancing, they forcefully say no. Maybe you will say that I raised my kids to be scared of everything. I’ve given my children age-appropriate explanations of COVID so they understand what is going on in our world and why we’ve been home for so long. I need to respect their feelings. Feelings are real and you feel what you feel. Tell me and others that we’re taking away from your life is creating more divisions. Mutual respect for one another is so key in this pandemic. (I admit that I have a hard time respecting people who dismiss my concerns… empathy is also key in getting through this pandemic.)
The divisions in our society are so apparent, not just among right and left, science vs. alternative views, but also those that have resources vs. those that do not. I’m tired of people saying they don’t want to talk politics. Friends, *everything* is political. Politics is literally the study of the division of resources and who has control over that distribution. Politics isn’t just who you are voting for, your core beliefs on societal issues and rights, but how we live our every day lives: does everyone have access to a good education? Are some schools better than others? Why do some of our students have to work 2 or 3 jobs where others don’t? Why do some of us have healthcare and others do not? Why can some of us choose to keep our kids at home while others do not have that choice if they want to keep their jobs? If this understanding of what is political offends you, well, then, I don’t know what I can say to get you to understand a basic fact about how politics touches your every day life. You may not read the news, but trust me, every day, you are leading a very political life.
So, these students who chose to go to whatever bar downtown last night did not consider your right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, because they can claim that they *needed* social interaction. But the ramifications are far reaching: How many in the WVU and surrounding Morgantown community will get sick? We saw this happen over July 4th, when COVID positive numbers jumped up in Morgantown. If the university shuts down again, how many students will return to homes that are abusive? How many students will deal with the mental stress of social isolation? (I’ve had these conversations with many students in the spring… it is hard. Our hands are tied. You just need to hope and pray that they reach out to the therapist you suggested they see and not turn to drugs or alcohol or some other option to numb the pain.) How many faculty and staff will be laid off from WVU if we close? If bars shut down again, how many service industry workers will not be able to make rent because they have no income? When this is all over, what will High Street look like? Morgantown?
You’re right. I can’t make you stay home. I can’t make you wear a mask. I certainly can’t make you get a vaccine when a safe one is available. I keep telling myself that I need to focus on my own circle , what I can control, but it is so hard when the blame game persists. We are all dealing with the mental health fallout of this pandemic and the concurrent social distancing/isolation. All I can do is ask you to think about the far reaching effects of your individual choices and actions.