I am not a germaphobe. I have never wiped a grocery cart handle before now. I don’t wear a mask during flu season in my office. I love for my kids to play in the dirt, and I welcome the daily exposures they have in our house, school, and life. I have the utmost respect for the immune system and the amazing job it does every single day, battling more antigens than you ever knew existed. Yet, this is completely different.
If this is not causing your life to be completely changed, in every area, you are doing it wrong. If you are hosting dinner parties, you are doing it wrong. If you are running to the grocery store or hardware store every time the mood strikes, you are doing it wrong. If your kids are not complaining every day that they want to be with their friends, you are doing it wrong. If you are traveling outside of what is required for your “essential worker” job, you are doing it wrong. If you are wearing N95 masks to the grocery store, when doctors and nurses are going without, you are doing it wrong. If you are wearing a surgical mask to the grocery, and you have a hole cut out for your nose … well, keep doing it; that’s just Darwinism.
If you are on a beach and it isn’t part of your private backyard, you are doing it wrong. If you are participating in any street parties, in any part of town, you are doing it wrong. If you don’t treat every interaction with another human (outside of your in-home family) as if you could pass this disease to them, and them to you, you are doing it wrong. If you haven’t tried to figure out which hand should be your “dirty” hand when interacting with grocers/cashiers/delivery people, you are doing it wrong. If you are playing golf, or tennis, or going for walks and stopping to talk in large groups, you are doing it wrong. If you are still saying this is just the flu or this is being blown out of proportion, you are doing it wrong.
I see you. And I (and many others) are judging you. You don’t get to be outside of the rules. I am playing by all of the rules, and I am still certain that I am not doing it completely right. This is hard, and it must continue to be hard, and everyone must play by the same set of rules so that it can eventually end without an excessive amount of casualties, and we can go back to something that resembles regular life. Every time you don’t play by the rules, you are not only setting yourself up for exposure, but you are also exposing everyone else you come into contact with, even if you don’t have any symptoms. You are exposing me and my coworkers to more illness, more sick people, more risk, simply because you don’t want to play by the rules.
I have to go to work, and I have to reuse equipment that may not even protect me, and it may not even protect you when you come to see me, and you are still doing it wrong. I leave after hours of repeated exposures to patients and families who may be silently spreading coronavirus and infecting my staff and me, and you are still doing it wrong. I have bruises around my nose and mouth from the mask that I wear to try to protect me as best I can, and I have colleagues around the world who are exhausted and sick and dying and making decisions that were never meant to be part of the Hippocratic Oath, and you are still doing it wrong. I can’t hug my kids when I come home after a long, scary, gut-wrenching day because I am potentially teeming with infection, and I have many friends who have just moved away from their families so they aren’t at risk, and you are still doing it wrong.
The rules apply to all of us, and yet so many are still doing it wrong. If you aren’t sure if you should be doing something, err on the side of caution, and don’t do it. Stay home. This is hard for everyone, but please stop making it harder.
Amy Garlove is a pediatrician.
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