Right now COVID is severely surging locally and across the country, and infection levels are high. Many readers will want to ignore the rest of this writing; we are exhausted by this unremitting pandemic and many are coping by dissociating. Dissociation is a protective response to trauma, but not a state to live in endlessly, so please tune back in.
I’m writing to say that masking is an intelligent, adaptive, compassionate practice. If you’ve stopped, it’s never too late to start again.
When this country first introduced laws against drinking and driving, as well as laws enforcing seat-belt wearing, people were outraged by their “personal freedoms” being infringed upon. Nowadays, these safety measures are common sense. People who refuse them are understood to be acting irresponsibly, compromising their own and others’ safety.
Masking within a pandemic of a dangerous airborne virus is comparable. It’s a demonstration of care for yourself and others. It is not “living in the past,” as some mistakenly believe. It’s adapting to our reality and a near future where climate change will necessitate more masking as we navigate other pandemics and wildfire smoke.
These are not pleasant truths, but we must be willing to face and adjust to them; our collective survival depends on actively caring for one another in tumultuous times.
It’s now well-known that COVID causes lasting damage to all major organ systems. It also suppresses the immune system very similarly to HIV, and each reinfection leaves you more susceptible to long COVID and other serious illnesses. Over 18 million Americans are living with long COVID; that number is steadily rising. If you read about people suffering from long COVID — which I highly encourage — you wouldn’t wish it on yourself, and you’d certainly not want to be culpable for someone else developing it.
Taking COVID precautions protects the most vulnerable among us. Sadly, individualistic thinking has caused most to “move on,” to stop considering the most vulnerable, simultaneously separating themselves from this category. It’s imperative for people to understand that everyone is vulnerable to long COVID, including children. One in 6 children who catch COVID develop symptoms of long COVID.
Children are our future; they deserve a chance at healthy, long lives, and adults are responsible for ensuring this. We must advocate for science-based precautions in schools, which are hotbeds for virus transmission. Better equipping them to mitigate COVID spread would be a boon for overall public health.
Linked here is a letter by Michael Hoerger outlining recommendations for how schools can keep kids safe: [avl.mx/dag]. Everyone should share this with school administrations and anyone who might have influence or decision-making authority when it comes to safety protocols in schools.
For those interested in understanding the immeasurably harmful minimization of COVID’s seriousness in the public sphere, please read this well-researched piece of writing: [avl.mx/dah].
Last, if you feel stuck in dissociation, it’s not surprising in a society that discourages people from feeling deeply. We’ve lost so much to the pandemic, but our culture doesn’t allow space for grieving and instead pushes “business as usual” (read: racialized capitalism).
Please grant yourself permission to grieve. Grief can be a transformative portal into a deeper relationship with oneself and with others; just like this pandemic could be a portal into practicing true reciprocal community care, if we allow it to be.
— V. King