As I’m writing this, we’re over half a million reported COVID-19 cases worldwide and over 100,000 in America. Considering that number only seems to get higher every day, I can only imagine where it  will be in a week. 

It’s terrifying. 

The United States is leading the charts now, and only days ago we were looking in awe at the staggering death rates and overflowing hospitals in other countries. Soon enough we won’t have to look further than down the street. 

I’m thankful. I live in a safe neighborhood. I have insurance. I’m back in the home I lived in during my teenage years. But I’m still living with a weird constant anxiety… Why? 

I think it’s really important for us to break down and understand this event on a personal level. Listening to stories about the coronavirus can be difficult and heart-wrenching, but it’s important everyone understands the gravity of what’s going on for so many people. Numbers don’t tell the whole story.

So let’s start with my family. 

I live with my mother, my aunt, and my grandmother. A strong group of matriarchs. 

My mother — the head of household, who’s a lifetime smoker with a cough that hasn’t gone away for five years. 

My aunt — at first a temporary guest while she got back on her feet, she’s now here until this blows over. She is also a smoker, and using oxygen treatments daily to help support her breathing. 

My grandmother — the light of my life. I’ve looked up to her for so many years. She spent the last half of her life as an oncology nurse, helping the sickest people and getting familiar with what death looks like. She hammered it into me when I was growing up that everything was replaceable except life. Retired, she lives with us and tells stories of her multiple (terrible) husbands, the bar she owned, and the patients she saw to the end of their lives.

She’s also had an almost fully reconstructed right arm, multiple heart attacks, a rare quintuple bypass surgery, blood clots in both her lungs, skin cancer, and growths discovered on her ovaries and thyroid. It’s presumptive that these are also cancer, but she doesn’t want to know, having seen first hand what treatment is like. 

Nanny is 73 years old and objectively the winner of pre-existing condition bingo. 

No one thinks she would survive a case of COVID-19. My mother and aunt would almost certainly be hospitalized. My home state is now reporting upwards of 100 new cases a day, many of which are found around the counties adjacent to mine. 

Something I want to emphasize here is that my family isn’t the only one. There are plenty of other families and loved ones who have good reason to be afraid of what would happen if they got sick. Not everyone is healthy and young and able to support themselves. Even if you’re not worried, please take social distancing seriously. Take these precautions for my family, for the one down the street, and for everyone else you could accidentally put at risk.  

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