Don’t forget the vulnerable

Carly Uhlig and Molly Parker

We are all struggling to cope with the tragedies and hardships brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic. But, we can find hope through cautious optimism, which means holding excitement for the future while remaining aware of the world’s situation and the ways it can affect others. 

For people with chronic illnesses, COVID-19 poses specific concerns about the future. We may soon find ourselves forced to choose between our health and our livelihood because we have to be more cautious than people who are not immunocompromised. We may have to make personal decisions such as choosing between work and staying home or choosing between going to school and learning from home. We may have to make sacrifices and watch from the windows while others socialize. 

It’s an insult to anyone with health concerns to act as if everything is normal. When businesses start to reopen with restrictions, able-bodied people still need to abide by those restrictions in place without going wherever they want, whenever they want without consideration for those who are immunocompromised or elderly. It is not an invitation to immediately socialize with as many people as you feel like. You never know who you can expose the virus to.

In a phone interview, James Lord, researcher at the Benaroya Research Institute, said, “[A]lthough America is all about personal freedoms and personal liberties, [not social distancing] is a personal liberty that is actually infringing on the rights of others. This is a situation where what you do with your own body is going to have an effect on what happens to other people’s bodies, and that is not fair. And for you to take your liberty and disregard the liberties of those around you is not what the ‘land of the free’ means.”

Many of us want to go back to hanging out with our friends and participating in sports or clubs, but following social distancing isn’t just about you. It’s easy to lose sight of the possible risks of hurting other people when you are caught up in what you want in the moment. But each individual has a responsibility to look out for one another, whether that means donating to charities or, in situations like this, simply keeping your distance. As much as we try to be self-sufficient, people with health concerns have to rely on others for certain things, following social distancing being one of them.

We don’t want people to give up on the hope of reuniting with friends and resuming paused activities, but it’s vital that we all hold ourselves accountable. Instead of rushing to catch up with a large group of all your friends as soon as it’s legally possible, maybe start out by seeing a small group of friends and pay attention to where the country’s statistics take us. This is a tough time for everyone, and we must remember to look past ourselves with cautious optimism.