Editor’s note: In this emotional op-ed, one mother delves into the toll COVID-19 has taken on her world, and why we need to take this seriously and come together as a community. To our readers: if you’re looking for a moment of relatability or a reality check, this is it.
I remember it so clearly: I was on the treadmill, huffing and puffing away, while my mind was wandering over what seemed like the million little things that needed to be done that day.
“Have you heard of this new virus that started in China? The coronavirus?” A friend walked up and gestured to the T.V. that was on in the background, tuned in to a local news channel.
Call it intuition or paranoia, but I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that my friend was right. We were going to get hit, and it was going to change us. I finished my workout, gathered my son from the childcare play area, and went home — all the while reassuring myself that things would be fine.
I was wrong.
A few weeks later, we heard about the first case of COVID-19, and then the first death. Then it took each state, one at a time. Schools were sending out notices about potential closings, and getting things together for digital classrooms. Companies were talking about sending employees home and working remotely. Flights were being cancelled left and right.
And then it seemed like all of a sudden, the talk was all done, and action was being taken. Indeed, everything that could be shut down was shut down. And I found myself homeschooling my daughter through kindergarten with the help of her teacher, sending videos on Google Classroom. We logged on Zoom to have her usual taekwondo lessons twice weekly. We played outside for “recess,” but shunned playdates. It was just too risky.
All of this was done in a matter of a few days in order to slow the spread of this virus; a virus where the symptoms seemed to range from a dry cough to death. It seemed like every day there was a new discovery on who was more prone to it, or a new symptom that another patient had shown. I went through charts and graphs on the internet, and learned that in order to flatten the curve, people needed to maintain a distance of at least six feet (two meters) from each other; though now experts believe it can even travel further than that! Staying home was the absolute best option. And that’s where we are right now: home, still abiding by the rules, so that we and others can stay safe and as healthy as possible.
Our New Normal
Tears. Fear. Guilt. Anger. I suppose these are the stages of this new normal that we are all adapting to. The first time my daughter saw her teacher on a video, she was so happy that I had to hide my tears. I was happy that she got to see her beloved teacher, but I was so sad for her that it had to be like this. Then I was wracked with guilt because hey, at least we still have access to education! There are 6.8 million displaced people around the world who don’t have the education they want or need, much less food, clean water, or even a home to call their own. So who am I to shed tears over this extremely first world problem?
I feel fear all the time. My sister’s husband is an Infectious Disease (ID) physician, and comes into contact with COVID-19 patients daily. As they have slowly run out of personal protective equipment (PPE), my brother-in-law has had to recycle his own face mask, cleaning it and then putting it in a paper bag for later. He follows a strict sanitizing protocol when he goes home. But it is still exposure. Exposure to my sister, and my niece and nephews, and my mother as well. My cousin is also an ID doctor who goes through this process as well. So we are all in a state of constant fear and worry.
I get angry because there are people, too many people, who do not care about any of this. They have the whole “It can’t happen to us” attitude. But it can. It absolutely can happen to anybody. This virus, like every single other illness, does NOT discriminate. It doesn’t matter how rich or how poor you are. It doesn’t matter how famous anyone is. It can happen. It IS happening! And yet, people want to ignore it as best as they can.
They scoff about the latest numbers of patients in the United States, claiming it’s all a conspiracy, or that the media is hyping it up too much. Or there are people just so intent on staying positive, that they end up burying their heads in the sand and ignoring the entire problem. I live in the south, so I have a lot of people throwing Bible verses at me, and saying that we are going to be fine, and that the Devil is laughing at us. They seem much more concerned about their plans being canceled than actual lives being lost and put at risk. Wouldn’t the Devil be laughing just a bit more if we were all to defy the advice given by medical experts, throw caution to the wind and continue to venture out when it’s not absolutely needed?
So, What Now?
I am not saying don’t be positive. Yes! Be positive! Continue to pray for the world, for the medical and essential personnel who are exposed to this virus every single day, and are risking their lives and well-being and those of their families as well.
Pray for the scientists who are working night and day to put together some sort of solution to this nightmare. Send out virtual hugs and positive vibes to everyone who is struggling with this. But be real. Take the precautions seriously, and don’t downplay this pandemic when others are serious about their social distancing, as everyone should be. This is not a time to take any of that lightly.
This is something that will only change with global effort. And inshallah, the world will and is coming together slowly to make the changes needed to battle this virus that has attacked humanity. We will come out of this. Lives will be lost and altered forever. But Allah has written this pandemic for us. And we must all do what we can and go by His plan.
That means being smart about protecting each other by staying apart. Don’t be dense. Take this seriously. I’ll see you guys on the other side, inshallah.