Before Thanksgiving, I was working on a column about how we need to stay safe but change the narrative. I wanted to tell people to put COVID-19 further down in news stories and keep it out of the lead. Perhaps, I thought, it would help the pandemic fatigue from the news.
However, that’s a column I can no longer write.
Because now, many of my family members were exposed to and diagnosed with COVID-19 a day prior to Thanksgiving. High-risk family members. The ones who might not recover. The ones I had hoped and prayed would stay safe and had been able to so far.
Because now, everyday is a surge in the numbers. Now, everyday is someone else watching their loved ones fade into nothing.
This is not a column telling you to stop living in fear. This is not a column that is going to tell you to stop thinking about the pandemic. I won’t be telling you to take comfort that a vaccine will be out soon.
Because for months, I have lived in fear of COVID-19. I have lived in fear of my family getting it. I have lived in fear of saying goodbye to loved ones over Zoom. I have lived in fear of watching my loved ones whither to nothing on a ventilator. And suddenly, my fears shifted from nightmare to reality in an Earth-shattering few hours.
For months, hundreds of thousands of people gave up everything. For months, it wasn’t a question if we would leave because it wasn’t an option to be the ones spreading the virus.
For months, the world cowered in fear.
And then, at some point, half of America just decided that the pandemic was over. Travel was on again. Sports came back online. Seeing friends and family was worth the risk of giving them COVID-19 and never seeing them again.
38 percent of Americans were planning to have Thanksgiving with more than 10 people or people outside of their households, according to a survey by the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
38 percent of Americans didn’t care that their tables were about to become epicenters of the virus.
38 percent of people were willing to give the virus to someone despite ICU beds reaching capacity.
38 percent of people were willing to disregard 262,020 American deaths as of Wednesday Nov. 26. 266,051 Americans had died as of the publishing of this column.
Despite the death toll doubling U.S. troops loss in World War I, hundreds of thousands have disregarded mandates to keep you and your loved ones safe.
Despite the daily death toll of 9/11 happening at least every two days, and sometimes in just one, mask mandates and gathering restrictions are protested.
And now, talks of a national shutdown, or even a state shutdown, bring anger to the pandemic discourse.
But if you are so concerned that a second lockdown is going to change your day-to-day lifestyle drastically, then you are the reason we need a second lockdown. You are the reason that people are dying.
You are the reason this pandemic isn’t under control.
Protesters scream that wearing masks infringe upon their rights. However, your right to not wear a mask ends where my family’s right to live begins. Your rights end where other’s lives are at stake.
Yet instead of political action from our leaders, Utah’s Lieutenant Governor and Governor-elect Spencer Cox gives protesters outside his home who refused to wear masks hot chocolate and tweets about it. One can only imagine how many times over he was exposed to COVID-19.
Instead of real action, Utah’s Gov. Gary Herbert gets bullied by the Utah State Legislature into lifting the household-only gathering restrictions to less than 10 people. Because if there are only nine people in the house, they can’t possibly spread COVID.
So, help me understand: what’s the worst that will happen to you if you wear a mask? Acne? Your right to not have a breakout is not an excuse to cause a viral breakout that kills thousands of Americans every day.
This pandemic killed 26 Utahns on Nov. 25. The worst kind of record to keep breaking.
One of them was between 25 and 44 years old. That could be the person you will never see in class again. Your best friend. Your aunt. Your uncle. Your cousin. Your mother. Your father. Your daughter. Your son. Your loved one.
Two of them were between 45 and 64 years old. Who were their loved one’s watching them die from the other side of a screen? Who lost them decades too soon?
Ten of them were between 65 and 84. Children are losing grandparents. Adults are losing their parents more often than might have been necessary.
Thirteen of them were 85 or older. Decades of experience gone in a few weeks. No matter how long someone was here, it shouldn’t be ripped away by a virus we all could have come together to fight.
It is terrible and difficult that many of us won’t be at Thanksgiving gatherings this year. Even harder will be to ask how many won’t be at the table next year.
So, I ask those who refuse to wear masks, those who refuse to distance and those who refuse to acknowledge this disease:
What don’t you understand about this pandemic? What do you need so badly that you won’t stay home? What is so infuriating about a piece of cloth over your mouth and nose?
I ask because I don’t understand. I don’t understand the flippancy with which you have treated a national crisis. I don’t understand why you don’t care about your neighbor. I don’t understand how you can look at your loved ones and put them at risk.
I know we are all sick and tired of this pandemic. I know that for most of us life will never be the same. I am sick and tired. I miss my friends and family. I miss family traditions and baking and parks and restaurants and traveling.
Still, it’s not time to put COVID-19 in the backseat. It’s not time for us to give up on precautions. It’s not time to throw our hands in the air and retreat, masks down.
For now, we must take care of each other by doing our best to not spread COVID-19. For now, we give up a piece of ourselves, our social lives and our traditions, so we can have them next year when we can all embrace and hold our loved ones near.
If even one plea is enough to keep you going for just a few more months, take mine: stay home, socially distance and wear a mask. Don’t do it for me but do it for everyone you care for.