Observations of a Front Line Worker
by Richard Morgan
Conscience Bay Meeting
I've worked rotating shifts in the hi-tech field on Long Island, NY, for over 40 years. I am privileged to be working at all and able to support my family during a time when millions of others cannot. On the other hand, by being around many others each workday, I run the risk of being an asymptomatic spreader of the virus (even while wearing my personal protective equipment (PPE), masking, and social distancing). The Serenity Prayer is my daily credo in these times: to carefully and conscientiously focus on my work, treat others as I would like to be treated, and let go of the rest.
Around April of 2020, after dark in an area of Suffolk County NY with little light pollution, I noticed a wondrous panoply of stars, normally obscured by air pollution and now boldly visible due to the 50% reduction in car traffic. The better traffic level, star visibility, and daily white puffy clouds normally unheard of in the New York City Metro area were about the only bright spots in an otherwise bleak time of economic health and human devastation.
I feel for the tens of thousands of small businesses—restaurants in particular—who have been crushed by the pandemic, along with the well-being of their workers, managers, and owners. Thousands of NYC Transit workers have died due to COVID. How can a person “social distance” in a rush hour subway? What of the special-needs student whose needs are unmet by online learning and Zoom meetings? Or that of students whose internet connection is wimpy compared to their peers?
The pandemic has opened my eyes to decades of neglect of the United States public health system in favor of short term profits for Wall Street and wealthy folk. However I agree with Dr Fauci that "in a pandemic, nobody is safe until EVERYBODY is safe."
I have a great deal of respect for the national responses to COVID of South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. Unlike the US, all three have a universal and comprehensive, single-payer, national health care system, which makes a more focused response possible. In addition those countries have an ethos of "WE" instead of "ME." People in these countries mask up not to protect themselves but to protect the other person, whose mask wearing in turn protects YOU.
Finally, I respect the many European countries, such as France and Germany (whose populations are considerable: 60 and 80 million, respectively), where the government pays the rents, mortgages, and wages of ALL citizens during the pandemic. This support enables people to isolate without the added stress people have in the USA, where we are forced, by cruel default, into the no-win choice of either earning a living or staying healthy.
We can and must do better.