Op-Ed: The Me and Us of COVID | Local News I Racine County Eye
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I eat yogurt and fruit. My face mask is on the table next to me. Writing from the lobby of an empty hotel in the heart of Philadelphia, I fear you are dismissing the need for personal responsibility when it comes to transmitting COVID.
It was a difficult year to be a journalist. The pandemic has caught on with my feelings and I’m sure it shows. These feelings are magnified because Margie, a dear friend, has chosen not to believe in COVID or vaccinations. After being hospitalized for a month, she died. And she didn’t die just from COVID. She died because her beliefs about COVID prevented her from protecting herself against COVID. This is the part that I just can’t reconcile in my mind because she died a slow, miserable death, needlessly.
Despite this, I loved him, even as I scattered his ashes.
My husband, father and daughter have had COVID. They survived. Fortunately, I did not have COVID because I was vaccinated. Some of my readers who called my work fake news have passed away. Some of my friends have watched their loved ones die in a hospital corridor alone.
These images haunt me.
This is why the yogurt and the fruit are sitting to my left and the mask is placed next to me. My goal is to take care of myself and the collective that we are. I don’t want you to experience this pain. Some might call this bias. I call it living with the burden of truth.
There is a ‘I have to take care of myself’ aspect and a ‘We have to take care of ourselves collectively’ aspect to this pandemic that seems to be lost in the conversations around COVID.
This ‘I’m fine’ mentality where we choose not to mask, socially estranged, or refuse to be vaccinated does not work in infectious disease in places where health care resources are limited . With the original strain of COVID-19, one person infected two people. In Delta’s case, one person infects five to seven people. And Omicron would have an even higher transmission rate.
To throw in some more statistics, five out of 100 people who contract COVID will be hospitalized and one of those five will die. On the flip side, 95 out of 100 people who contract COVID will not be hospitalized and 99 out of 100 will live. So yes, even if you are fine, the people you have infected may not be and this is where we are in trouble.
It is also a problem of lack of resources. This health crisis is already underway. On Thursday, December 30, the 31 hospitals in Southeast Wisconsin have 31 intensive care beds, three intermediate care beds and 24 medico-surgical surgery beds to serve 2 million people.
Racine County is also at a tipping point
Ascension-All Saints staff told the Racine County Eye that the hospital had about 250 beds. They only have staff to take 100 patients and they had 167 patients on Friday. Of these, 40 to 45 are COVID patients. People hospitalized with the Delta and Omicron variants need more hospital staff to care for them and they stay in the hospital longer.
The fear, therefore, is that the highly infectious variant of COVID-19 Omicron could create a tsunami of patients that staff will not be able to treat, which is already starting to happen. This has an impact on the care provided to people with COVID as well as those who do not.
But there are things we can do to make sure that we – as a community – are protected.
I see this happening in Philadelphia. My husband and I are both up to date with vaccinations and reminders and we hide inside. Also, when we went out to eat, we had to show our proof of vaccination and ID.
When we visited Independence Hall, the place where the Constitution of the United States was debated and passed, we were told to stand six feet apart. When we walked down the street, we were offered COVID tests.
I understand the argument many have about not getting the vaccine. These are certainly personal choices and these choices have consequences. The majority of people hospitalized were not vaccinated. And in the context of a community struggling with limited health resources in a global pandemic that has caused more than 5 million deaths worldwide, disrupted our supply chain and caused so much human suffering, it is important to ‘balance the ego and the us of this pandemic.
Being in the place where the US Constitution was debated reminded me that we are a country that values ââpersonal freedom and community responsibility. It is the I and the we. Our social contract with each other centers on justice, domestic tranquility, common defense, general welfare, and the blessings of freedom for ourselves.
I digress – I’m a history nerd.
Here’s my pointâ¦ you don’t need the government telling you to do the right thing.
Do it because you see the need to end human suffering. Do it because your boss is tired of trying to figure out how to run a business without enough staff. Do it because you know someone who works in the healthcare industry who is exhausted and just wants to go home at the end of their shift.
Anything for you – be it a test, mask, and / or vaccine – do it now.
Up-to-date COVID information
The Racine County Eye is committed to posting the most recent and accurate information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in our Coronavirus section. Check out our COVID-19 dashboard which offers real-time statistical reports (updated daily) for Racine County.