My Freedom vs. COVID-19: Should I Cancel Thanksgiving?

Freedom – a value we hold in high regard as conservatives. We believe to our core that America is a better place when we empower individuals to make decisions for themselves and cut back government control. It’s part of who we are – the “independent spirit” that Dr. Anthony Fauci recently referenced. It’s clear that spirit is alive and well.

And so is COVID-19.

Given the record-setting numbers for the past several days – I think it’s safe to say while we’re freedom fighting, freedom isn’t doing anything to fight COVID-19. No – this isn’t a call for a national lockdown, but it is meant to educate us all to do our “freedom-ing” a little better.

First, a couple of definitions important to understand that make COVID-19 difficult to contain:

  • Pre-symptomatic spread – this means people can be contagious before they begin showing symptoms.
  • Asymptomatic spread – this means some people who have COVID-19 don’t show symptoms, but still pass the virus.
  • COVID-19 Exposure – Individual who has had close contact (within six feet for a total of 15 minutes or more) with someone who has COVID-19 (knowingly or unknowingly – because: first two bullet points).

Let’s start with a visual – the infamous sexual exposure chart. First, a review for those who may be rusty on sex education – this chart illustrates the fact that for every individual you have sex with, you’re exposing yourself to that person AND everyone that person has had sex with. It gives a visual of why STDs have become so common.

Instead of sexual exposure, let’s talk about COVID-19 exposure, defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as an “Individual who has had close contact (within six feet for a total of 15 minutes or more)” with someone who has COVID-19. At any point in time, when you expose yourself to others, you risk contracting COVID-19 – at the office, at school, out to dinner with friends, etc. You also risk spreading it. Just like sexual exposure means you’re exposing yourself to everyone that person has had sex with – COVID-19 exposure means you are exposing yourself to everyone individuals from other households have been exposed to and vice versa.

The only way to avoid exposure to COVID-19 is to abstain (couldn’t help myself…) from exposing yourself to anyone who has not quarantined for 14 days. Enter Thanksgiving. Let me guess, here’s what you’re thinking at this point:

“My government isn’t going to tell me what I can do in my own house with my family.”

“Our family has discussed it and we are all willing to take the risk so we can enjoy a day of Thanksgiving together.”

Freedom. And these statements aren’t incorrect. Whether or not to cancel Thanksgiving is a decision your family needs to own. Let me explain exactly what I mean by “owning the decision.”

When your family gathers for Thanksgiving, let’s say there are going to be 10 people around the table. I’ll assume that each of them has likely been exposed (within six feet of other people for more than 15 minutes) to 10 other people throughout the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Therefore, it’s not outrageous to assume you – and each of those 10 members of your family – will be exposing yourselves to ~1023 people or more. And still, you say, that’s fine, we have discussed it and we accept the risk – we’re not canceling Thanksgiving. Again, I say, that is your decision.

After Thanksgiving, one family member heads back to college, another to grade school, and several are back to work. No one is sick. But remember, that doesn’t mean no one is carrying COVID-19, because studies show somewhere between roughly 1 in 5 cases is asymptomatic (no symptoms). Now the chart repeats – how many people in classes at school? How many in the office at work? Before you know it, you may have unknowingly spread it to a family like mine – with a daughter, mother, and grandparents who have pre-existing conditions. And so, again, going by the statistics, it’s likely my family members wouldn’t fare as well as yours and would likely need to be hospitalized. They’re the vulnerable few, the minority. But let me tell you, if they all die, I lose my world.

Speaking of hospitals – as cases rise, healthcare workers aren’t getting much freedom. Many of them are overwhelmed and some of them are running low on space – leaving them unable to treat those who need it.

Freedom? Yes. But freedom in the midst of a public health crisis is nothing without selflessness and compassion. We’re all in this together, America. Make a decision you’re comfortable owning this holiday season.

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