As 2022 begins and the world is once again beset with complications involving COVID-19, this time with the Omicron variant, I find myself pondering many things. At the forefront of my mind is the question, “What is wrong with people?” This one comes up a lot in varying levels of frustration.
There are more people affected by COVID right now than at any other time in this pandemic, the hospitals are just as full as they were in March of 2020, with pediatric admissions up approximately 400%, and yet the least amount of people (or so it seems) are taking it seriously. I keep hearing a variation on, well, we’ll all get it anyway, just get it over with.
The way I’ve always looked at safety measures is that there are many available/possible and, at times, it is reasonable to utilize all of said safety measures, at other times, less safety measures. I think it is important to review actual data to evaluate and rank safety measures, especially when considering the source. It bothers me when some people want to pin one or more safety measures as more or most important when it is the layering of the measures that are more effective overall. Nuances are more difficult to understand or advocate for, I know, but this isn’t a black and white situation in my opinion.
For us, when the risk to one age group or another category increases, then we look at making adjustments for those who are most at risk. In the initial wave, the 65+ age group and perhaps the youngest children were most at risk and we considered that. For me, having the underlying condition of active cancer prior to and during the entire pandemic, I’ve always been at high risk and we’ve adjusted/considered accordingly.
As my children transitioned back to school from the Winter Break, they did so fully vaccinated and the mask mandate for the adults at least was finally reinstated, and yet it was terrifying for us. While they are in the window for the most vaccine effectiveness, the booster isn’t yet available for their age group. Despite the fact that I have done my best to educate the school, the teachers, and the other parents in my kids’ classes about the danger to me (the data shows about a 50% death rate for those of us with active cancer who deal with COVID infections), we are still experiencing a lack of care and understanding overall.
As Omicron began surging, at the tail end of some of the Delta surges, previously instituted safety measures began to disappear, many after lawsuits designed to punish the people attempting to keep others safe, particularly children. The last few times I was at the boys’ school in December, I was one of the only people in sight wearing a mask (and I was always double masked). While I was able to stay safe in those few times I was on campus to volunteer, my anxiety level was higher than it has ever been and I’ve had to make the decision not to volunteer further until the surge has subsided.
Outside the closed system of the local school system, here in Miami-Dade County, the number of people wearing masks was also plummeting, in the few spaces I had previously considered safe enough for me. Even at my local cancer center, which had instituted safety procedures, both patients and visitors refused to wear masks at times and there was no clear safety protocol for dealing with that until I personally encountered someone who would not wear a mask and raised concerns, which resulted in a protocol communicated by the medical director to all staff via email.
The recent messaging about how the pandemic is now a pandemic “of the unvaccinated,” while perhaps somewhat warranted since so many of the hospitalizations/deaths are now in the unvaccinated populations, yet it ignores the fact the those of us who have done everything to stay safe still face the very real possibility of severe disease and death with breakthrough cases.
And so, where does that leave us?
I have been very disappointed to understand and experience that this “abelist” communication is not so uncommon. Before living with an invisible disability that affects every part of my life, I was not very sensitive to language that sidelines or ignores people with disabilities, as many of us aren’t. Here’s a great article about this concept if you are interested in learning more.
Basically, the current COVID messaging ignores the experiences of those of us with underlying conditions. Initially, by the former administration, the messaging was definitively worse as those of us with underlying conditions were simply written off as casualties without concern. Now, the issue is that we’re simply left out of the discussion.
Is that better?
It’s really not. To be ignored, to have your experience sidelined entirely is no less hurtful since the implication is the same as overt writing off/assumption of death. And this is why the messaging could be termed as “micro-aggressive” towards those of us with disabilities or predisposition to harm.
I haven’t had a lot of experiences with my perspective and my life being written off or assumed as a casualty and it’s hard to explain how difficult it is to discover how self-centered and self-focused the majority of people really are. And it is really hard to find out that to others, the category that I fit into is considered to be not worth consideration.
And so I ponder, what is wrong with people?