Hi. Long time no see.
Happy New Year, by the way. And happy belated every-holiday-between-July-and-now. Because that’s the last time I was here. Not because there was nothing to say, but because there was too much to say.
I didn’t know where to start or how to even begin gathering up all the big, loud feelings that were launching themselves into the void and organize them into something comprehendible. Being chronically ill and disabled during a pandemic that happens to be disproportionately affecting the disability community while also making it exponentially more difficult to access the routine healthcare required to exist as a chronically ill and disabled person is…an experience.
But now some of those feelings are yelling to be written out.
So here we are. Let’s do this.
Let’s talk about the pandemic.
I know, I know. We’re all tired of talking about the pandemic but we have to keep talking about the pandemic because ummm, there’s still a pandemic and there are a lot of people out there who know there is still a pandemic and yet are acting like it’s okay if they act a little bit (or a lot bit) like there’s no longer a pandemic.
Spoiler alert: it’s not okay.
If you haven’t been following along at home, COVID-19 transmission rates are too high in too many places right now. The pandemic hasn’t gone anywhere. Quite the opposite, things with the pandemic are the worst they’ve ever been in many places across the country and around the world. Yes, vaccines are here, and with them so is hope! But when we’re talking about a global population of over 7 billion people, well, it’s going to take a while.
We’re still very much in this.
In the meantime, I want you to think about the people in your life who are more vulnerable to COVID-19. Do you want to help keep us safe? Yes? I’m hoping the answer is yes. Okay. So that means you wouldn’t show up at our front doors without a mask, push your way into our homes and start coughing, unleashing your potentially COVID-containing droplets all over everything, right?
Of course you wouldn’t do that. I know you wouldn’t do that.
And I wish that were enough, but it’s just not. Keeping us safe involves a lot more than just staying away from us.
Time and time again we have been told that transmission in hospitals and long-term care facilities and schools is a reflection of what’s happening in the community. Healthcare facilities and schools are full of people, people from the community. They are not isolated settings and so despite even the strictest protocols and the best intentions, COVID-19 will find its way in.
And those vulnerable people in your life that you want to help keep safe? We exist in those settings.
It’s not enough to just not show up at my door without a mask and push your way into my home. Because sometimes I have to leave my home. You might think your meet up with a friend doesn’t affect me, but your friend’s coworker might be roommates with a teacher and that teacher’s student might be the daughter of a nurse and that nurse might be one accessing my central line at my infusion. Plus an infinite number of other possible chains of transmission where a conscious choice to go against public health guidelines will result in someone who did follow those guidelines being devastated by COVID-19.
It’s not enough to just stay away from the vulnerable people in your life.
If you have ever wanted to do something to help me throughout the years of my illness, here is your chance. Stay home. Don’t travel. Follow public health guidelines.
If you believe that disabled rights are human rights, if you believe that our right to health care and safety is as important as your right to the same things, here is your chance to prove it. Stay home. Don’t travel. Follow public health guidelines. Stand in solidarity with us by seeing us safely through to the end of this pandemic. We need you to stay home when you can so that when we can’t the places we need to go are as safe as possible. We also need you to protect our healthcare systems so that when this is over there are still systems in place to take care of us, all of us, but especially those of us who regularly depend on them for stability and survival.
If you were shocked and saddened last year to learn about how deeply ingrained systemic racism is in our society, if you posted a black square on Instagram or used the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, if you committed to “doing the work” to be actively anti-racist, then you need to stay home. Don’t travel. Follow public health guidelines. Because systemic racism has resulted in this pandemic disproportionately affecting Black, Indigenous and people of colour in so many ways and for so many reasons including that they are more likely to live with underlying health conditions putting them at higher risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19.
If you are a feminist and you respect and value the contribution women make to the labour force and believe in their right to workplace safety, then stay home. Don’t travel. Follow public health guidelines. Because women are over-represented among teachers, childcare workers and healthcare workers. And women of colour are over-represented among the healthcare workers in long term care homes, the same homes that continue to be devastated by COVID-19 almost a year into this pandemic.
If you believe that someone’s innate value as a human being is not dependent on their income, then stay home. Don’t travel. Follow public health guidelines. Because people working low-paying essential services jobs don’t have the option of working from home. Because people experiencing homelessness deserve to be protected, too.
And if you ever clapped and cheered for healthcare workers, or called any of them heroes at any point during this pandemic, then you need to stay home. Don’t travel. And follow public health guidelines. Because anything else is hypocritical. Because we cannot take for granted that they will keep showing up to work. Because we cannot expect them to leave the comfort and safety of their own homes if we’re not willing to do everything in our power to make their workplaces as physically and emotionally safe as possible.
We are not all in this together. We should be. But we’re not. And we never will be. Some of us have more privilege in this pandemic than others. It’s not fair, but that’s the way it is. Any privilege that we have was lucked into, not earned, and it is our responsibility to use our privilege in order to bring all of us as close to “in this together” as possible.
So stay home. Don’t travel. Follow public health guidelines.
Because anything else right now says that you believe you are more important than all of the groups of people I just talked about.
Maybe you’ve never thought about it that way. Okay. So take a minute right now and think about it. Ask yourself if your actions are in line with what you believe. Ask yourself if you are okay with expecting people already at greater risk during this pandemic to bear the burden of your privilege.
I know we are all tired as we come up on a year of this pandemic. Things feel overwhelming and hopeless sometimes. Pandemic life is uncomfortable. What is being asked of us is hard. For all of us, no matter how much privilege we have, and it’s okay to acknowledge that.
But it is not okay to put the comfort of some above the safety of all.
We are not all in this together. But we are all in this. And we are all still in this. We are the ones who have to get each other through this.
So say it with me now:
Stay home. Don’t travel. Follow public health guidelines.
We can do this. Let’s get each other through this.