One recent morning, I awoke with my whole body aching. When this happens, I can usually identify an activity I dove into the previous day and presume that I did too much. We all go …
One recent morning, I awoke with my whole body aching. When this happens, I can usually identify an activity I dove into the previous day and presume that I did too much. We all go “gung-ho” sometimes and pay for it the next day. But that was not the case on this particular morning.
“I must have slept wrong”, I thought. Lying on my side with my neck cranked funny, or too long in one position. Nothing a little stretching wouldn’t take care of. But that day, the body aches were accompanied by a minor sore throat and a sneezing spell that wouldn’t quit. “Hmm” I thought. “Where have I been lately and what were the circumstances?” Instantly an answer swept in, gripping me in the pit of my stomach. The vet’s office!
A few days earlier, I had taken my dog in for a tick check that included shaving a small spot on his neck and drawing blood for a Lyme test. As you can imagine, he wasn’t hep to this, wiggling like an angleworm and ready to jump from the exam table. So, the troops were called in to hold him while the doc did his work. The job got done with no major calamities, thank goodness, and I was then instructed to wait in the lobby for “ten or fifteen minutes” until the test results were available.
I took a seat with my fur baby on my lap, feeling relieved that the worst part of the process was over. From behind my mask I glanced around the room. Suddenly, a light bulb went on. “Oh, no!” To successfully complete the blood draw, it had taken three of us, huddling face-to-face, mere inches apart, holding Duffy firmly in our clutches. In the midst of that scramble, I’d noticed that the professionals around me wore their masks dangling loosely from their ears and below their chins. In that moment, I thought to myself, “It’s too late now. We can’t stop mid-shave!” But there in the lobby, I had suddenly “come to”. I realized that I’d taken part in one of those potential COVID “super-spreader events” that I’d heard so much about lately!
With that, I arose from my seat and announced to the unmasked receptionist and her assistant, “I need to go wait in my car.” Off I scurried, mildly freaking out. After months of being vigilant, I could picture all my precautionary efforts going right down the drain. Once in the parking lot, I slid in behind the steering wheel and propped open the driver’s side door. I took a deep breath and gazed up at a brilliant blue sky and the golden crown of aspen leaves fluttering overhead … a soothing balm for my troubled mind. I could gradually feel myself calming down, recognizing this moment of perfection in the here and now.
After a while, the doctor, wearing his mask per the protocol, finally came out to talk with me. He explained that the results were negative, “Nothing to worry about at this point, but in light of the two deer ticks you found, I recommend we give him some prophylactic antibiotics.” Seemed like a good plan to me. Truth is, I will never deny my gratitude for his valuable services. BUT… I also won’t deny my anxiety over being inside his non-protective environment! So, I mustered my courage and made a respectful request. “Considering that we’re living in the midst of a serious global pandemic, could you and the staff start wearing your masks as recommended? It’s for your safety as much as mine!” He hesitated for a second, perhaps a little taken aback, but then I heard him utter a subdued “yes”. I then thanked him while handing him my check and drove away with the necessary pills in my purse.
Now, revisiting the incident days later, I’m feeling as much or more concern for my own health as I had been for Duffy’s. I don’t think that was the intended goal.
Despite our better understanding of this truly challenging virus, Minnesota’s mandatory mask order, and COVID cases continuing to increase, these situations of unsafe exposures continue to occur. What’s especially worrisome to me is that some of the people in leadership roles are modeling unsafe behavior and even mock those who are trying to stay safe. I’m especially baffled when I see people who’ve been educated in the sciences not taking the risks more seriously! What is leading them to doubt scientific data or unabashedly refuse to apply it? How does one deny the spread of a known virus that’s taken over 215,000 lives in the U.S. alone and now has surpassed 20 million known cases worldwide?
I don’t want to pick on anyone. Nor do I want to sound disrespectful. I heartily defend the right to our own opinions. But there are plenty of examples of contagious diseases becoming public health crises. Think about HIV/AIDS, Ebola, bubonic plague, and cholera, not to mention bouts with other serious strains of influenza that have taken millions of lives. People are often reluctant at first to follow prevention protocols. But as conditions worsen, we eventually accept the reality and give it “our all” in hopes of gaining control over its spread. I wonder how “non-compliers” rationalize their own vulnerability and that of their families, friends, and customers?
I want to be clear. I genuinely appreciate and care about my veterinarian, my pharmacist, our store clerks and neighbors. That’s why I am making this public request. Please accommodate the people in the community who don’t feel safe and secure in your presence. We too miss the way it was and wish this wasn’t happening. But we may have to sacrifice what we long for now if we hope to ever have it back again at some point down the way.