Get vaccinated – and wear a mask, already

Earlier this week, we looked out at dystopian skies, toxic and hazy from distant fires and obliterating our view of the Sandias, and it seemed an apt metaphor for, well, everything.

Our worlds, literally and figuratively, are on fire. Things we love are harder to see.

COVID-19 cases are on the rise again, and so are tempers. Things feel like they’re closing in again, and this time it’s harder to find grace for those refusing to help prevent that and harder to find ways to escape from it all.

“I remember when COVID first began, I took so much solace in the outdoors. It was the one safe place to be. Nature, seemingly unaffected, was just going through its normal iterations and there was so much comfort in that,” said my friend Laura, a medical professional whose days are, once again, becoming longer, more frustrating, more heartbreaking. “I don’t even know what to say right now except COVID is surging and the outdoors feel hostile.”

Protesters gather recently at Southern and NM 528 to oppose New Mexico Public Education Department guidelines on masks. (Mike Sandoval/For The Journal)

The outdoors aren’t to blame. We’ve been terrible guardians of this planet, and the ominous United Nations report released this week spells it out in no uncertain terms.

We humans did this. The Mars-like hue of our skies should have been a clue.

But we haven’t been very good at picking up on clues. Or science. Or civics. Or common sense. Or humanity. We blame the wrong people for climate issues and COVID-19. We trust the wrong people.

Of course, who the wrong people are depends on who you are.

There are those who prefer to believe a few rogue doctors and Facebook memes about the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines rather than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Surgeons, Department of Veterans Affairs, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. David Scrase and the hundreds of thousands of scientists, physicians, nurses, friends and family who warn day after day that COVID-19 is real and getting worse, vaccines work and are safe and masks help.

This week in Albuquerque, children went back to school. Wearing a mask indoors, whether in classroom or bus, is required. Yet already, some parents have shown up to protest. At Bellehaven Elementary this week, school was on lockdown for two hours because of a “disturbance by a parent,” according to an alert issued by Albuquerque Public Schools on Facebook.

We’ve been terrible guardians of each other, and if you’ve managed to remain in denial about the need to vaccinate and mask, then look outside your silo.

You don’t need me to tell you that.

But I need to tell you this:

We need you to get vaccinated and wear your mask. Now.

I need to tell you that your friends and family and coworkers who have for months tried to sweetly, gently, patiently cajole, nudge, bribe or otherwise convince you to get vaccinated and wear your mask as needed – because, yeah, once again they’re needed – are tired of playing nice, tired of hoping you will do this for your community, your country and the children, tired of thinking that money incentives ($100 if you’re vaccinated this month!) will motivate you, tired of believing that since some Republican leaders – even Trump – are finally advocating for getting the jab that you will get the jab.

We are tired of trying to have a civil discussion with you when you attack – conversely, we do no good when we also get down in the ad hominem mud, and I admit to being guilty of that.

But, honestly, we are tired of you blathering on about your “rights” and “freedom” at the expense of ours. Tired of you yammering on about how you refuse to live in fear. It’s not fear. It’s being informed about vaccines and masks and the perils of the delta variant. It’s being caring and responsible and understanding that we can and should protect each other.

Yes, we’re all tired and we’re all angry and we don’t much like each other. But as exasperated as I am, I still believe we humans can break through the toxic haze that now obscures our vision.

This week, I heard from a relative who is finally convinced to get a vaccine. I also helped a young man sign up for his first COVID-19 shot this Friday. Turns out he simply didn’t know how to do that. He just needed a little help.

To those of you who haven’t vaccinated or masked, help is out there. To those of you trying to convince your loved ones to vaccinate and mask, keep trying, angry and tired as you might be.

We humans can do this.

Today, as I write this, the haze in the air is lighter, the sky is blue again. The Sandias are back. I breathe. I see. I hope.

UpFront is a news and opinion column. Reach Joline at jkrueger@abqjournal.com, Facebook or @jolinegkg on Twitter.

 

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