As a deacon, I get around a lot — from church to work to doing stuff downtown, from here to Sequim and even Seattle and its environs, and so I run in a number of different circles. Folks, I love you but I have to say this: Wear your darn masks. Wear them, for God’s sake.
In the past week, I have been told by folks that they have had COVID, or been exposed to COVID, on no fewer than three separate occasions, among very differing crowds. So, message No. 1: unless a doctor has told you not to wear a mask, wear it.
I’m not even going to talk about vaccinations. I’m over it. You know you should, you know why you should, and you know your doctor has told you to. Like I wrote in one of my first essays in the PDN, it’s Christian duty and good citizenry to get your shots.
But if you won’t, you won’t. I give up, and if you’re going to not get your shots, at least hang at home and don’t infect others.
One of my friends refuses to get her vaccinations, last I heard, but she copes with that, in turn, by staying home, a lot, within her family circle, and wearing masks when she has to go out on errands like shopping.
I can live with that, though I worry for her. But then, fair’s fair, she worries about me because I’ve had four shots — two vaccinations and two boosters.
But let me share something I learned during the early years of the HIV epidemic: exposure is inevitable.
This became even more true when HIV became a pandemic.
Let me repeat that for the crowd in back: exposure is inevitable.
Gay and bisexual men, women, lots of people, became exposed to HIV; they couldn’t not. Then as now, people didn’t always disclose their status, and there are arguments on both sides as to whether or not HIV-positive folks should disclose their status. But, absolutely, if you were sexually active, you couldn’t trust your partners to tell the truth.
So, in order to fight that hard truth (third time is all: “exposure is inevitable”), those out there having various kinds of sex began to use two ways of thinking about HIV:
1. For your sake, assume all others had HIV, regardless of what they told you.
2. For their sake, know your status, but, since yesterday’s negative test result is now today’s infection (there is a lag time between infection and positive result), act as if you had HIV in all sexual encounters. Period.
That advice saved a lot of unnecessary infections for a lot of people.
Today, same thing. In the papers and in conversations with doctors, it’s very clear that COVID, no matter how tired you are of dealing with it, and we all are, is not going away.
So, Rule 1 above can now read, “assume that everyone you see, everyone you talk to, every service person you work with, every customer you serve, every person in a crowd, every person you live with, everyone has or has been exposed to COVID.”
We know, I mean know, that COVID is vastly underreported. We know that COVID home tests aren’t always accurate. We know it’s here and rising.
But right now, thank God, the current strains of COVID out here in Clallam and Jefferson counties are fairly mild, especially for those who are vaccinated.
Hospital personnel I talk to are deeply relieved — they’re seeing fewer cases, and as one told me, “It’s good to be doing what I signed on to do.”
But tomorrow’s strain? Viruses mutate. And some strains are worse than others. And others will be much, much worse. Darwin is on our side here: if a virus mutates to a truly pernicious level, it kills its host before it can replicate. So much for that strain, but also so much for the person who had it, and their families and friends.
But for others’ sake: Rule 2 applies. Act as if you have COVID. Keep up your vaccines. Keep your mask on in public. Please. You don’t need to die, and we don’t want to lose you.
I know some of you won’t or can’t hear this. Well, for you, I have this to add. Darwin applies here too. If you die, you don’t spread the virus anymore. As one doctor I know told me, “some people will just have to die.”
If that is what it takes, then there it is. But don’t be that person. And don’t take others with you.
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Dr. Keith Dorwick is a Deacon at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Port Angeles/St. Swithin’s Episcopal Church, Forks.