Q: My fiancé and I are both doctors in a mid-sized American city in medical specialties significantly impacted by coronavirus patients. We’ve spent the last several months, like so many in healthcare and in the world beyond, being absolutely horrified by this disease and shocked that some around us don’t seem to be taking it seriously. Given our work, we’ve been as vigilant as possible about our own lives; we are regularly caring for COVID+ patients and recognize that we are high-risk to be potential vectors.
My fiancé’s family lives in a different state, where his sister is supposed to get married in the middle of July. Despite our frequently voiced discomfort, the current plan is for a 95 person wedding — grandparents and all! — with absolutely no COVID precautions at all in his parents’ backyard (outside, at least, but their home will be open to anyone). Masks and physical distancing are not on the table; they say they “can’t control what people do” and that things have “gone back to normal” where they are (of note, they do not live in New Zealand; they live here, in the United States of America).
I could write an entire essay about possible etiologies of this difference in perspectives about the pandemic. The short version is that they get their news from far more conservative sources than we do, don’t know people who have been sick, and don’t think it can happen to them. They also are banking on the fact that new coronavirus cases in their own state are decreasing, which is true for now.
Obviously, in an ideal world we could talk this out and end up with a wedding that, though perhaps not exactly what we would do, would at least feel a little more responsible. Unfortunately, it increasingly feels like that will not happen, and the only concession has been that they’ve said they will understand if we feel like we can’t come.
At this point, we’re at a total loss. It feels like any decision we make is wrong. My fiancé desperately wants to be there for his sister’s wedding, but it is hard to imagine spending 36 hours in a series of situations that are risky and socially negligent. It’s also hard to imagine not being there at all.
So. Do we go? Do we stay? If we do go, do we wear masks and attempt to physically distance despite the fact that this, quite clearly, will be completely out of place and seen as a political statement? If we don’t go, how do we bow out gracefully while preserving what we can of our relationships?