Are you one of the many people who make a New Year’s resolution?
More important, are you one of those who keep the resolution all year?
This year, more than ever, we should all share a “civil’ resolution that we will keep through the upcoming year.
For almost three years we have had to deal with COVID, but how we have dealt with it has varied. Some people have taken the threat of COVID seriously, while others think it is a hoax, and falling somewhere between these views are many people with mixed emotions on the whole situation. Of course, this makes for interesting conversations between people of differing opinions. Some discussions have become aggressive, and sometimes hostile.
So let’s make a New Year’s resolution for 2023 to be respectful and more understanding of each other’s beliefs. This appears to be an easy resolution. We will be civil when we discuss COVID with people who have a different viewpoint. However, being civil and listening to each other’s viewpoints also means we have a responsibility to make sure we do not attempt to force our opinions on someone, and this is where the resolution becomes challenging.
For example, COVID is becoming a serious illness for people age 65 and older. Sixty percent of COVID hospitalizations in December were people in this age group. Does this mean younger healthy people have less need to practice COVID safety and older people need to be more cautious?
Do younger people and people who are “over” COVID and just want to return to a normal life have a responsibility to respect people who need to be COVID-cautious because of their own health conditions or the fear of spreading the virus to another person whose age and/or health conditions make them vulnerable to infection?
Consider this real-life example. Family members are texting to figure out who is bringing what to a dinner, when a person who is over 65 suggests that everyone who is planning to attend the indoor gathering test for COVID. The person receives a reply that testing wasn’t necessary, as the person responding was sure no one would attend if they weren’t feeling well or if they had COVID symptoms. The response initially seemed sensible, and as it was a group text, reminded everyone attending the dinner to be safe.
Unfortunately, there was one oversight with this plan: it has been estimated that over half of people who have had COVID didn’t even realize they had it. They had no symptoms, but could still spread the virus, therefore compromising the health of the older attendees, and also other older adults in the younger family members’ lives. Now what does the older person do? Should they attend? Should they voice their concern and still ask people to test?
Another real-life example.
An 88-year-old father is invited to a dinner where most of the attendees are not vaccinated and believe COVID is a hoax. The father is fully vaccinated and boosted but not in good health. Should the father go? He certainly wants to see his family and celebrate with them. Yes, they could all test and try to make this a safe situation, but their staunch beliefs make this unlikely.
In making the proposed New Year’s civil resolution does being civil mean not making a decision for someone who has a differing opinion? By not testing, do the people mentioned above make a decision for someone else?
In both cases someone else made the decision not to test, which compromised the safety of the older attendees, who still had choices, but not the safest one. They could not go to the event, risk going to the event, or try to have a civil conversation on how helpful it would be if everyone could please just test before attending. If the older adult decided to attend, his safety could be enhanced by wearing an N-95 mask, removing it only to eat, and by eating in an area away from others.
A recent report indicates that the United States has the highest number of COVID cases worldwide. Although RSV and flu cases are leveling off, COVID cases are not. It continues to be a severe health risk for people who are immune-compromised, have a chronic disorder, or are age 65 or older. If we agree on this, can we please not make risky decisions for these people, or sentence them to staying home?
Let’s agree to make a resolution, as we navigate COVID, to be civil and respectful to one another in 2023. Let’s agree to disagree, but let’s be considerate of safety and health concerns beyond ourselves.
Joe and Chris Smith are from Mill Creek Township and serve on a number of nonprofit boards. They are members of Let’s End COVID!