Hannah Berman - That's The Way It Is

For some reason, even those of us who celebrate Rosh Hashanah as the beginning of the New Year tend to make resolutions on December 31. When we sit in shul on Rosh Hashanah and daven, we beg for forgiveness for past indiscretions and we vow to make better choices, even as we suggest that they be declared null and void. But barring the two days of Rosh Hashanah and the ten days that follow, when it comes to resolutions, we think of that “other” New Year, the one that begins on January 1, when we need to remember to change the date we write on our checks.

This year, my resolution—which is just another one that I will probably not keep — is to stop watching the news. I have repeatedly made that promise to myself during the past several months but I have yet to succeed in keeping it. I always give in. Apparently, I am hooked on the news. I do not know why that is so, since I never hear the same thing two days in a row. To be more accurate, I rarely hear the same thing two hours in a row. Here is a sampling of what one hears on the news:

The COVID-19 virus is deadly. Ninety-five percent of those who get the virus will survive.

Masks do not necessarily help. Wearing a mask is vitally important.

Schools must be closed to prevent children from getting the virus and bringing it home to parents and grandparents. Schools must be reopened because children are not getting the virus in school.

Restaurants must be closed for indoor dining. The virus is not spread by indoor dining.

Social distancing means staying 6 feet apart since the virus is inhaled from the droplets of others. Droplets can travel 15 feet or more.

Being outdoors is safer than being indoors. People who attended a large outdoor gathering contracted COVID.

For many months, we’ve been hearing these contradictory reports, but with the advent of a vaccine, the conflicting messages have only increased. In the past week, those hooked on the news have been treated to the following reports:

The vaccine is totally safe, so take it. Several people have had severe reactions after getting the shot.

There is no worry because so few people had reactions. Every person who gets the vaccine should be watched by the health professional who gave the shot for 15 minutes before being allowed to leave.

The new worry is that the virus has mutated. No need to worry since all viruses mutate.

People from the UK, where the mutated virus first appeared, are not being allowed into other countries, so we should also bar their entry into the U.S. No need for travel restrictions, as the mutated virus is likely already here.

What is most disturbing is that the people who are making the above statements are doctors. And what the public wants is to have confidence in the reports from those with a medical degree.

While I certainly plan to get the vaccine, I must admit to a small worry about having a reaction. There is no clear basis for this worry, but over the past ten months, worrying has become my specialty. It’s what I do best. Every time I develop a slight cough, I worry that maybe I have COVID. In an attempt to comfort myself and to be sure the cough is nothing serious, I quickly eat a piece of chocolate to be sure I haven’t lost my sense of taste. When I mentioned this to my friend Amy, she suggested that it might be a better idea to check on my sense of taste by eating an orange instead of chocolate. I ignored her.

Another of my friends has been to two indoor gatherings of more than 100 people. She is not a risk-taker and did not go to just any event. Each of the gatherings she attended was the wedding of her grandchildren. Not normally the type to worry, she worried nevertheless. She was nervous about being in a room with so many people, and the day following each of the weddings she told me she had begun the countdown. I didn’t understand what she meant until she explained that she was so concerned about having possibly contracted COVID that she was counting one week, and if she wasn’t ill by then she would assume that she was safe and had not caught the virus. Clearly, I am not the only person who worries about this.

Hopefully, this year I will keep my resolution to stop watching the news and listening to conflicting medical opinions. It certainly isn’t doing me any good. Maybe there was a better solution. Perhaps if I had made this resolution on Rosh Hashanah instead of on December 31, I might have been able to stick with it. Too late now. At this point, I guess I will never know. But I will try again by resolving to skip medical opinions presented on the news. That’s just the way it is.

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-295-4435.

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