The images of crowds gathered, shoulder to shoulder and few masks in sight, haunt me.
There are people who would suggest to me the decision to do this belongs to those in attendance and if I don’t agree, I should steer clear.
Maybe they are right. And I do stay away.
Perhaps though, morally, they are wrong and potentially setting me up for risk by their actions alone. What if someone in that crowd works with my husband or my daughter, who both leave the house each day to go to work? What if someone in that crowd works at the grocery store I frequent or my favorite takeout restaurant?
As we enter the green phase of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to reopen the state Friday, it’s important to remember the virus is still, in fact, here. In fact, a Facebook post last week by Lehigh Valley Health Network addressed a recent increase in cases. A chart showed the statistics, and the note read: “See that recent spike in the number of COVID-19 patients in LVHN hospitals? It reminds us that as businesses reopen and counties move to yellow or green, we must continue to wear a mask and be mindful of social distancing. If we don’t, it could lead to a second wave of the virus and an even longer time until we get back to normal.”
There’s so much we have yet to learn about this virus. But we do know social distancing and wearing a mask have helped to prevent its spread.
I’ve heard from so many that they’re tired of wearing their masks. You know what? Me, too. But I’ll keep wearing it — to protect myself and those around me.
Many have said they are eager to get out. Me, too, but I’m also anxious. So I’ll wait. There’s no shame in that. I know I’m not alone. In fact, there’s even a new acronym making its social media rounds: FOGO (Fear Of Going Out).
If you’re among those who are ready to venture out, or you have already, please consider being respectful of both sides.
I watched local coverage of the Lehigh Valley’s move to yellow a few weeks ago and restaurants setting up outside to welcome patrons. One, in particular, showed a scene with people standing shoulder to shoulder with no masks on. Just a short distance away, a couple wearing masks sat at a table. When asked by the reporter if they were concerned by the unmasked, undistanced groups, the couple admitted they were concerned and would continue to maintain as much distance as possible and keep their masks on until it was time to eat.
I’ve printed photos in my Press editions that are equally concerning. Students gathered in front of a high school on their virtual graduation day. They were very close in distance, and none was wearing a mask. Another group of people from out of state crowded a local bar, sitting shoulder to shoulder. Yes, they were outside, but no distancing was present.
As we proceed to the green phase, will those people be even less mindful of the safety guidelines? Green might mean go on the traffic light, but it shouldn’t mean full speed ahead in this case.
Very few have liked the quarantine we’ve endured. Let’s not make irresponsible moves that might send us back there.
Businesses that barely survived the March shutdown might not be able to endure another. Many businesses have signed a pledge, Vow of the Valley, to follow the safety guidelines and do their part to keep their staff and their patrons safe. We, as patrons, owe it to them to offer the same commitment to follow the guidelines for safety of all involved.
As we head to the green phase, I encourage you to make responsible choices for the good of yourself and those around you.
We’re starting to see a glimpse of the life we had pre-March. Many are heading back to their workplace. Students will return, in some capacity, to their schools and colleges. Some of our favorite sports teams will begin practices and, in some form, will compete in the fall.
Let’s think through our moves. Let’s feel confident in our decisions.
Let’s walk before we run.
After all, green does not necessarily mean go in the days of COVID-19.