This past week, millions of Americans joined together in total defiance of all public health advice for another round of infecting and killing their loved ones, while ensuring that the nation’s medical professionals will face several more months of risky, grueling, emotionally draining labor trying to keep a country full of heedless jerks and credulous conspiracy-mongers alive.
Many doctors, nurses, and hospital staff are increasingly hopeless and disillusioned. Gone are the 7’oclock cheers and “Thank you essential workers” signs in every window. That fleeting solidarity has been replaced by a cold, selfish indifference to the staggering and seemingly pointless sacrifices these heroic workers continue to make on our behalf. And many of them are wondering how much longer they can keep it up.
Never has this been more clear than it was over the long cweekend. While many Americans did the sensible — if heart-wrenching — thing and stayed home or limited their gatherings to small, pre-existing “pods,” more than a million people traveled through airports the day before Thanksgiving. In one poll, 40 percent of respondents told researchers they were planning on attending a large, in-person gathering. All of this while a record 90,000 people were already hospitalized with COVID-19, and public health professionals begged people to stay home so as not to exacerbate the problem.
How can people do this, knowing that their actions risk their own lives and the lives of others? It would be one thing if the incredible, worldwide scientific effort to create a vaccine for this terrible virus was failing and there was no hope on the bleak horizon. But it looks like multiple vaccines will be deployed beginning next month, with the possibility of a return to some kind of normalcy by May. The end of this thing is now tantalizingly in sight.
This is not to minimize what people have been through, or the misery that awaits those who hunker down for the winter, still cruelly shorn of nearly all social contact and ordinary joys. It is not to dismiss the agony of those who have lost jobs and businesses, with no help whatsoever from their government since the summer. It’s all been a nightmare, and I’m one of those extraordinarily fortunate professionals who has been able to stay employed and work from home with my family.
But the reality is that many Americans are now consciously choosing to spread death and suffering over finding the strength to endure for a few more months. And they aren’t just harming themselves: They are putting unimaginable strain on the country’s health-care system, as burned out doctors, nurses, and staff ask themselves why they are martyring themselves on behalf of such a venal society.
Don’t believe me? If you have friends or loved ones who work in health care, ask them how they’re doing. I reached out to some of the medical professionals in my network, and the responses were sobering. “Many of my colleagues (the including me),” said one pediatrician friend, “have had their faith in humanity irreparably damaged by our countrymen’s response to this challenge.” One viral immunologist told me that, “I feel upset with these folks because this is inevitably going to cause more death and harm and not just to them but others who did stay home and followed guidelines.” He added that much of the blame rests with national and state political leaders determined to play down the gravity of the problem so they could rush economic re-openings. A palliative medical counselor said that the staff at her facility “is wonderful but furious when it is the patients’ reckless behavior that puts them in the ICU for COVID.” Fury gives way to exhaustion and resignation. “They still provide superhuman care,” she says, “but it’s only human to be frustrated.”
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SOURCE: The Week, David Faris