I have asthma and my dad is an immunosuppressed doctor, so the past seven months have been stressful to say the least. While I’m very privileged that my family hasn’t felt the worst effects of this pandemic, I’m in a higher risk category for COVID-19 which is why I’m writing this from my bedroom in Washington State instead of Old Main.
I miss Old Main. I miss many things about Wooster — the people mostly, and I might even miss the bats. When I flew home for spring break, Seattle was still ground zero of the pandemic and I joked that I would somehow get stuck in Washington while everyone else returned to campus. In a very roundabout way, I was correct. I have been very much stuck at home, which I say not for pity, but to highlight that for many people there is no “return to normal” until the pandemic is controlled, which right now it’s not. As I write this, case counts are climbing, campus is locking down for a week and those in the White House who are supposed to be helping us are battling their own outbreak caused by their negligence.
That hurts. The isolation and disruption COVID-19 has caused has been as difficult for me as it has been for others, but something I wasn’t prepared for was the hurt and anger I have toward other people and our leaders for being so cavalier about this virus and those at highest risk. This spring, people in high-risk categories had to listen to a discussion about whether we should be sacrificed for the stock market — whether our deaths were really that big of a loss. How we should just stay home while everyone else completely “returns to normal,” neglecting the fact that high-risk people are also essential workers and that other household members can spread it to them.
These past months I’ve been reminded of a quote from a Philip Larkin poem that goes, “We should be careful/ Of each other, we should be kind/ While there is still time.” Don’t get me wrong, I have seen immense care displayed during this time both personally and generally, but the lack of care I’ve also seen puts me and the people I love at risk. I’ve seen too many people who are either ignorant or unbothered about the fact that their actions impact others. I’ve seen too many bad excuses and people arguing that they’re not high-risk, so why should they care.
Whenever I hear about a big party or news of a state reopening even as cases rise, I get angrier. When I see articles like the one describing a Maine wedding that caused the deaths of seven people not even in attendance, I get a bit sadder. This desperate quest to pretend things are fine is killing people. I don’t have the luxury of pretending everything is fine when my lungs are already bad at breathing. Instead, I grow increasingly tired of staying home and hearing that high-risk people are expendable. I’m tired of people flaunting rules that I don’t have the privilege of breaking while my family makes plans for what to do if my dad’s clinic has an outbreak.
I can’t wait to come back to Wooster, hug my friends, sit in Old Main and get back to a normal that everyone can safely participate in. But to do that, Wooster needs to do its best to stop the spread of the virus, and our government — and all Americans — need to take this more seriously and be more mindful of how we talk about at-risk groups. Above all, we must be careful for each other. We must be kind while there is still time.