Like many of you, I’ve been glued to my television for days on end now. I’ve watched as the numbers of infected people in our country steadily climbed, and then began skyrocketing.
I’ve also watched the news as “leaders” argue about how best to handle this crisis. Some states are locking down, some are “business as usual”. Some people support closing all nonessential businesses, some do not. Some people are socially distancing…. and some ARE NOT.
The ONE thing that has been a constant in all of this, is that literally every single scientist, doctor, researcher, and healthcare worker has been begging people to STAY HOME. “Flatten the curve”. “Don’t crash the medical system”. “People will die“. And yet, it still doesn’t seem enough for a lot of people to “get it”.
The U.S. Surgeon General is Begging You to STAY HOME
This morning, I listened to the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams, plead with people to STAY AT HOME. He said, “This is going to get bad this week. Right now, everyone needs to be taking the right steps, and that means STAY AT HOME!”
So here I am today, to add my voice to that request. Please. STAY AT HOME. Unfortunately, our governor here in Iowa isn’t sharing that same message. On television, she continually says, “Stay home if you’re sick.” NO. WRONG. People who don’t even know they have it are spreading it. Staying home only if you’re sick is NOT what this is about. STAY HOME and only leave your house when/if you need critical supplies like food or medicine. THAT is the message the Surgeon General of the U.S. is asking us all to heed.
I will admit that just barely more than a week ago, I was one of those people who thought this wasn’t that big of a deal. I did my research, and considered the source of where I was getting my information. I listened to the CDC’s guidelines (at the time). I’m a teacher, and I’ve always believed “knowledge is power”. Yes, a week and half ago, I wasn’t overly worried. Based on the information we were being given at the time, I believed that if we just “washed our hands”, everything would be okay.
We ALL Have to Work Together or Social Distancing Won’t Work
But now, I’ve changed my tune. The current information now available to us cannot be ignored. This IS a big deal. Unfortunately, it seems there are still too many people who aren’t absorbing the facts. And people, how this works, is that if we don’t all do it–and by “it” I mean serious social distancing, this will not work.
I see the the news of hundreds of people on the beaches. I see the pictures of large groups of teens roaming the malls. I hear the stories of families still allowing their kids to have sleep-overs, or hang out at each others’ homes. I even saw a picture from my own small town, of a group of mothers allowing their children to climb on playground equipment right next to the “park closed” sign.
Ignoring the social distancing guidelines jeopardizes us all.
Many of these people seem to think that social distancing doesn’t apply to them because “only the elderly or those with pre-existing conditions” are in jeopardy. This justification is the hardest of all for me to bear. First, it isn’t true. And second, has our country really devolved to the point that we are willing to sacrifice some of our people for our own “right” to be able to still go to the hair salon, the beach or to hang-out with our buddies???
I have to think that perhaps it’s because the people still refusing to stay at home are either in denial, or they haven’t yet been able to personalize the situation. It’s easier to dismiss this warning and go about our own business if it’s not personal to us.
So let me help you make it “personal”.
The Faces of Our Vulnerable
This is my dad. The father I adored and looked up to all my life. He passed away not even 8 weeks ago.. Not from COVID-19, but from a much more common cold virus called metapneumovirus. What happened to him is much like what is happening, and will continue to happen, to many more vulnerable people in our world if we don’t STAY HOME.
My dad was 76, so in the “older” population that the CDC warns about. He also had “pre-existing conditions” that we hear so much about. His lung function was decreased due to COPD.
He was admitted to the hospital in December for complications of his decreased lung function. After almost 3 weeks in the hospital, he seemed to be doing better, and arrangements had been made to transfer him to a skilled care facility, with the goal of doing physical therapy for a couple of weeks to regain his strength, so he could go home again.
It was literally the day before he was to be discharged from the hospital when he unexpectedly took a turn for the worse. A nasal swab revealed that he had picked up the metapneumovirus. While in the hospital, he had contracted a very common cold virus.
I asked the doctor how that had happened, and was told that it is so easy for these viruses to spread. It could have been brought in on someone’s shoes, hands, on his food tray, or by any one of the many visitors, doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, housekeepers, or food delivery workers who came and went from his room on a daily basis. The coronavirus can spread even more easily than this.
The metapneumovirus is not the coronavirus. It’s a common cold virus that circulates widely, and most of us have likely had it. For us, it might cause slight cold symptoms. For someone like my dad, who was “vulnerable” due to his “pre-existing condition”, it was catastrophic.
Instead of the skilled care center for physical therapy that we had previously arranged, now the doctors were suggesting hospice. In a matter of two days everything had changed. Everything.
My dad did move to hospice, where he passed barely 48 hours after arriving, with my sister and I, and our husbands gathered around him watching him struggle to breath. Until he didn’t anymore.
