How It Feels to Be Young and High-Risk During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Part II

Editors note:You can read Diana's "How It Feels to Be Young and High-Risk During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Part I" here.

As I've delved deeper into the anger I’ve been feeling during the pandemic, I have realized that some of it is directed toward members of our government. Elected officials are supposed to protect the vulnerable, not act as though we are expendable. If they don't fight for us at times like these, who will?

The high-risk are not expendable

As cases have hit an all-time low in my home state of New York under Governor Cuomo’s leadership and are surging in other parts of the country that have rushed re-opening or refused to issue stay-at-home orders, I am reminded of how important it is for government officials to base their decision-making on scientific data. I could write an entire article about my appreciation for Governor Cuomo, who is carefully and methodically using seven safety metrics to guide the reopening of New York.1 He repeatedly says, "people are not expendable" and "you can't put a dollar figure on human life." The life he is referring to is mine, and those of the high-risk. I count myself lucky to live in this state right now.

But if other politicians won’t heed the advice of doctors and scientists, as we are seeing in some other places, how can the residents of their states be expected to? When cases and hospitalizations go up as states reopen and governors don’t change their approach, they are playing with people’s lives.

Taking precautions is a sign of respect

All the experts continue to maintain that washing our hands, wearing masks, and keeping a safe distance from others are the simplest and best defenses we have against the virus, as it has no vaccine or effective treatments as of now. Yet even in larger cities like New York City where I live, where face masks are mandatory when you go outside and are less than six feet away from another person, some people still aren’t wearing them. It sends shivers down my (aching) spine when I think about how scary it must be for high-risk people in states where masks aren't even mandated!

While there is debate about the effectiveness of masks in preventing the spread of coronavirus, especially depending on the type you wear, I did a little research and learned that the consensus says they prevent respiratory droplets from spreading and thus can reduce transmission. But only if everyone wears one, even those who don’t have symptoms. This is because they prevent droplets from leaving the nose and mouth of a sick or an unknowingly infected person and landing on another person’s nose and mouth.2

Cloth and surgical masks, which is what most people are using, do not filter and block airborne particles like an N95 respirator, nor do they restrict normal airflow like one, contrary to what people may be saying about cloth coverings causing oxygenation issues. Their sole purpose is to reduce your exposure to the saliva and secretions of others, and vice versa, and the average person can breathe fine in them, especially for short periods. There is almost no excuse not to wear one (some legitimate reasons include conditions that cause trouble breathing or prevent you from taking your mask off without assistance).3

A personal thank you

I want to thank you a million times over if you have quarantined, stayed six feet from any person who is not a member of your household, only gone out for essential items, done drive-by birthdays, and not questioned the recommendations of washing your hands and wearing a mask. People like me survive because of people like you. I cannot express in words how grateful I am for your tireless efforts. And wishing all of us much better days ahead.

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