During an interview for a local paper about COVID-19 (Coronavirus), my mayor said: “Yes, people have died, mostly people who were in fragile condition.”
His statement was not unusual; it is messaging commonly used by public health officials, elected representatives, and media outlets when discussing public health threats; whether that threat is influenza, H1N1, COVID-19 or another infectious or viral disease.
A friendly reminder: people who will be high-risk patients if we get coronavirus can hear you when you reassure everyone we're the only ones who might die.
While the purpose of public service announcements is to quell fear, the underlying message from statements like the mayor’s is this: healthy people are considered, the threat is downplayed, and high-risk populations are left to fend on our own. If a public health threat is, by default, advertised as only causing “mild symptoms for most people,” then healthy people – who don’t see their own lives or health at risk – will not perceive the seriousness of preventing its spread to vulnerable groups.
If the central theme is that healthy people needn’t worry, that’s the message that will routinely be broadcast. And when public messaging from reputable sources is treated as fact, it can then be weaponized against anyone who suggests differently.
I don’t usually have an emotional attachment to the appliances in my home. In general I don’t think much about the refrigerator, toilet, or my kitchen table. Unless they break or smell bad. Then I have some emotions, but not good ones.
But I just got an air purifier and I’m definitely emotionally attached.
This isn’t a post about the air purifier though. I figured you’d want to know ahead of time that this is not a post hailing the low-intelligence robot performing air quality CPR in my living room. I’m sorry if you were here for that.
In all seriousness, wildfires and a medical crisis brought a community of people to this impoverished person’s nostrils. My people showed up and breathed life back into me. Literally.
I am a 30 year old who inherited a lifelong inflammatory disease called ankylosing spondylitis (AS). AS can cause the spine to fuse together from bone spurs and can affect organs and other joints. AS causes significant pain, to put it lightly.
I am also a former college athlete and marathoner. I know what it means to push through pain as an athlete. But I cannot push through the pain caused by my disease. Pushing through it causes the disease to progress and the pain to increase.
My main treatment is a drug made from living cells (the same class of drugs that treats many cancers); it helps slow the progression of my disease. Because this treatment is [finally!] working, it also reduces some of the worst symptoms. But AS is a severe disease with no cure, so even with this specialty drug I still have plenty of pain.
Today, Congresswoman Doris Matsui hosted a press conference in Sacramento in response to the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill. I was invited to share my healthcare story as a Chronic Disease Patient Advocate alongside several elected officials in attendance, including the Congresswoman, California State Senator Dr. Richard Pan, California State Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, and Councilmember Angelique Ashby.