March 12, 2020 9:29:50 AM
My stepdaughter, Julia, has severe food allergies.
We're talking peanuts, tree nuts, soy flour and soy protein.
To say it mildly, when her mother -- now my wife, Amelia -- and I started dating in 2013, when Julia was 7, this information and the protocols that came with it were a lot to take in.
My firsthand exposure to people with food allergies had been limited up to that point, and most of what I saw was the cartoonish way those issues are portrayed in movies and television shows: Puffy lips, a mad scramble for an Epi-Pen or Benadryl, and no long-term consequences, all for a good laugh.
So as Amelia explained that Julia's allergies were potentially life-threatening, and she detailed for me her vigorous, diligent regimen to keep Julia safe, I was uncertain whether it was overkill -- or at least an over-abundance of precaution -- born from a modicum of irrational fear.
All the same, I adopted the practices. I checked food labels, asked restaurant servers about ingredients, changed my own eating habits when I was around Julia, all in an effort to be a good team player. After all, I was growing to care more and more for them each day. Aside from that, I wasn't willing to find out the hard way, on my watch, what I know now: Amelia knew what she was talking about, and she wasn't exaggerating.
So in a few months, when my heart and mind had truly transitioned from "giving this the benefit of the doubt" to knowing and experiencing the facts for myself, I didn't have to suddenly change my behavior and practices. I already knew what to do, and both Amelia and Julia could trust me to be just as diligent as they were.
Where COVID-19 is concerned, I'm pretty much in the same camp. I initially met the news of canceled events, fans being barred from NCAA basketball tournaments and the suspended NBA season with a sense of "Really? I don't know."
But that's the point, isn't it? We don't know. And how willing are we to be wrong at the expense of our own health? Our families'? Coworkers? Friends? Strangers at a ballgame?
Taking a look at social media, it seems some are quite content to roll the dice on any or all of those things just so they can prove this whole coronavirus thing is overblown -- a crisis manufactured or sensationalized by the media or even some sort left-wing conspiracy to crash the stock market so Trump doesn't win re-election.
But the more I think about it, the more I go back to my personal experiences of 2013. And if I'm going to be wrong, it's going to be for taking this seriously.
This certainly isn't an ideal situation. We're temporarily changing our lifestyles, work patterns and sacrificing things we enjoy. Local tourism economies will suffer for the lack of fans in Humphrey Coliseum or Dudy Noble Field over the next few weeks.
But if it helps stem the spread of this virus, or saves even one life, we should able to accept it is worth it.
So wash your hands. Stay out of big crowds and stay away from work if you need to. Take an abundance of caution to keep yourself and others safe. Treat this like an emergency whether you believe it is or not.
That way, when this crisis has passed and you still believe the whole thing was a bunch of bunk, you and your Facebook friends can all be alive and healthy when you post, "I told you so."
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.
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