Sick of the pandemic? Not if we all mask up

By John Pixley

People really wanted to be there, to get out. They were just dying to.
Look, I get it. After nearly a year and a half of lock-down and isolation, because of COVID, I am more than ready to get out and do stuff. After months and months and months – has it really been 16 months? – of nothing going on, I was thrilled to see events around town that I could go to.
Last year in April or May or so, not too long after the pandemic began and we all had to isolate ourselves and keep apart from each other and everything was shut down, I read about a woman saying she was “tired of Netflix.” I laughed. How could anyone get tired of Netflix, I thought.
But now I get it. I hear her. Although it’s amazing what can be watched online, even just on Netflix, it has now, a year and some later, gotten boring to be stuck at home watching television or some other screen. I have been itching to get out and see some presentations – even a movie – with others.
I have been itching to get back to doing things with others, in community.
So I was thrilled when I saw that Friday Nights Live in the Village and the Monday Night Concerts in Memorial Park had started up or were starting up again. Finally! Live music in Claremont for the first time in a year and a half! This was going to be great.
I felt giddy, like I was going on an adventure, when, on a Friday night a few weeks ago, I went to the Village with my mask on to hear some live music. It was almost like when I went up to Friday Nights Live on my own in my wheelchair for the first time after my spinal surgery, which left me considerably more disabled, four years ago.
But I didn’t expect it to be a shocking if not downright scary adventure. I had seen plenty of people out in recent months not wearing masks as if there wasn’t a pandemic going on, but I was shocked, to say the least, to see this at Friday Nights Live. I did see a few fellow mask wearers wander by now and then, but most people weren’t masked up.
It was even more of a shock when I went to Memorial Park on the next Monday evening for the first concert in two summers. I was very eager, hungering for this cherished event, but the crowd was much bigger than I expected (at least the crowd wasn’t big at Friday Night Live), and, from where I sat, there wasn’t plenty of room to spread out, contrary to one report, and most in the crowd weren’t wearing masks.
In Claremont?
In this town of trees and PhD’s, where education and the sciences are so highly valued?
Now, maybe I’m paranoid. These events were outside, and it has been reported that the coronavirus is less likely to be spread outside. And I understand that many Claremonters have been vaccinated, and it is proven that the vaccinations prevent serious illness and death.
Nevertheless, I sat on the side, away from the crowd, wearing a mask. Wearing a mask was now, for me is no longer just a matter of signaling that I believe in science, that I care for others. It was now about the far more contagious Delta variant and the fact that even though the vast majority of the many who have been getting ill and seriously ill have not been vaccinated, a significant number who have been vaccinated are catching and transmitting the virus, which has killed more than 600,000 Americans. True, most of these people aren’t getting seriously ill, but it still freaked me out when a close friend got COVID even though he was vaccinated and super careful about masking, keeping socially distanced and all that.
I can understand how it’s easy to hear this and say, “Why bother? Why bother masking, why bother getting a vaccine, if I’ll get COVID anyway?”
I just know that I don’t want to get COVID. I’m not sure if my disability is a underlying condition, as they say, but I don’t want to end up in a hospital crowded with COVID patients where, with my severe disability, I might not be a high or equal priority. I know that such a scenario is now unlikely with all the vaccinations that have been given – although many more have to be given if we want to be out of this nightmare – but, then again, we did think that everything was getting much better in June before the super contagious and more dangerous Delta variant came along.
I know – it’s tough. Believe me. I want to go out and enjoy live music. (I also went to the Ophelia’s Jump production of Twelfth Night at the outdoor Greek Theater on the Pomona College campus last month – it was thrilling to go out to a play – but I felt much safer with the protocols in place there.) I want to go out and not keep being stuck at home. But I want to be safe. I have to be safe. What is to be done?
Wear a damn mask! What’s so hard about that? Yes, I know masks are a pain. I don’t like wearing them. They get hot, obstruct my vision, make it even harder to understand my impaired speech, keep riding up or down my face, etc. Yes, masks are an inconvenience, but they are a small inconvenience that has been shown can, besides from vaccinations, to have a big part in helping us all put this God-awful pandemic behind us.
With students finally going back to in-person school full-time, I’ll note that, when it comes to wearing masks, the kids are alright. When I see children out wearing masks, they appear to be just fine, not whining or pulling at them, contrary to what many adults predicted and to what some Republican governors are still insisting. They just do what kids always do – wearing masks, unlike many adults who, to say the least, gripe ceaselessly about having to wear them. Perhaps we can learn from our children about being patient and caring for one another.
It is jarring that there are now two worlds – one in which people are careful, concerned about COVID and getting and spreading it, and one in which people act like nothing’s wrong, like there wasn’t a pandemic, like it was just a big nuisance or it is over.
Something else is jarring. Although I have enjoyed going back to the movies at the Laemmle Cinema, I’m finding myself angry when movies are coming out “only in theaters.” I now resent it when I can’t watch a new movie at home instead of having to wait for months to do so.
This pandemic has screwed things up, some for the good, but way too much for the worse. Get vaccinated, and wear a damn mask!


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