Professor Barlow’s Time of Coronavirus Journal, Part XI

Jay Street, Brooklyn

Yesterday, when we were walking the dog, we paused to let a maskless woman cross in front of us. She turned to look at us.

“You don’t have to wait. I’m not poison.”

We waited anyway and followed, at a safe distance, as she continued down the street.

She stopped at the door of an apartment building and, as she was unlocking it, said, “You won’t stay so far away when you need something from me.”

We simply walked on once she had closed the door.

That was the first time I have encountered aggressive rebuke for social distancing on the street. I did imagine there were some people who would see it as a personal insult when others stepped well out of their way or stopped at a distance to let them go by. But I had hoped that there weren’t people so ignorant and self-centered to think that the action is about them.

When, most emphatically, it is not. If it is about them in any way, it is about protecting them. This woman was the more vulnerable one. We were acting on the reasonable epidemic advice, “Proceed as though you are the one with the disease.” That way, because many of us can carry the virus without knowing it, we don’t endanger others. None of us wants to unconsciously infect others and none of us knows whether or not we care carrying the virus—even if we have been recently tested.

That’s what was so egregious about Vice President Michael Pence refusing to don a mask during a visit to the Mayo Clinic earlier this week. The Clinic had asked that he respect the protocol but Pence decided he needn’t. “Somehow, I don’t see it for myself. I just — I just don’t…. I won’t be doing it personally. It’s a recommendation,” he said.

The irresponsibility of that is astonishing, more so now that the number of COVID-19 deaths exceeds the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War and the recorded number of Americans who have contracted the disease passes one million. For Pence, clearly, it’s all about Pence. He doesn’t seem to get that the mask is not to protect him but to protect others.

Our individual freedoms end where they start to negatively affect others.

Unfortunately, there are too many Americans who don’t understand this, who think their liberty to do whatever they please is absolute. It never has been. Your freedom to throw a punch, as they say, stops at my face.

A distant friend brags on Facebook about not wearing a mask, insisting it is his right. He claims a new fraternity of maskless people. They smile at each other, he says, in a new community of nonconformists.

“Look,” I want to say to him (but won’t—it would do no good), “I don’t like the masks much either, nor do I believe that they do much good. However, they certainly are a symbol that we are all in this together and that we respect each other enough to not want to infect them. It’s a symbol that we don’t know if we are carriers but also that we care. We don’t live as independent individuals but as members of a group, whether we like it or not. And we really need to respect the others in the group. Yes, the masks may not be necessary, but living together is. When we go out without a mask, we signal that we take from society but are refusing to give anything back or to respect the others who allow us to take. Not wearing a mask is a sign of ignorant egotism, not something I would brag about, on Facebook or elsewhere.”

All that would do would be to get him to block me, and that serves no purpose at all.

When this is over, where there is a vaccine and adequate testing, we’ll all be able to throw away our masks and our gloves and learn again how to be close to others. Perhaps we will even have developed new respect for others and even affection that comes from knowing they cared enough about us to take precautions, whether there was an absolute need or not.

29 thoughts on “Professor Barlow’s Time of Coronavirus Journal, Part XI”

  1. its really sad to see how someones ignorant’s can get in the way of their health. You did the right thing by playing it safe because many positive carriers for COVID-19 have asymptomatic symptoms for weeks. Many people find it offensive to be looked down upon but in this time of crisis health plays a important part. social distancing and stopping the spread of the virus is our main priority so personally hurting someones feeling or making them feel a type of way is a way smarter choice then being up close and personal with them to make them feel welcomed.

  2. It’s crazy how people are getting offended by someone trying to be safe. “Proceed as though you are the one with the disease” is the best way to put it; you never know who may have it, if anything you could and not even know it. My mothers coworker of more than ten years recently passed away from the virus and all she had was a minor fever, she didn’t have a cough or any of the other symptoms. This virus is killing so many people yet many have the audacity to protest quarantine just because they want a haircut.

  3. When I read this part of the journal, It reminded me what happened to me few weeks ago when I was still going to work. One day I was coming back home and got into a F train where everyone was sitting in a safe distance. I found myself a safe place and an Asian lady saw me and looked into my eye with anger.She stood up near the door of the train and she was standing throughout the time I was there. It made me really upset because I was wearing mask and gloves and maintained a safe distance but she did not wear mask although,she was wearing gloves. It is the right choice to maintain social distancing but in the name of social distancing some people are acting in a way that can hurt someone else feelings.

  4. I found that many people have started to go out now. They are not as scared as they were at first. I feel that they have been numb for a long time. They have started to go out. Many supermarkets have opened.

  5. Our family is thinking about letting me go back to China, because every day at home is too boring, I plan to go back to see my grandparents and go with them to travel together. I do n’t know if this is a good idea because I also chose the summer class, maybe I will have a class in China

      1. I changed the theme of my essay3. When I took my dog out for a play today, we met our neighbors and we chatted for a while and found that my neighbor owns a restaurant. I want to interview him about the impact of the virus on him and some of his opinions. I find this very interesting. I can learn more knowledge. Is this idea ok?

  6. After reading your journal, it reminds me of what Trump hopes to get people back to work in May. My boss wants us to start work again on May 15. My job is a dental assistant. We all know that coronavirus can be spread by saliva. In Wuhan, China, many occupations have not yet been opened, and Wuhan has not had any new coronavirus patients for a long time. But many people in Wuhan still work from home. Although I am looking forward to going to school as soon as possible, before the coronavirus is under control, I think we should still stay at home. This is the only way to ensure the safety of everyone and the safety of the United States.

        1. Go to the post dated 4/20 for details. Basically, look over your journal for a topic. Then find two articles online that relate to it and also interview someone in relation to the topic.

  7. Now reducing the amount of going out and staying at home is the best way to protect yourself. Even if you want to go out and you have to be far away, this is the best way at present. Because this pair is responsible for itself and other people. This thing reminds me of Europe. When Europe started, no one really felt the virus crisis. They despised the harm caused by the virus this time. Especially Italy. After marathon and other carnival activities, it is now the country with the highest mortality rate in the world

  8. I feel like in a matter such as this one, people reacting that way are taking things too personal. It is not a crime to follow the 6ft social distancing rule, and everyone has their own reasons for it as well. It could’ve even worked out where you were trying to protect her instead of worrying about yourself but evidently in a time like this, regardless if people think you are “scared” it is okay to be. We’re all just hanging in there, if there was no rudeness or vulgar attitudes, it should be good.

  9. i have experienced the same thing yesterday. every time i try to avoid a close interaction with someone at the road, they tend to give me a look. i don’t know why is it so offensive to some people. at this point i don’t mind them at all. they can figure out why they feel the way they feel. i have to do what’s right for me and my family.

  10. This pandemic has definitely caused people to be a little more hostile than normal. I find that not everyone is considerate enough to wear protective equipment, whether they are sick or not.

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