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High-risk groups can hear when you talk about COVID-19

“It’s okay, only old people and people with underlying medical conditions will die from the coronavirus.”

Sound familiar? While it might make some feel better, those who are disabled, chronically ill and/or elderly can hear you. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t make them feel very good.

Let me give you an example. Imagine you have a friend named Becky. Becky has a compromised immune system due to a medical condition. She, you and another four people are taking part in a group chat in which all of you are discussing Covid-19. Unaware that Becky has an underlying condition, you then casually mention in the group chat, “It’s alright, only the already sick people will die.”

Unwittingly, your comments could be interpreted by Becky as saying, “It’s okay guys, only Becky will die.” That doesn’t reassure Becky – her life is just as valuable as everyone else’s in that group chat.

People who are immunocompromised or considered high-risk for getting the virus, are not disposable humans. They are people with fulfilling and valuable lives. While you may feel well and fine, you may be a carrier of the virus without even knowing. Ignoring the virus and its danger puts people like Becky at risk. This includes elderly people, smokers or people with asthma, people with diabetes, people with heart disease, people with cancer, pregnant women and also potentially your own friends.

People who have existing medical conditions often have a hard time getting medical help during non-pandemic days. From long waiting lists for specialists, medical testing to treatments, it is already difficult to receive the care they need. Now this feeling of fear is amplified, as the world further reduces ‘high-risk’ people to being expendable.

What we can take from all of this, is the importance of the current protocol. Things like handwashing for 20 seconds, not touching your face, social distancing and staying at home unless it is necessary to leave. These things reduce the rate of infection and allow the medical system to cope with what is happening. And allow people like Becky to get the care that they need.

It also means avoiding the urge to stockpile or hoard supplies. Often people who fall into these high-risk categories are unable to go to the shops at any given time. They have to wait for a support worker or a family member in order to go. Every act that slows down the spread of the virus can make a difference.

It’s not just about you. It’s also about your immunocompromised friend. It is about your grandparents. It’s about every person in the medical profession who is working long and tiring shifts. We all have a social responsibility to help keep this pandemic under control.

Check in on your friends and family if you can. Offer to help with the groceries, or even just a helping hand. And once this is all over, maybe we can continue to be a little kinder to those around us.