Please do me a favor. It’s a big one and you’re not going to like it, but please stay home for the holidays. National travel rates are basically back to pre-pandemic numbers and I saw all the pics you posted from Thanksgiving. I know just bringing this up is going to make a lot of you feel judged and I don’t really know how to get past that. I got my booster a couple of days ago and it made me feel a little better, emotionally speaking. I felt like I was doing my part. But I also know six people who got infected over the last couple of weeks and they’d all had their boosters, so it’s obviously not enough.
Honestly, I worry the real problem is that our society has created a population that only values categories of status, and so any marginal critique of one’s actions is taken as an assault on one’s identity and therefore must be defended beyond logic or fact or any other measure of a shared reality. Assuming we’re not there yet and enough of us are able to focus on the potential long-term consequences of our actions over the momentary pinch of our most base emotions, let me tell you why you should stay home for the holidays.
Now, first of all, I know a lot of us think in terms of what we’re “allowed” to do. Just for a little while, try not to think like that. What we’re “allowed” to do can often turn into “what we can get away with.” COVID doesn’t negotiate like that, and so neither should you.
Just so we’re clear on what we’re up against, regardless of the fact that Maine has some of the highest vaccination rates in the country, we are losing our fight against COVID-19. Our hospitals are at a reduced capacity due to healthcare worker shortages. On top of that, our hospitals are already full. Last November there were 67 COVID deaths in Maine. As of this writing, there have already been 136 COVID deaths this November. New cases, hospitalizations and patients on ventilators are all at peaks far beyond anything we’ve seen so far in the pandemic. And, again, we have some of the highest vaccination rates in the country. We’re obviously doing something wrong and I haven’t even mentioned the new Omicron variant yet.
I know many of you are thinking these goddamned unvaccinated people are gonna kill us all! I know this is not a popular idea, but that’s not really the problem. I know they’re a problem, and their existence points to our ever-crumbling society in a variety of ways, but them being wholly at fault here just doesn’t make sense. In order for them to be fully responsible for our terrifying growth in numbers, their numbers would also have to be growing. But there are not more unvaccinated Mainers than ever. The opposite is true. They’ve been steadily dying this whole time.
Our problem is institutional. If there is a public emergency of any sort, you expect the institutional response to be a type of evacuation, then some sort of identification, evaluation and eventual nullification of the threat before resuming normality. If a tornado is ripping through downtown, you don’t expect the Emergency Broadcast System to screech out that tone only to then tell you to have a nice day at work. An approaching tsunami shouldn’t inspire the lifeguard to compliment some children on their sandcastles while telling others to behave themselves. Imagine there was an active shooter in your area and the police response was:
Don’t worry! There are tons of people in the area and he’s only got so many bullets. The chances of you being one of the particular individuals to be shot are actually pretty slim, if you think about it. Plus, even if you do get shot, people survive bullet wounds all the time! We’re actually encouraging everyone to start wearing bullet-proof vests. Some people don’t think they work, but they actually greatly reduce the chances of dying by gunshot. No, they’re not perfect and yes, a bullet can still kill you, but have you thought about living a healthier lifestyle?
Obviously, if that was the response to a public emergency, we would feel as though our institutions had failed us. Stimulus checks have dried up, but FEMA will give you up to $9,000 from their COVID-19 Funeral Assistance program to bury a loved one, so make of that what you will. With the new Omicron variant and the inevitable post-Thanksgiving surge approaching, our situation is about to get really bad. Shutdowns work, but not without stimulus, so contact your representatives. Badger them. And, of course, get vaccinated, wear your masks, and please stay home for the holidays.
Samuel James is an internationally renowned bluesman and storyteller, as well as a locally known filmmaker. He can be reached at email@example.com.