• Louise Carnachan

Do I Stay or Do I Go?


The Millinocket, Maine wedding story has been widely publicized. A friend told me the tale weeks before the national coverage because he was in the neighborhood at one of those quintessential lake houses. During his stay, the now-infamous wedding reception took place at a hotel directly across the water from him. If you already know the consequences of this nuptial party, feel free to skip ahead.

Sixty-five people attended the celebration which exceeded Maine’s fifty-person limit for indoor gatherings. Guests weren’t wearing masks or social distancing. Two weeks later, thirty-seven had COVID-19 and one person had died. As of today, the toll has climbed: one hundred and seventy-five cases are linked to the event, and seven people have passed away. None of the dead were at the wedding. The guests brought it back to their own homes, communities, and workplaces. And they spread it around the (up-until-then) Covid-free small town of Millinocket.

The wedding attendees most certainly didn’t expect to put others in harm’s way. Maybe a few wondered if they would be vulnerable, but they showed up anyway. I’m guessing others didn’t want to offend or miss out. Maybe some were shamed into attending; others never gave the virus a thought. In the end, it doesn’t matter how they got there. Ripples have continued as each infected person interacted with others. If you’ve wondered what a super-spreader event is, this is an example.

None of us can predict what COVID-19 will do to our bodies. It could be nothing much or a one-way trip to the ICU. We don't know if Maine’s limit of fifty for indoor gatherings would have prevented the terrible outcome. But we can’t guarantee a small family gathering is safe either. We do know masks and social distancing would have mitigated the effects, if not completely avoided them.

As we head into holiday season, you’ll have to decide whether to accept or decline invitations. Being picky about the company we keep flies in the face of holiday bonhomie, yet asking questions is necessary. Remember it’s not just your health; you could potentially pose a risk to others. While it may feel awkward or uncomfortable, have the conversation anyway. Some things to consider:

· Your risk tolerance and assessment of your general health, including your age

· The number expected to be in attendance

· Precautions guests will be asked to take (or not)

· Who’s invited and their potential exposure to the virus (for example, risks regarding occupation, lifestyle, housemates)

I always look forward to live musical events, holiday services, and singing. I’ll miss them this year and hope to resume them in 2021. Meanwhile, I wish you happy and safe holidays—and the hope we all find special ways to celebrate.

Have you turned down invitations because you didn’t feel safe or were worried about infecting others? Any advice about how to decline? Please comment in the box below.

Sending you appropriately physically distanced encouragement—and the promise of big hugs when this very long chapter is over!

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