We’re in for a hard winter


Election Day was barely two weeks ago, and yet it already feels like a lifetime. While most races around the country have been definitely decided, President-elect Joe Biden continues to grapple with President Donald Trump,
who seems intent on making the transition process as difficult and exhausting as possible.

You’ve probably already grown tired of the daily headlines, and they’ve all started to blend together. Every day there is more news about Trump’s campaign and their ailing attempt to get election results thrown out based on baseless claims of widespread fraud. Every day there is more news about President-elect Biden building his transition team, and frankly, acting like a leader.

A lot of this is performative politics, and there’s little we can do about it. It would do us all some good to remember that there are some things we can’t control, and to remind ourselves that some of this petty bickering from the president has genuine consequences.

COVID-19 cases are exploding in the United States and in Missouri — and while President Trump would insist that this is simply because we do more testing than anyone else (we don’t) and that if we stopped testing it would all go away (it wouldn’t) — hospitalizations every- where are skyrocketing. As of this writing our daily COVID-19 deaths are at the same levels they were in early May, when the virus dominated our news headlines.

At this rate, we are in for a long and ugly winter. As flu season exacerbates the virus, cold weather makes outdoor events impossible, and holidays tempt families to hold large gatherings inside, we are almost certain to see a significant spike in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Perhaps the biggest tragedy is that some of this is all preventable, but with a president more concerned about his ratings on Fox News and a governor right here in Missouri who seems completely disconnected with the science of this virus and committed to a limp, mediocre approach, there seems to be little help coming from our highest leaders, and that will almost certainly result in deeper tragedy.

There have been many times this year when this virus has made some of us feel powerless. We can’t see it with the naked eye, it doesn’t make a sound, and yet it is contagious and deadly enough to suddenly dominate our lives in surprising ways.

Businesses closed and suddenly phrases like “social distancing” became part of our common vocabulary. Science and medicine are tricky, and as we learn more about this virus, things can change. This is a normal part of the scientific process, but sadly it has been exploited by some to either argue that this entire virus is some kind of “hoax,” or that doctors and scientists are incompetent and not to be trusted.

Of course, the exact opposite is true. The job of an expert is to gather information and reach informed conclusions. When information changes, so does the conclusion. This is a mark of a good scientist, not a bad one.

Darker still is the vein of ignorant or even evil individuals on the internet deliberately spreading misinformation and lies to the general public, undermining trust in experts and exploiting the emotions of our citizens.

The result has been a small but vocal group who stubbornly refuse to follow basic guidelines like wearing a mask in public places or following social distancing. Some of them even took up guns and marched down to their state capitals to demand an end to all COVID- 19-related restrictions.

If reading all of this or recalling those long few months of spring makes you simply feel exhausted, I understand. If it makes you angry, or depressed, or even a little afraid, I understand. We have to remember that we are not powerless, even though it sometimes feels like that.

We can always control our own actions, and we can always do our best to encourage good actions from others.

As the leader of Local 655, I have fought for safety measures in all our workplaces and helped expand health benefits for all our partners, especially the ones who might contract COVID-19. I’ve used my platform to speak directly through our local media to urge the public to wear masks, and I spent a lot of time earlier this year publicly lobbying our governor to take a series of steps to protect frontline workers.

Not everyone has the platform I have to take action, but everyone can take basic steps to help us through this winter. Some of them you’ve heard before, and have to do with slowing the spread. Some of these are a little newer, and are more about maintaining your sanity.

Let’s start with the basics first:
• Wear a mask, especially if you’re indoors in public places or “high traffic” areas like gas stations or grocery stores.
• Practice social distancing. Keep at least six feet away from others at all times.
• Wash your hands regularly, especially after returning home.
• Limit your social gatherings, avoid large crowded events and even smaller group gatherings where masking and distancing aren’t possible.
• If you have symptoms get tested right away, if you may have been exposed get tested right away.

You’ve probably heard most of those before, but they are critical in the coming weeks. I urge you all to practice these basic steps.

Second, let’s talk about the other side of this:
• Staying home all the time is hard. It just is, for many different reasons. Cabin fever is real. There’s nothing to be ashamed of if you find yourself desperate for a little time outside your home. Some of you have young children at home and this year has been especially hard for you. I understand and I sympathize, but we must continue to work through this together and see the big picture.
• Avoiding gatherings may mean that your holidays have to look different this year. Once again, I understand, it’s frustrating and sad. We cannot think about the short term pain this causes us, but instead consider the larger benefit to the community.
• Find ways to avoid the stress and depression that can come with a long winter, short days, limited family gatherings, and long stretches of time stuck at home. There is no single answer here for everyone, but we already know that depression, anxiety, and suicide have all risen this year.

No universal solution exists, but we can confidently say this: if you’re suffering in any way it’s important to acknowledge that suffering and seek help, either from friends and family or from medical professionals.

Above all else remember this: it’s ok to struggle sometimes. It’s ok to need help sometimes. It’s ok to admit that you aren’t ok. Don’t keep it inside, don’t try to white-knuckle your way through it.

We are all in this ugly thing together, for better or worse. We are all in the same boat, sink or swim. We will all suffer in some way through this, but that also means that we will get through all of this together, we will win together, we will survive together, and we will thrive together.

We are a community, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. We are a union family, even when we disagree. Together, we will win.



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