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Let’s save lives together by wearing a mask

It breaks this nurse’s heart that some people—and groups like the ‘Freedom’ Foundation—spread misinformation and downplay the threat of COVID-19



(Oct. 14, 2020) — As a labor and delivery nurse at PeaceHealth Southwest in Vancouver, I’ve witnessed countless inspirational acts from people during the COVID-19 pandemic. But I’ve also seen things that have left me deeply disturbed. Working at a hospital, on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19, our entire staff has been striving to keep our patients, ourselves, and our families safe. We have adopted high levels of safety measures, based on the current science to keep everyone healthy. I am proud of the work we have done.

That’s why it breaks my heart to see some elected officials and extremist groups spreading false propaganda about the coronavirus and undermining the simple steps we can take to protect each other and the most vulnerable in our communities.

Wearing a mask is first and foremost on that list.

In the labor and delivery unit we are wearing masks throughout the day, washing hands frequently and having our temperature checked before every shift. Expectant mothers are only allowed one support person for their birth. The sacrifices have been powerful, but it is worth it to keep people safe. My co-workers and I often run 12-hour shifts with a mask on, but there are little complaints. We feel fine. If I can do it for that long while helping deliver babies, folks should be able to do it while visiting the grocery store, or any other location where they can’t remain socially distant.

We need to protect everybody, and our communities overlap in ways most people don’t think about. Healthcare workers who you may be next to at the grocery store, will likely soon be in contact with a vulnerable patient, or a mother having a baby. This virus spreads eagerly from person to person and masks are how we slow it down. I had hoped that common sense would prevail and people would be willing to make such a minor sacrifice for this once-in-a-century global pandemic.

Now it seems folks are making this pandemic political. Instead of making it about them, I think people should stand up proudly to protect each other and protect vulnerable populations. Let’s get past this thing so we can open up our economy and our schools in a way that ensures all are protected. It seems simple, but unfortunately some folks have made it political.

It’s not just individuals who are trying to fight common sense protections, entire organizations have dedicated their resources to spewing misinformation and manufacturing doubt about the pandemic, and it breaks my heart. Groups like the so-called “Freedom” Foundation, seem to be spending a lot of money and time discouraging mask use and downplaying the danger of this virus. Messages like that endanger all of us and drag out this pandemic and put more lives at risk. Maybe they’re desperate for attention after their anti-union campaign bottomed out. I don’t know why they’re doing it, but it’s shameful and destructive.

I think we will look back, a few years from now, and be shocked and dismayed at the doubt being manufactured at basic safety measures. Some people seem more concerned about forwarding their political agenda than being a decent community member and looking out for one another.

My husband and I teach our young children about role model behavior. In this case, it is the little sacrifices we can all make together that can protect our communities and our state. Wear a mask, wash your hands, stay apart when you can, and let us slow the spread of this awful virus.

It’s the same request I have for our community and it’s what I do all day as a nurse. Let’s act safely, be respectable role models, and proudly save lives together.

Didi Gray is an RN at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center and a proud member of the Washington State Nurses Association.

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