For many, the indignities and uncertainties of the pandemic have placed them at the edge of paralysis. As we all do, they wish it would end. They can barely lift a finger to do anything beyond the daily necessities,  energy drained by collective tolls of stress hormones, hypervigilance that never quite gets a break.

There’s a subcurrent of insult beneath the revelation that West Wing staff postured indifference to COVID-19 safety protocols: telling the truth about symptoms, wearing masks, staying at least 6 feet apart, disinfecting hands.

Many feel undermined when they see a maskless person in a business place. I’ve taken to offering the maskless a free mask. “I’m all set. You just go ahead – call the police,” one maskless shopper said to me.

I said, “I wouldn’t tell the police. I will tell the governor.”

“I hate her,” the shopper said.

“Really?” I said. “Would you rather get COVID?”

Then silence. That’s the only openly hostile response I’ve gotten so far.

That was before revelations in journalist Bob Woodward’s “Rage” that Donald Trump knew Jan. 23 that COVID-19 was spread through airborne transmission, often by symptom-free carriers.  It was prior to the COVID-19 White House West Wing wildfire. Trump, his debate coaches, Kellyanne Conway, Chris Christie, Notre Dame’s president, upward of eight attendees at the Rose Garden announcement and reception for pro-life Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. No masks. No social distancing.

Maskless Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, bragged he was America’s second-most tested man – as if testing prevented infection of the person being tested or prevented Mr. Meadows from passing the disease on to someone else. A false negative test result doesn’t mean it’s time to abandon safety protocols.

There are contrasts to the cavalier White House staff refusing to give a nod to COVID-19 prevention or brave the hostility that has become this president’s brand. That atmosphere raised the real possibility that some who had been in close contact with aide Hope Hicks, who started feeling ill the night of Sept. 30, declined – as The New York Times reports Trump did – to socially distance or inform others until a positive test result (Trump tested positive the night of Oct. 1). He did not cancel a 200-person fundraiser at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club the afternoon of Oct. 1, hours after Hicks received a positive COVID-19 test result.

The contrasts, though, lie in the efforts of everyday citizens to stop the spread – at least here in Maine. When I notice these actions – yes, pro-life affirmations of faith – I am deeply moved. They are, after all, small gestures to save life and prevent harm to people. The word “hero” aptly applies.

There are the high school checkout clerks – spraying the counters, laboring to carefully measure out 6-foot distances and putting duct tape markers down. There are the children donning their Spiderman and Mickey Mouse masks. There are the schoolmates getting used to not seeing their friends in the A to M section of the alphabet because their last name starts with an N or a T. There are those waiting patiently outside a small store with little room inside. The seemingly infinite number of handmade plexiglass shields. McDonald’s making Happy Meals without Go-Gurt, the usual toys replaced by washable plastic books.

I’m a mental health professional. No one prefers videoconferencing sessions to live, face-to-face contact. We’ve  accommodated. Then there are the health insurance companies. To a one – almost – they have stepped up and covered videoconferencing mental health sessions, waiving co-payments and deductibles, because they know mental health is endangered during hypervigilant times. It’s safer for people to be seen at home instead of an office, pro-health, which is a very large affirmation of life. Yes, pro-life, with no politicizing human well-being.

The West Wing COVID-19 outbreak, a Supreme Court nominee sanctioning a maskless, no-social-distancing event, raises the question – pro whose life? Trump was hospitalized, many attendees COVID-19 positive, likely more to come. The innocently trusting often suffer at the hands of the indifferent important. The checkout clerk at Kellyanne Conway’s convenience store. The beautifully dressed children standing next to Donald Trump. Betsy DeVos grinning at the pro-life nominee’s reception. The smallest pro-life view just then – in fact, quite the opposite.


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