As a general rule, we Americans do not like to be told what we can and cannot do. There’s been a lot of that going on in the last four months, and it is making us uncomfortable. As I move around in my mostly reopened community, I am seeing a lot of people wearing masks. I see many who are not. I see lots of folks ignoring the advice supporting social distancing. Even I, immersed in COVID19, am growing weary of it all. We are not accustomed to having to hold our focus on something for more than a couple of news cycles. And as much as I want to talk about something, anything, other than this cursed virus, I have to force myself to stay engaged. We are not done yet. We cannot afford to grow weary in this fight.
The spread of infectious disease is a big deal to me. Matthew and I lost an infant son to the unintentional but devastating spread of infection in a healthcare setting. Since that time, at every opportunity, I have promoted and encouraged practices to prevent the careless spread of infection in healthcare. I even did my master’s thesis on a method to promote hand hygiene practices among healthcare workers. The manner(s) by which infections spread is not a mystery to us, but there is still room for improvement even among those of us who understand the subject better than most. It has been an uphill fight. A worldwide pandemic has helped, but it should not have taken that to motivate us.
Countless studies support the theory that we must have human contact to promote mental and physical well-being. While it is vital for our survival, it is through human contact that we pass disease among us. We cannot see the germs on our hands or floating through the air as we speak, breathe, cough or sneeze, but they are there.
Oh, how I wish we could see it. Being able to see biological, viral, and fungal organisms on our skin or in our breath would completely solve this for us. I believe my son would be alive today. If we could see the germs, we wouldn’t be fighting an invisible enemy. But since we cannot see them, it is hard to stay vigilant. We begin to doubt their existence and their impact. We think, “This can’t be necessary. They are blowing this whole thing out of proportion. I do not like being told what to do. Who are these ‘so called’ experts? I know what’s best for me and my family”.
We grow suspicious that those in power are using this to control us. I have stopped getting my information from those sources. I am listening to researchers who have no other agenda than genuine concern for the public health in their communities. There are people whose primary focus is intervention and mitigation of this virus so that the majority of us never know what it is like to endure the worst of this monster. They are relentless, they are tired, and they are determined. I am listening to them.
The truth is, as much as we want one, there just is no quick fix for this.
The public demand for a quick fix has those studying the issue prematurely putting out every scrap of information they can come up with, and it leaves us feeling jerked around. The better option might just be for us to sit back and wait on them to work the problem through. And while we wait, we wear a mask, wash our hands, and protect the most vulnerable around us by keeping our distance.
We know cloth masks aren’t the best. We know they do not prevent the spread of the tiniest particles. (Most of us couldn’t stand to wear the masks that are designed to do that, even if they were available.) But cloth masks do help.
And shouldn’t we want to help?
COVID19 is here to stay. In time, we will beat it back into submission, and we will have a vaccine. Yes, we need to continue to live, but we must also grow through this experience now, though, because this will likely not be the last time we face such an enemy. Lurking somewhere is the next one to come. It is brewing in a lab or growing in strength in some unsuspecting species, just waiting to make the jump to human hosts. If we get our response to this pandemic right, we will be better equipped to knock back the next one. It will be easier to say, “Been there, done that. Bring it on”.
I truly wish we could see the germs on our hands, on the surfaces around us, and in the air we exhale. I believe our conversations and responses to the spread of all infections would be different. But because our enemy is invisible to the naked eye, we have to combat any urges we have to go rogue on this. We cannot afford to choose that path.
How this plays out really is up to us.