I live in a rural county with a little over 111,000 people. Just over 26% of our population is over sixty-five. I’m one of those older county residents. I know that regardless of how healthy I am, my age puts me at greater risk for serious COVID complications. My husband, who has some underlying health issues, is at an even greater risk.
I try to be very careful when I am around other people. I wear a mask when shopping, and I social distance when I interact with other people. I do this not only for my benefit and the benefit of my husband, but I do it out of respect and concern for others.
Divided Views on COVID-19 and Wearing Masks
So far, we’ve only had 52 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus in our county. No one has died. I understand that for some, the virus threat doesn’t seem very real. Views around here on social distancing and wearing masks pretty much fall on either side of our current political divide.
Until our governor mandated that everyone wear masks inside public places, even some health care providers balked at the idea of requiring masks inside their clinics. Unfortunately, the doctor I was seeing was one of those providers who suggested the virus was “much to do about nothing.” Now I’m looking for a new doctor.
One of the local religious leaders suggested on social media that he didn’t think it was right that our governor was telling people they must wear masks when in public or gathered in groups. I agree that wearing a mask does mean we have to exchange some of our personal freedom for the welfare of others. But what is so difficult about making a small sacrifice to protect other people? Isn’t that what loving “thy neighbor” is all about?
A repair person came to our house last month without a mask and suggested the COVID-19 “thing” wasn’t a big deal in our area. I wasn’t prepared to confront him, so I practiced social distancing instead. In the future, I plan to communicate my expectations about masks when making initial arrangements.
Recently I made arrangements to have my piano tuned. When I called the tuner, he told me that he would be wearing a mask when he arrived. I wore a mask while he was at my house as well. When he finished tuning my piano, he wiped off the keys with rubbing alcohol. I felt as though the tuner’s behavior was both respectful and professional.
With family, communicating expectations have been a bit more delicate. One of our family members and her two young children were planning on coming for an overnight visit in a couple of weeks. Since we first agreed to the visit, we learned more about the pandemic, it’s spread, and the concerning behaviors of our would-be visitors. We had to postpone the visit until a later time. In spite of the fact that she let us know how upset she was with us and how disappointed her kids were, we had to hold firm – for the sake of all concerned.
I do wish we had consistent, national messaging from the top-down and throughout every state and community in the country. I believe that only when we all take the risks seriously and take personal responsibility for helping to control the spread of this virus, will we be able to slow its devastating spread.
Because there is no consistent rallying call that encourages all of us to make small sacrifices for each other, I am learning that I must rely on my own actions to minimize risks. Also, part of what I am learning to do is to communicate my expectations to others in advance—even when it is not comfortable to do so. We really are all in this situation together and we must also lead together.