One of the last coherent things I remember my dad saying in hospice was, “What’s happening to me? Is this because of the virus?” Watching someone you love die like this is horrific, and it changes you. You won’t ever be the same person you were before.
Little did we know that while this common virus preyed upon my dad’s vulnerabilities, another much worse and more dangerous virus was already beginning to prey upon other people in our world.
I hope that if you are one of the people who dismisses the STAY HOME plea because you believe this virus is “only” dangerous for the elderly or vulnerable, that you will stop and put a face to the very loved people amongst us who fit into that category. Your “only” is somebody’s everything.
The Faces of Our “Essential Workers”
Not only are our elderly and and medically compromised populations in imminent danger from the coronavirus, but the majority of us have loved ones who can’t stay home, because they are “essential workers”. They are at increased risk as well.
They have to be out, risking their own health in order to protect and provide for us. By simply STAYING HOME and reducing the spread of the virus, we can help them stay safe, and remain healthy, so they can protect our loved ones. We need these essential workers, but they need us, too. We can help them if we STAY HOME.
Is it personal to you, yet? If not, here are the faces of my “essential workers”.
This is my incredibly giving and generous husband. He’s an ICU pharmacist at the largest hospital in our metropolitan area.
Today, while many people are isolating at home, he got up and went to work, to care for the sick, vulnerable and critically ill patients who need him. Perhaps the people he’s caring for are your loves ones? And if they aren’t yet, they could be at some point in the future.
We need to STAY HOME to reduce the spread of the virus, so that he and other healthcare workers can remain healthy themselves, to be able to care for the sick. By STAYING HOME we can also help them by reducing the spread of the virus, and thereby preventing the hospitals from getting so full, that they are unable to care for all who need them.
This is my kind-hearted, brave and beautiful daughter. She is a social worker who makes sure the smallest of our vulnerable population–the children–are safe and protected.
She can check-in on some of her clients by phone or video conference, but not all. Several of the children for whom she is responsible need her to show up in person, and make sure they are safe, healthy and protected.
We can help her, and these children, by STAYING HOME and not spreading the virus to these small and vulnerable young people, their parents, or the social workers that they rely on for support.
There are other people out there who play essential roles right now as well, and those people do not have a choice. They must go out. But unfortunately, there are far too many people going out and about who absolutely do not need to right now. It’s selfish. It’s irresponsible. And it endangers us all.
STAYING HOME may feel like an inconvenience. It’s hard. It’s boring. Maybe you’re going stir crazy.
For many, it’s even more. It’s a hardship. Jobs have been lost, people are scared. Life has suddenly been turned upside down.
I get it. I have skin in this game, too. This part of the national crisis is also personal to me, as many people I love are experiencing hardships right now.
My college son is abruptly transitioning to online-courses after his college, like many others across the country, closed down and moved all learning to distance learning. He had been helping work his way through school as a bartender in a local martini bar in his college town. With the governor’s order that all restaurants and bars shut down operations other than take-out, he is suddenly without the job that he relied on to pay a great deal of his expenses.
Another daughter is also suddenly without a job, at least for awhile. She is a dental assistant, and with the governor’s request that all non-essential medical and dental procedures be delayed to prevent the virus from spreading, but also to preserve the personal protective equipment for the coronavirus situation, her dentist office has temporarily closed down for all but emergency procedures.
Our youngest son is a senior in high school. Like so many other seniors, he is missing out on the last months of this special part of his life. There probably won’t be a prom, and not even a traditional graduation ceremony in May most likely. I’m sad for him. It’s a loss that these seniors deserve to grieve. But, in the grand scheme of this crisis, protecting lives by STAYING HOME is infinitely more important.
As I grieve for the losses and the dangers my family and others are navigating in the face of this crisis, I also struggle with my own emotions that are so tumultuous right now.
I’m a teacher. Teachers all over this country were torn from their students without even a chance to say good-bye, and now we are navigating uncharted territory as we try to figure out how to serve and nurture them from afar. In a recent email from the superintendent of my district, he said it so well. “We are literally building the plane as we fly it.”
We are all building planes as we fly right now. There is so much uncertainty. But amidst all of this worry, fear, and uncertainty is one constant that we know can make a difference right now. The one thing that all of the experts agree on. Just STAY HOME. It matters.
Go to the grocery store or the pharmacy alone or with one other person–not your whole family. Only go out when you have to. Do not allow your kids to socialize at other people’s homes. Do not go to the mall and wander around because you’re bored. Just STAY HOME. Reduce your exposure, and your risk of exposing others. That’s how we change our course. According to the experts, it’s the only way we can change our course at this point.
Yes, this is bad. And today the Surgeon General warned it will get worse before it gets better. But it will get better. And after we’ve protected as many lives as we possibly can, then we can figure out how to put the pieces back together again. Until then. Please. Stay at Home.
Wishing you and your family comfort, peace and good health,