Your Freedom to Not Wear a Mask is Ruining My Family’s Freedom to Live

Words and photos by Kate Hogan Green

Unlike many others, our family accepted the responsibility to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by opting out of all of our planned summer activities. There was no family reunion, no trip to Cedar Point, no weddings or visits with the grandparents. 

However, my husband, two young daughters and I did take a getaway to Hocking Hills. It was to be a low-risk trip to a cabin just to ourselves. And it was low risk… unless we count the two stops we made along the way. If what we saw at the gas stations along I-71 is any indication of how long the spread of COVID-19 will last, then we are in serious trouble. Despite our governor’s orders that everyone in public wear masks, most people were not. One woman, sans mask, did not even wash her hands after using the bathroom. Besides being gross, this careless behavior is deadly. 

The grown adults who cannot follow rules, whether out of willful ignorance, political defiance or just plain selfishness are the reason our children are not returning to their classroom this fall. 

In addition to the academic, emotional and social benefits of in-person learning, my 6-year-old daughter, Lorelei, who has Down syndrome, also receives speech, occupational and physical therapy at school. Not to mention, she might just be the most popular kid in her school. The emotional impact it is having on both of my children is immeasurable. After months of not seeing her best friend, the online schooling, and the missed campouts with her Brownie troop, my 8-year-old daughter, Adelaide, has screamed through tears, “I hate this stupid coronavirus!” 

But more than this virus, I hate the people who refuse to make the simplest efforts to reduce the spread. 

I do not just hate these people because normal life continues to elude us. It is not just the struggle of supporting my children’s educational needs online while also working full-time from home. It is not just the missed vacations, dance recitals, weddings and birthday parties. It is the dark and looming threat this virus has over my family. I hate these people because while they may think they are protecting their freedom by openly defying a government order (and the recommendations of communicable disease experts), they are taking away our freedom to be able to outlive this deadly virus. 

Lorelei has a compromised immune system. If there is a virus, she will get it. She has asthma, a third-degree heart block with a pacemaker, and a history of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and pneumonia. I am terrified of this the coronavirus. Every time I am exposed to a risk (you know, like grown adults without masks), I relive those frightening moments from a couple of years ago, at Akron Children’s Hospital when Lorelei was admitted for RSV. 

I woke up in the middle of the night to a team of doctors trying urgently to increase Lorelei’s oxygen. Through the dark, I stumbled from the pull-out bed, tripping over fallen blankets and running to her bedside. After a night in the PICU, her oxygen improved and a couple of days later, she was discharged. Two weeks later, she was hospitalized again for pneumonia. While other evidence says children do not appear to suffer the serious effects of COVID-19, I have personal evidence that says otherwise. 

Prior to our school district’s decision to keep the schools closed and provide online instruction this fall, my husband and I had already made the decision not to send our children to school. We trusted the school’s reopening plan; however we do not trust other parents to protect their own families, much less those in their community from COVID-19. 

Social distancing and wearing a mask is a lot easier and far more comfortable than this virus. Because people still refuse to take these precautions, not only do we miss out on so many of the things that bring us joy and normalcy, but people continue to die and freedom eludes all of us. 

Kate Hogan Green is the mother of two daughters and lives for moments alone in her garden… even though she doesn’t even like gardening that much.