We can do better

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My heart sank when I saw the line of people waiting in lines at airports and train stations over Thanksgiving. We were told to stay home. Over one million Americans passed through US airports over the Thanksgiving holiday despite pleas from health professionals and the CDC to not travel. As a result, the disease continues to break records every single day in terms of diagnosed cases, hospitalization rates and deaths. There have been many deaths from this pandemic that did not need to happen. Even the thought of one unnecessary death is heart-breaking.

It is easy to point to our leaders and politicians and say they failed us. And that is true. But we also failed us. We are tired and wanted to return to our pre-pandemic lives. So, we could not resist the urge to travel over Thanksgiving, and how many are planning to do the same over the next two weeks? We have the power to stop the spread of this disease through our actions. By not doing everything that we can – which in the scheme of things is not a lot – we are contributing to all the pain and suffering.

It is not just the suffering associated with all the sick and dying, but also the harm caused by mandatory business shutdowns and the economic impact on those who work in the most affected industries, like the single mother who worked in the restaurant industry and is on the verge of losing her home. These economic consequences, in addition to the public health ones, could have been avoided if we just listened to the scientists and medical professionals who told us that this is a very serious public health event, and we needed to follow the recommended guidelines.

I get how difficult it is to stay home. I am a single person who feels isolated and was devastated to not be able to spend Thanksgiving and Hanukkah with my family and friends. I understand the pull to be with one’s family over the holidays, and Zoom is a poor substitute for everything we have been asked to give up.

I have been obsessed with the numbers since the onset of the pandemic. There have been over 1.6 million deaths worldwide and we are heading toward an estimated 400,000 deaths in the United States by early January. How do you even begin to mourn the deaths of so many? Each life lost to this disease is a tragedy and that tragedy is multiplied one-million times over. These horrific numbers cannot be rationalized or diminished. And even with the miraculous promise of a vaccine on the horizon, the count of the dead continues. The vaccine is on its way, but we need to do our part in the interim. And here’s the thing. Each and every one of us can save a life by doing what has been requested of us: wear a mask, maintain social distancing, follow CDC guidelines on staying home during the holidays and wash your hands.

People now have a choice with another holiday looming. Will they give in to the pull to be with their families and travel again? Or will they stay home and be safe and do their part to tamp down the spread of the virus? Our track record to date has been abysmal but it is not too late to do better. We have it within us to make a difference.


About the Author
Penny Cagan was born in New Jersey and has lived in New York City since 1980. She has published two books of poems called “City Poems “ and “And Today I am Happy." She is employed as a risk manager and continues to write poetry. More information on Penny can be found at https://brokentabletsfrompennycagan.me
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