We Have A Responsibility to One Another; Don’t Ignore It

The other day I circled through the neighborhood to pick up kiddos after school and noticed 10 or so middle-school kids engaged in a game of football. No social distancing, no masks in sight. Lots of tackling and rolling around on the ground, though.

You might imagine my general disappointment and frustration was magnified after I realized one of those kiddos, one I thought understood the situation better, was one of mine. 🤦‍♀️

“How is this different from soccer?” kiddo inquired, genuinely confused. It’s a legitimate question from someone whose team has been practicing and playing throughout the worsening pandemic. (Two of our four are, actually, despite my inclination toward less exposure.)

But that was the wrong question. What we need to ask ourselves at this point is broader:

What are the risks versus the rewards of gathering with people from outside my home?

What is considered “essential” right now?

What needs to shift in my or my family’s behavior?

What can I do to not just help limit my own chance of becoming sick, but to actually help protect the people around me?


The COVID situation is getting exponentially more dire by the day. Remember when Dr. Fauci suggested the U.S. could see 100,000 new cases a day if the trajectory didn’t shift? That was June 30. Today, we’re approaching 200,000 cases a day. Hospitals are full. Deaths are skyrocketing; just yesterday the CDC predicted the total number of deaths could reach nearly 300,000 in the next three weeks.

Then winter descends, and it will get even worse.

And yet, some folks refuse to follow the basic guidelines of avoiding gatherings, staying home when not feeling well and, the simplest one, wearing a mask. I’m baffled. And sad. Angry. Increasingly disheartened. Increasingly uncomfortable.

Y’all, what’s it going to take? Is there a particular number that will be no longer “acceptable?” Is there a need to be personally touched by the unimaginable to comprehend the severity of what’s going on?

The greatest obstacle preventing us from getting any meaningful traction in fighting COVID is the wildly inconsistent, even contradictory, guidance coming from nearly every level of government.

In almost the same breath, it’s: “Get the kids back to school!” but “Don’t do Thanksgiving with anyone outside your immediate household; no gathering is safe.”

It’s: “Come get your hair cut! Eat at our restaurant! Just wear a mask, it’s totally okay!”, yet my kids’ pediatricians (that’s them in the attached photo… hi, Dr. Plax!) are shielded in head-to-toe PPE – gowns, surgical or N95 masks, protective eyewear and face shields – to see patients not in the ER, but in the office.

Where I live in St. Louis, indoor and outdoor youth sports are still going strong, with kids not required to wear masks while playing; but 15 minutes east across the Mississippi River in Illinois, all sports and recreation – indoor, outdoor, youth, adult – is suspended.

Why is this? It’s certainly not because the virus in Illinois acts any different than the virus in Missouri.

The inconsistency is, in large part, because of differences in ideology. Coronavirus is not political – and yet the patchwork county-by-county, state-by-state response to it has most certainly been politicized. Democrat-led counties and states are more likely to have enacted mask mandates, suggest that schools go virtual, and set restrictions on gatherings, activities, etc.; Republican leaders have been reluctant to do that for fear of encroaching on personal freedom. (That may be beginning to shift, however; just this week Iowa’s Republican governor issued a statewide indoor mask order.)

Sadly, people are seeing the same set of basic facts – I mean, statistics don’t lie – but somehow they’re getting twisted into disparate realities.
But here is what’s indisputable:

• There is a deadly, invisible virus circulating in the air around us.

• We don’t yet have a prevention or a cure – though, fingers crossed, a vaccine for the general population could be available by spring.

• The level of risk for different populations may vary, but there is some risk for everyone. And, even for mild cases, we don’t fully understand the long-term health consequences.

• Hospitals, doctors and nurses across the country are at a breaking point.

• It’s all going to get worse before it gets better.


WE CAN HELP THIS. We can and we must.

Proactively addressing the threat of COVID is not about restricting personal freedom. It’s not about canceling the holidays or destroying the economy or ruining children’s futures.

It’s about rallying together to take short-term, community-minded protective measures in order to curb a large-scale global disaster.

It’s about willingly coming to a common definition of the word “essential” — at least for now.

It’s about making near-term sacrifice for long-term health and prosperity.

Frankly, it’s about giving a damn, which means shifting our behavior close to home – one household, one family, one neighborhood at a time – for the broader goal of saving lives near and far.

As much as we hated to, hubby and I just canceled plans for a road trip over Thanksgiving. It was going to be just the two of us and the dog, in the car, headed to an Airbnb in the mountains of Colorado. Outside of encounters at the gas station and grocery store, we planned to see no one but birds and elk and prairie dogs. But the experts say “Stay Home” and so we’re doing just that.

I saw a quote the other day – “A Zoom Thanksgiving is better than an ICU Christmas” – and I can’t help but think of how many unnecessary tragedies families are going to endure over the next several months simply because our collective patience is wearing thin.

Please, everybody. We’ve all got skin in this game, and we all have a responsibility to one another. I beg you: Don’t turn your back on it.

When schools return all virtual, and I predict most of them will after Thanksgiving, let’s take a breath and try make the best of it. When things get canceled, let’s have some patience and perspective about why. When we run out of toilet paper and hand sanitizer again, and it takes days to get a grocery order, let’s share. When someone is scared, let’s show compassion. When someone is struggling, whether financially or physically or emotionally, let’s help. Those times are coming back if they haven’t already.

Until then, do the things that only you can do: Reduce contact. Wear a mask. Make sure the youngsters really understand the importance of these actions. If we don’t, some of us won’t get a second chance.

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