3/28/2023 | By Amy Dickinson

A 65-year-old with an immune deficiency is saddened that the Covid risk is still real and by those who condemn masks. See what advice columnist Amy Dickinson says in this edition of “Ask Amy.”

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 Covid risk.

I’m a 65-year-old physician with an immune deficiency, and I still need to consider my Covid 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 Covid risk and their 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.

covid risk - masks and sanitizer

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 Covid risk, but they also 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.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers – ranging from covid risk to bossy friends and stubborn husbands. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

Amy Dickinson