MOORHEAD — Audra Maurer started out diplomatic. Then she became frustrated. Now she’s angry with the cavalier attitude that so many exhibit regarding the highly contagious coronavirus sweeping the region.
She has isolated herself and her family in their home for more than six months to try to stay safe and do her part to limit the spread of the virus.
Maurer takes the coronavirus seriously. She’s expecting her third child; pregnant mothers are deemed at high risk from the virus.
As the months have dragged along and as the wildfire spread in the area rages on, seemingly unchecked and steadily rising, the prolonged isolation has become increasingly difficult and confining.
It’s become infuriating that so many feel unobligated to take precautions — if not for themselves, then for vulnerable family members and community members, Maurer said.
So she took to Facebook and vented her frustrations, making what she said was yet another plea for people to show more concern for others:
“This isn't just about you. Stop being selfish. When did your world become so small that you cared so little about me and my family, or your neighbor and theirs?” she wrote.
Maurer felt compelled to speak out after The Forum ran a news story about North Dakota State University students who continued to gather for parties despite knowing the significant risks of spreading the contagion.
“I feel like 'a party is more important than COVID' is one of the biggest slaps in the face,” she said. Their actions risk negating the precautions — and sacrifices — of others. “It’s frustrating and it’s exhausting and it’s stressful.”
Students complained about the stresses of college life and the social isolation the pandemic has imposed.
Maurer knows all about COVID-19 fatigue. She’s experienced it herself but doesn’t allow it to let down her guard.
Maurer, who grew up in Fargo-Moorhead, can’t understand how a community that repeatedly has shown great concern for its neighbors during floods that threatened catastrophe, such as those in 1997 and 2009, are so indifferent to others during the pandemic.
Unfortunately, she said, the attitude among those who don’t feel the need to take precautions is that only those who are vulnerable have to act, ignoring the fact that anyone who is infected can spread the virus, even those without symptoms.
The pandemic’s deadly consequences have been distributed very unevenly. Young adults between the age of 20 and 29 are by far the most likely to be infected and therefore infectious — accounting for 24.4% of cases, according to the North Dakota Department of Health.
Conversely, those 80 and older make up just 4.9% of infections, yet account for 63.7% of deaths, while deaths among those 20 to 29 make up 0.27% of deaths.
The widely advertised fact that only a small percentage of those who are infected die ignores the reality that many are left with long-term — possibly permanent — debilitating effects, Maurer said. She personally knows a handful of young adults who have lingering fatigue and other problems.
She’s worried about what might happen if Fargo hospitals run out of staffed beds — a possibility that doesn’t seem remote in light of her own experience in January, when her then-18-month-old daughter was sick with a norovirus infection and had to be hospitalized.
Her daughter got the second-to-last pediatric bed at the hospital — this was before the pandemic struck in March — and the last bed was filled two hours later, she said.
With that possibility in mind, Maurer’s family has severely restricted any chance of exposure. She stays at home, suspended her work as a doula supporting expectant mothers and has groceries delivered.
“We have a very, very, very limited list of people we’re seeing in-person,” she said. “I know I’m not perfect, but I’m trying.”
Maurer, whose third child could be born within the next one to five weeks, worries about what could happen if one of her children gets sick now, with hospital beds in short supply.
“Our hospitals are at capacity,” she said.
Would she have to go to a hospital in the Twin Cities? If so, would her insurance cover those services?
“If I have to drive a child four-plus hours to get medical attention, that’s scary,” she said.
The rampant spread of the virus because many refuse to take it seriously means making her prenatal visits is risky. She worries it could interfere with her ability to get necessary care for her newborn.
“Do you know what that means for my family with a newborn at the start of cold and flu season? It means that my child won't get to meet family for weeks or even months.” Maurer wrote in her Facebook post. “It means I will face postpartum depression and anxiety isolated in my home, unable to get the support I need because it's too dangerous for my newborn. Because we don't just have to worry about COVID with small children. We have to worry about RSV, or croup, or NOROVIRUS.”
Maurer is saddened that society is divided over the crucial role of personal responsibility in containing the virus. “I think there’s a very deep divide,” she said.
She’s asking those who haven’t felt the need to wear masks or avoid large gatherings to reconsider, with those who are vulnerable in mind, including expectant mothers. “What about your neighbors? What about your neighbor’s parent or child?”
She added: “Make half the sacrifice we've been making for months now. Because every time you don't, you're saying that the choice you are making, the activity you are participating in, is worth more than the life of my children,” she wrote.