An Open Letter to Senator Josh Hawley, (R-MO)

Screen capture courtesy of my iPhone

Dear Senator Hawley,

My family and I got Covid-19 last November. We had been careful, wearing masks everywhere, not eating out or going to movies or malls, even having all our groceries delivered and left on our front doorstep. In the end, despite our diligence, we likely contracted Covid-19 when our masked son, who was working as a volunteer, came in contact with an out-of-state visitor who refused to wear a mask while visiting Dinosaur Ridge. Joe argued that asking others, who had blatantly disregarded signage about state mask mandates, to don masks was above his volunteer pay grade. We agreed. So, he got sick first and then we all did. We had mild cases, for which we were deeply grateful. After our two week quarantine period was up, however, we noticed we weren’t bouncing back to our usual healthy selves. Weeks after we had resumed our now normal distanced and masked lives, we noticed we were struggling through exercise and having greater difficulty catching our breath. We were constantly tired, and our senses of taste and smell had not fully returned to normal. Nine months later, three out of the four of us still don’t have our taste and smell back to our pre-Covid experience. Covid can leave a mark.

Despite being a Covid-19 survivor and having had a positive test for antibodies in mid March, I got the vaccine. I had no concerns about its efficacy or safety. I am not a scientist, but I understand how science works. If physicians and researchers who dedicated their lives to eradicating viruses were lining up to get the vaccine, it was safe. I didn’t give it a second thought. I wanted normal life back. I too wanted to get rid of my mask. So, by mid April my husband and I were fully vaccinated, and our teenage sons followed suit by early May. When the CDC decided that vaccinated people could take off their masks, we were thrilled and nervous. We resumed our mask-free lives, relatively hopeful that others would step up for vaccines and we would all be safe from Covid soon.

But that didn’t happen. That didn’t happen because half the nation decided to think about getting vaccinated while the more virulent Delta strain ravaged India. All the warning signs were there. We knew Delta was beginning to increase infections in the US, but the unvaccinated weren’t concerned. And Fox News and Republican politicians like you raised no alarms. You instead bolstered doubt by politicizing the push for vaccines as something dubious that the Democrats had up their sleeves. You pushed the notion that freedom means not having to get a life-saving vaccine or wear a stupid, goddamn cloth mask (which, by the way, most four year olds I’ve seen can manage better than right-wing conservatives). As Delta started turning your state into a Covid nightmare for your hospitals, the CDC had to reverse course on the mask mandate. Masks were needed again because Delta, with its higher rate of transmission, was burning through the population and creating an unnecessary burden on our hospitals and health care professionals.

So, let’s get something straight. The mask wearing the CDC is recommending is about politics. We have to go back to wearing masks because conservatives refused to get vaccinated before Delta took hold. You all had months to do this. Months. Vaccines were being tossed in the garbage because you would not get the shots. People around the world were desperately clamoring for vaccinations, but spoiled, selfish, and self-righteous Americans were turning up their noses at them. And, thus, Delta came calling, you all kept spreading, and now masks are back. This is not a flip flop by the CDC. This is a revision in advice because of a precipitous increase in Covid-19 cases due to a more virulent strain. And that, my friend, rests mostly on you and your unvaccinated acolytes.

As to your hyperbolic complaint that we will be forced to wear masks indefinitely, no one knows if that will come to fruition. But viruses do have time to mutate and become more deadly while their hosts are busy hemming and hawing about vaccine safety and using politics to cast doubt on science. So, if there does come a day when we all have to wear masks indefinitely to stave off deadly, airborne viruses, I will be looking at you, Senator. Well, the part of you I can see under your mask, anyway.