Ask Amy: A reader reflects on the ongoing COVID risk

Dear Amy: I’m writing in response to “E.D.” who wrote that the pandemic has changed her. I found your advice for her to engage in her cultural interests of music and art useful, but I wanted to offer my perspective, as someone who wishes desperately that I could do these things without considering my personal risk.

I’m a 65-year-old physician with an immune deficiency, and I still need to consider my risk every day. As infectious disease specialist Michael Osterholm says, we’re still in the “high plains plateau” of the pandemic, where real people are dying of COVID daily.

As the risk is narrowed to older people and people with medical issues, it’s reasonable for lower-risk people to move on. But those of us who still face the concern of a virus that could harm or kill us are more and more isolated.

I’d love to move freely and not feel so judged when I wear a mask. And as masks are now optional in health care settings, per CDC guidance, there are really no public spaces that are risk-free for me at this point.

I’ve talked to my physicians and a psychologist about this, but I’m struggling. I appreciate my friends who see my need and don’t reject me.

Compassion, acceptance, and tolerance are greatly appreciated.

There are different realities, and people are really on their own to assess their risk and risk tolerance at this point, and for the foreseeable future. It’s very stressful.

— JN, MD

Dear JN: Thank you for reminding us that for many, the pandemic is not over.

I cannot fathom wondering about or judging anyone’s choice to wear a mask.

In addition to the real and practical medical reasons for masking, it’s also a free country, folks!

If Kim Kardashian can wear a nude bodysuit to the store (and more power to her, by the way), I can wear a mask on a plane.

At this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, actress Jessica Chastain (who won the Best Actress award last year) was seen wearing a mask. Her reason? She is currently appearing on Broadway, and she doesn’t want to get sick! (Masks don’t only help to protect against the virus causing COVID, but help to protect against other airborne viruses.)

There was an outpouring of support on social media for this artist’s choice, with many people who still need to mask consistently noting that her example made them feel less alone. I wish the same for you.

Dear Amy: I have a niece, “Jane,” whom I love and feel very connected to. I’ve been very supportive — practically, emotionally, and financially.

Around five years ago, Jane reached out to me with an emergency need for several thousand dollars. I didn’t hesitate to give it to her, and she was extremely grateful.

Over the years I’ve given her smaller sums (without her asking), when I’ve had the sense that she was financially on the edge — the pandemic really interrupted her progress.

Again, she has always been very grateful.

For a variety of reasons, I’ve decided not to continue to do this. First of all, I know she can make it on her own. I also recognize that she is making choices that keep her lifestyle where it is. I know that if she wanted to live in a higher income bracket, she is perfectly capable of getting herself there.

Well, just as I’d decided this, she asked for financial help for the down payment on a house. I fully support home ownership for her and know she can handle it, responsibly.

I can afford to do this, but I’m wondering if I should.

Your thoughts?

— Devoted Aunt

Dear Aunt: If you choose to do this, you might set it up as a long-term loan, to be repaid if (or when) she sells the house. Get the terms in writing.

Once you’ve loaned someone money, it changes the dynamic. She will stop coming to you for bailouts, but if she does come to you, you can tell yourself (and her) that the well is dry until the loan is repaid.

Dear Amy: “Not a Therapist” described an awkward relationship with a woman who only contacted her when she was in some kind of emergency. She didn’t feel close enough to suggest that this person see a therapist, and you seemed to agree.

I beg to differ. A relatively uninvolved person is in a great position to recommend professional help!

— Begging to Differ

Dear Begging: You’re right! I frequently do it, myself (through my column).

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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