Editor’s note: This is a special guest op-ed from BernardGoldberg.com Premium Member, Michael G. Frankel.
I have a suppressed immune system. Eleven years ago, I received a kidney transplant from a wonderful friend. For the past 11 years, every 12 hours I take two medications that suppress my immune system to help reduce my risk of organ rejection.
For the past 11 years, I have tried to be very careful in my daily activities to avoid anyone (friends and family included) who was coughing, had a cold or a sore throat, or otherwise was under the weather. Prior to my retirement a few years ago, I traveled pretty much weekly throughout the U.S. and once or twice a year to Europe on business. I always wore a face mask and, amusingly, would receive stares and dirty looks and was often asked by the person sitting next to me if I had “something” they should be concerned about. I often asked my seatmate when was the last time they actually saw someone who was clearly sick flying with a mask to protect others.
I started to isolate myself in early-to-mid-March when it became apparent that the virus was very deadly (particularly for those of us with suppressed immune systems) and extremely contagious. At this point, I have no clue as to when or how I will resume my normal (or heretofore normal) activities. I am not sure when I will next be able to give my children or grandchildren a big hug or a kiss.
But I do know two things. It is completely within my power to:
- control my attitude about all this
- continue to isolate myself in light of my personal health situation and risks
Contrast my situation with millions of our fellow citizens who have lost their jobs and have no idea when they might go back to work and if they will be able to get back to where they were just a few weeks ago. Or the small business owner, who used his or her life savings to buy or build a business, who may lose it all… and likely never be able to go back to where they were.
There are tens or even hundreds of thousands of these small business owners who are facing financial Armageddon. Put simply, these business owners and working people have real skin in the game. They are not facing theoretical or philosophical questions. Their livelihoods and their futures are literally at stake, and they are at stake right now.
We do not need models or projections to tell us or predict what may occur if things continue to unravel for our fellow
citizens who fall into these categories. But we do need our government (at the federal, state and local levels) to acknowledge the plight of these citizens whose jobs, businesses, and lives are in dire shape and may suffer greatly if we wait until every last vestige of the virus has been eradicated.
Now contrast the small business owners and recently unemployed with those who:
- are able to work remotely because their jobs or professions can be conducted from their homes without
any reduction in efficiency, compensation, or benefits
- are celebrities or entertainment moguls who tell us “we are all in this together” from their mansions or
yachts that are safely offshore (talk about extreme social distancing). Or maybe they’re just wealthy enough to be out of harm’s way if they choose to do so, and whose lives will return to the “old normal” in the future
- are politicians and other government employees who are not losing jobs or experiencing reductions in their compensation or benefits.
What do all these people have in common? No skin in the game… so long as they are able to stay isolated and
Yet many of them are very vocal in demanding that the economy stay closed (at least the parts of the economy that are not part of their daily existence). In other words, keep things closed for as long as it takes so they can feel safe when they decide to venture out again, keeping in mind that they are not paying any meaningful price from the lockdown of America.
Should the opinions of those who are least at risk count the same as the opinions of those who have suffered and whose suffering will increase the longer the lockdown continues?
In the next week or two, President Trump and governors throughout America will have to make some very tough decisions as to when we should try to get things restarted and find our new normal. I hope that when they are making these difficult and gut-wrenching decisions, they will focus on the fact that the casualties from the virus fall into many different categories.
Those of us who are immuno-suppressed, or have other health issues that make us high-risk, know what we must do to protect ourselves. We must isolate longer than our fellow citizens and hope for the best when we eventually try to resume our normal lives and routines. But we do not need to shut down America for an overly extensive period of time to eliminate all risks.
Let’s be careful, but let’s also keep in mind who has skin in the game and who does not.