Dr. Jeremy Blanchard: Returning to Sweet Home Mississippi

 

Jeremy Blanchard

 

 

Recently I drove back and forth across the United States with my wife to visit our children. We passed through 11 states. This gave us 11 different perspectives on cultures, responses to masking and the people living in each location. COVID's presence was evident everywhere, but in three states; it had not determined how people acted -- Mississippi, Montana and Washington.

 

In the other states, residents did not interact in a positive and respectful fashion. This was exhibited in multiple ways: not returning salutations, being curt and making no effort to smile. This experience revealed two themes I would like to share with you.

 

 

 

How to combat the person who sees the mask as a way to disengage

 

As we traveled, I challenged myself to tear down the imaginary barrier a mask creates.

 

· Assumption of good intent: I believe almost all people have good intent, the desire to help rather than hurt others.

 

· Thankfulness: I am truly thankful for my health, my job, my family, my God, my country, my teammates and my friends. By acknowledging what I am thankful for, I can help see the positive and perhaps share my thankfulness.

 

· Kindness: I make the choice to be kind, regardless of the other person's response.

 

· Curiosity: I try to understand others' hopes and feelings.

 

· Resilience: I refuse to give others the power to determine how I feel or control my experience.

 

 

To wear a mask, why or why not?

 

During our trip, Governor Tate Reeves allowed Mississippi's masking mandate to lapse. This is concerning to me as masking is key to protecting vulnerable populations against the spread of COVID-19 by asymptomatic infected individuals and an increase in our COVID infections threatens our economy and people's lives.

 

Why not to mask:

 

· Governor Reeves' masking mandate lapsed.

 

· We are tired of wearing masks.

 

· We want to go back to the way it was.

 

Why to wear a mask:

 

· COVID-19 is still as deadly as it was.

 

· We do not have an effective treatment.

 

· We do not have an effective and safe vaccine.

 

· Masks work based on local and international evidence.

 

· We respect each other and don't want to cause any family the grief associated with a loved one dying from COVID-19.

 

 

The continued commitment to kindness, respect and thankfulness shown by fellow Mississippians is inspiring. And in response, I make this pledge:

 

I, Jeremy Blanchard, commit to meet you with kindness, to assume you have great intent, to be thankful for you and the blessings in my life, to be curious about you and your journey and to not give into the polarizing forces that grip our country. Lastly, I respect you and your journey, I will continue to wear my mask, social distance and wash my hands frequently -- you deserve that from me. Join me if you will by making the same pledge yourself!

 

 

Dr. Blanchard is the Chief Medical Officer for North Mississippi Medical Center. This column originally appeared in the Daily Journal and is reprinted here with Blanchard’s permission.

 

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