Viewpoint: Pandemic denials cause anger

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By LISA SIGURGEIRSON MAXX

You’re walking into the Tuesday Farmers’ Market to get fresh vegetables grown on this sweet little island you live on, and you slow your pace to see what the pamphlets are about that are on this table where the mask-offering table used to stand.

The man behind the table says pleasantly, “Take as many pamphlets as you want.”

You smile behind your mask (though eyes smile, too, which is nice), and you try to focus on what this table is all about. There are no masks being offered here at the entrance to this market today.

Then the man behind the table says, “We really want people to know that there is no pandemic.”

Your blood instantly boils. You lean slightly closer towards him, with your mask on, of course, you look him in the eye and you say, “Don’t even.”

He says something else, which you do not register because your blood is boiling and your ire is up.

You interrupt his rant and lean somewhat closer (you are still 1.5 to two metres away from him) and you say, loudly, forcefully, through your mask, “I am immunocompromised. Don’t. Even. Start.”

You walk away. Your heart is racing.

A woman who has overseen this scene offers you a quiet “Thank you.” She talks with you awhile. Your heart calms. Your breathing slows. You thank her. She was the touchstone of sanity you needed in that moment.

You carry on and purchase your organic vegetables, grown on this sweet little island you call home.

As you leave the market, the man and a couple of his buddies are there, packing up their “information” pamphlets. You decide to say something as you walk by, carrying heavy baskets full of squash and potatoes and other root vegetables, back to your vehicle.

You say, “I have a request of any of you who do not believe there is a pandemic. I ask that you go and volunteer in an ICU ward where they are dealing with COVID patients. Then come back and tell us about it.“

He blurts out a comeback immediately, without even a pause for thought. “They aren’t COVID patients,” he says. “There’s no COVID patients. There’s no way of isolating the virus to know what it actually is that people are sick with.”

If you had more energy, or more interest in engaging further, you would have said, “Oh? and how many years did you study epidemiology?”

But you don’t. So you carry on the last few metres to your car. You are tired. And your baskets are heavy.

He carries on talking as you carry on walking away.

“Just try to have an open mind,” he calls after you. “That’s all we ask,” he says. “You’ll be happier!”

That one gets you.

“Oh I am very happy!“ you call out over your shoulder as you carry on walking.

There is so much more that you would like to say. If it would make a difference. But it won’t. So you don’t.

And, as bizarre as it seems to your brain, he, you see, wants to make a difference in the way you are thinking. Imagine, you thinking there is a pandemic! How silly of you.

So you load the beautiful, local produce into your waiting vehicle, and you drive yourself to your sweet little island home. Yeah, you think to yourself with an unbelieving shake of your head, so that happened.

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