Dennis Anderson

So, tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I am still brooding about a vet brother who said he won’t wear “face diapers” to ward off COVID-19 or keep his friends and loved ones from catching it. 

It is that attitude that accounts for why we are in a third national surge, where deaths have passed 250,000 and 12 million people are infected.

A couple of days ago, my wife and I were headed out for the evening walk in safer, open air. When we arrived at our destination, a crowd gathered. It was a birthday party. Nobody was masked and families mixed with friends and a lot of hugging and “close talk” chatting was going on.

That is also why we are in a third surge, why thousands of cases are running up daily, hospital wards are filling up, front-line healthcare workers are exhausted, discouraged and burned out. People are still hosting parties indoors, recklessly indifferent about physical distancing and wearing masks. Why? Politics. Denialism. Weariness at restrictions. Anger. Distrust of government. All this equals contagion.

Which is why even outdoor dining has been shut down for another three weeks and I honestly don’t know whether that will do much good. It is the indoor “hanging out,” involving young people, old people, in between people and that is the chain of infection.

“Masks infringe on our freedoms,” I am told. So do seat belts. So do traffic lights. So do traffic lanes. What kind of end-times crazy is this?

We held a little news conference at High Desert Medical Group on Monday. The City of Lancaster is offering free COVID-19 testing for its residents in a drive-through lot on the Antelope Valley Hospital grounds, so Mayor R. Rex Parris joined in to promote the city’s efforts.

Wearing what looked like a KN-95 mask, the mayor stepped to the podium and put it succinctly: “Wear your (expletive) mask.”

He also mentioned that he could hardly approach the microphone without wearing the mask if that was the guidance.

“It drives me crazy that we know what to do about this, but we aren’t doing it,” he said. “We know that people are going to gather for the holidays and it would be better if you did not. But if you must, do it outdoors.” 

And give your loved ones the benefit of open air and distance.

Eric Oak, our senior vice president for clinical operations, promoted the use of telehealth visits while infection rates continue to rise and noted that the organization has not had an outbreak because of the “Three Ws: Wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance.”

Thanksgiving is also the time when people are being asked to donate to a wide array of worthy causes — and to some unworthy causes, as well.

I hold paid-up “life memberships” in two veteran organizations: The American Legion and Disabled Veterans of America and have long supported Veterans of Foreign Wars. Donations and memberships for these groups provides advocacy, informative public communications and direct aid to veterans, their families and the community. Local groups like Vets4Veterans also have good track records and open books that can be inspected.

Recently, I received a cheesy import T-shirt with a patriotic iron-on front and a check for $1.50 in the mail. The outfit, with the words “disabled veterans” in its group name, was asking in return, a bigger donation. Once I figured out it wasn’t DAV, I looked them up and their Guidestar charity rating was lousy, because mostly they raise money for raising more money on “rain maker” salaries and

cheesy T-shirts.

Whether it is cancer research, heart disease, children’s illnesses, reducing hunger or other good causes — know the recipient for whom you open your wallet. You want your money to go to people who are doing reliable and checkable good work on your behalf.

I hope, against hope, for people to open their minds and hearts and mask up and keep their distance until effective COVID vaccines are distributed and administered. Within reason, we have the freedom to make good decisions about our well-being and the people we love and care about and the larger community we should care about. Have a happy and I pray, safe Thanksgiving.

Dennis Anderson is a licensed clinical social worker at High Desert Medical Group. An Army veteran, he deployed to the Iraq War to cover local National Guard troops as an embedded journalist for the Antelope Valley Press. He works on veterans assistance and community health initiatives.

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