By Brianna Williams, Contributing Writer–
As a senior college student in the midst of a global pandemic that inhibits on-campus social activities, in-person classes, and weekend parties or group hangouts, I am frustrated—it’s my last year and I cannot spend it in the ways I hope I could. As a young woman who turned 21 in the middle of a global pandemic, I am upset—bars are no longer an available outing, and I should’ve said goodbye long ago to any hopes of a memorable 21st birthday party. But more seriously, as a type 1 diabetic at a higher risk of suffering from severe complications due to the Coronavirus, I am terrified.
I am doing the absolute best that I can to keep myself and others safe right now—I haven’t been inside of a restaurant to eat since March, my 21st birthday was spent solely with my boyfriend and roommates, I shop online rather than in stores, I always wear a mask in public, I haven’t seen some of my best friends in months, and I even declined attending my aunt’s wedding for safety reasons. Fortunately, these sacrifices are minimal compared to the situations that others are facing because of the virus, but they are difficult nonetheless.
What is truly disconcerting, however, is the fact that going to the grocery store is a must for me, as is attending the in-person class that I need to take in order to graduate this spring. For others in similar health situations to my own, there are even more risks that they may be forced to take daily—going in to work to pay bills, taking care of family members, being forced to take more than one in-person class or even having to teach an in-person class. My point is that many people who are at a higher risk of contracting the virus—or who have a greater chance of severe complications and even death as a result of the virus—do not have the luxury of staying home and away from others completely. So when folks like myself do have to venture out, we hope that others who may not have to worry about whether or not they contract COVID-19 are being as safe as we are.
Yet this is not what I’ve seen. Instead, I’ve seen people fighting tooth and nail so that they don’t have to wear a mask during their 25 minute grocery trip. I’ve observed reckless college students walking maskless around campus, and even more horrifying, going to large parties and clubs on the weekends without any fears because they are 21 and “the virus only kills old people” (a troubling excuse, anyways). I’ve witnessed far too many people wearing a mask below their nose who sneer when others ask them to pull it up. I’ve had a 4 year old child tell me that I “don’t need to wear a mask” while walking around, without knowing me or my background. I’ve passed lines of people clustered outside of restaurants and stores, I’ve read Facebook posts claiming that COVID-19 is a hoax, and been bombarded by countless examples that convey to me that I am not important. If I catch the virus and die, it’ll be sad, they say, but since I’m a diabetic, of course, death from COVID makes sense; “it is what it is.”
With the recent CDC update that detailed 94% of deaths related to COVID-19 as also due, in part, to other underlying diseases such as pneumonia, diabetes, and other medical conditions, many people (i.e. QAnon subscribers) are stating that because of these reasons, COVID-19 has all been a lie and a hoax and shouldn’t be taken seriously. These comments have quite frankly caused me to break down, because for me, they directly translate to “you do not matter.”
With these comments, it seems as if my worth and the worth of those at even higher risk than me is nonexistent. Because my health is not “average,” my potential sickness or death as a result is somehow no longer shocking or worrisome. Why is it that because it’s just me and others like me who could face complications, the virus is suddenly not a big deal to others who are less affected? The pandemic has still claimed 183 thousand lives in the United States alone.
Regardless of the age, race, sex, or pre-existing conditions of the people whose lives have been lost to this virus, these numbers represent human lives now absent from the world because the of the virus spreading uncontrollably in our country. While it is true that people of older ages or with pre-existing heart conditions, etc. could have died regardless, it is not these reasons but the virus that caused the rapid onset of their deaths.
Let me be frank: Typically, I am someone who is scared to ask her roommates to wash the dishes for fear of confrontation, but I am simply tired of shying away from confrontation when it is affecting the lives of so many, including potentially my own. To everyone who refuses or “forgets” to wear a mask, who doesn’t think much about social distancing, who is partying on the weekends and likes to talk with friends about how this virus is “fake,” with these words I am confronting you personally—you are being selfish, and you should do better. This virus is not fake for me, it’s indeed very real, and everyday I live in fear and restraint because of it. Please think of people in situations besides your own, please be kind, please wear a mask, and please stay away from me.