staying safe

Calvin's final day of summer school was a sweltering one. When he got off of the bus, his mask was soaked with drool. Wiping his face as best I could with the corner of his bandana, I felt sorry for him; it must be near impossible to breathe through a saliva-soaked surgical mask, especially when it's ninety degrees.

As the world grapples with a runaway pandemic, our nation is approaching 640,000 deaths from Covid-19. To make matters worse, the more dangerous and contagious Delta variant is fueling a resurgence that is ravaging mostly unvaccinated communities, their healthcare facilities and workers. Regrettably, this predicament was unnecessary; some leaders haven't been aggressive enough implementing clear measures and messaging that could truly cut the virus off at the knees. Too many people still refuse to be vaccinated and/or wear masks, many of them led by mis- and disinformation they've gotten from certain politicians and rabbit-hole posts spread on social media. Tens—if not hundreds—of thousands of hospitalizations and deaths could have been prevented if certain so-called leaders hadn't downplayed and politicized the pandemic and things like wearing masks, and had we all been more deliberate and steadfast in protecting ourselves and our neighbors. It seems we're always playing catch-up with what is an ever-evolving and aggressive virus. Collectively, we haven't done what it takes to get ahead of it. We have been and continue to be reactive instead of proactive. This hot mess is of our own doing, though some folks get more credit than others for turning it into such a shitshow.

Despite these grave developments, there are those who remain staunchly skeptical about the need to get a Covid vaccine and/or wear a mask. Some are convinced that they are largely immune because of their youth, healthy diets and/or lifestyles, forgetting that in recent years they've been sick with the flu. Others aren't following the science about vaccines' overwhelming safety. Still others believe in wild and dangerous conspiracy theories, most of which can be easily debunked. Infectious disease experts explain that variants are more likely to emerge from the unvaccinated since the virus has more time to replicate and mutate in a body that doesn't have a vaccine in place to impede its progress. Also, unvaccinated people shed the virus longer than vaccinated ones whether symptomatic or not. Moreover, the Delta variant's viral load is 1000 times that of the Alpha strain. Unvaccinated people make it all the more possible for the emergence of an even more contagious, virulent and deadly variant which might prove resistant to vaccines. Then what?

My thoughts wander again to Calvin—my infant-toddler-teen whose seizures seem tugged into action by full moons, new moons, dips in barometric pressure, high humidity, and illness. Though all three of us are vaccinated, I worry about what might happen to us if we were to be infected by the Delta variant (the vaccines are highly effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death, but we can still get infected.) I know what Covid can do to hearts, lungs, and brains, but the full, long-term implications of Covid are still unclear. I worry about Calvin; I have little doubt that some of his classmates this fall will attend school unvaccinated, not because they aren't old enough, but because of their parents' dubious stances on vaccines.

Please, for your neighbor's sake, mask up and get vaccinated.

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