Christopherson Column - Is this the second wave, or did the first one never end?

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times

    Well, here we are. Is the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States officially underway? Or did the first wave never actually end? Put your money on the latter.

    But does even trying to answer that question really matter?

    People are tossing around the word “fear” a lot these days, and the manner in which the word is being used or defined doesn’t seem entirely fair.

    So you’re still going to stay close to home more than you did before March of this year, even though society continues its reopening? And when you do go out to do this or that, you’re going to maintain proper social distancing and try your best to avoid large groups of people? And you’re going to wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose?

    Go ahead. If you want to live in “fear,” be our guest, people are saying. You do you, but we’re going to live our lives, and if we get sick, we get sick.

    But it’s not about you, and you know that. It’s about those around you. When you’re wearing a mask and doing other things in an attempt to maximize your safety and minimize your exposure to the virus, you’re doing it for those around you and those you care about. Yes, masks and these other measures protect you, but this is about showing the world around you that you care enough about others who might cross your path to protect them, too.

    Someone on the news the other day, a medical expert, said of COVID-19 that the scariest thing of all to consider at this stage, even many months after the virus was first detected, is that “We don’t even know what we don’t know yet.” This virus is so new and so rogue that, as other health care professionals have said, when it comes to trying to get a handle on it, it’s like “building the airplane while you’re flying it.”

    You can be concerned about ominous statements like that and respect the gravity of what’s happening all around us without being derisively told that you’re living in fear.

    This virus is going to continue to do its thing no matter what you think wearing a mask in public says about your masculinity. It doesn’t care if you’re a Republican or Democrat, or if you think Donald Trump is the best president ever or the worst. This virus doesn’t care if “freedom isn’t free.” It’s still sending people to the hospital and to intensive care units with awful coughs and ravaged lungs that can’t hold any air. But it’s also destroying kidneys. It loves to cause blood clots. And people, young people, who had the virus and thought they were recovered are wondering why they have to lay down for a few hours after doing something as low impact as picking some weeds in the garden. This virus can not only come on fast and overwhelm a person, it apparently, in some of its victims anyway, possesses the ability to inflict long-term and even permanent damage.

    There has to be some middle ground somewhere, a place between living in fear and living in denial, where people who view this virus through different lenses can find some common ground.

    You can respect this virus and this health scare while also realizing that you’re probably not going to get it. And if you do get it, you’re probably going to not feel well for a while, but you’ll get better.

    But that doesn’t lessen the gravity of the current situation, and the situation to come.

    I strolled into a busy store the other day with my mask tucked in the pocket of my shorts. I’d forgotten to put it on. An older woman who, based on my initial visual inventory, looked like someone who might have some of those “underlying conditions” we hear so much about, entered before me. She was wearing a mask. My path reached what could be described as her general vicinity, and she literally jumped backward to avoid me. My immediate reaction was that she was a nutty drama queen, but her actions also jolted me to the reality that I was not wearing a mask. I took it out of my pocket and put it on, because why wouldn’t I? I don’t know her situation or the situations of those she cares about.

    Other nations, home to masses of people who are wearing masks in public, are seeing the positive results of their simple, easy efforts. COVID-19 in those nations is under control. In the dopey, stubborn United States, current COVID-19 numbers, day after day after day, are literally off the charts.

    Wearing a mask doesn’t make you less of a man. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It doesn’t warrant scrutinizing the level of your patriotism. Wearing a mask simply makes you safer, and less of a threat to others.