COVID-19 has shown us that my health depends on your health

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Today is March 26th and the U.S. has officially surpassed all other countries to have more coronavirus cases than any other nation in the world. 

We are now past the point where aggressive, targeted efforts at tracking and containing COVID-19 in Texas have a realistic chance of success. We need to institute statewide shelter-in-place in Texas, in order to slow the spread of coronavirus and to keep our communities safe.

We very badly need to produce millions of tests, and furnish our frontline healthcare workers with the masks, ventilators and personal protective equipment they need.

But it should never have gotten here to begin with — and those with chronic illnesses, disabilities, and those with weakened immune systems who were at a higher risk of being dangerously affected have been sounding the alarm for quite some time.

I know, because one of them is my son, Brack. He is immunocompromised. He missed nearly three years of school as we bounced from specialist to specialist and he was beset by one mysterious illness after another. It wasn’t until we finally learned that he had a condition called Selective IgA Deficiency —  which means he doesn’t produce a blood protein called immunoglobulin A, leaving him susceptible to infection.

He’s the reason I decided to run for Congress. When our Congressman – Roger Williams, a Republican from Weatherford, Texas — voted to end protections for people with pre-existing conditions, that’s what did it. That’s what lit the fire and I knew I had to run.

Over the years Brack has learned to manage his condition and be well enough to live, work, and go to school — but it gave me pause when I invited him to dinner three weeks ago and he said, “Mom, I’m self-isolating.”

He had stocked up on Clorox wipes and as much food as he could shove into the fridge at his apartment in San Marcos and was already practicing what we’ve all come to know as social distancing on the same day that Brack knew that coronavirus was highly transmittable — and at the same time, the president said that “anybody who wants one can get a test”, on March 6. Brack knew that he couldn’t put himself at heightened risk by being in the same space as me.

I had just finished running a hard-fought, intense primary election against a formidable organizer for whom I have a lot of respect named Heidi Sloan, and because our campaign places such a high value on grassroots organizing I had been meeting with thousands of people through late February and into early March.

Brack knew that it wasn’t just himself he would be putting at risk — as an asymptomatic carrier, he could have easily contracted coronavirus and shared it without even knowing it.

Like most parents I just want my children to be safe. And I’m proud of Brack for knowing himself and being able to manage his condition through this crisis.

But there are millions of people who do not have the luxury of staying home from work, and who are navigating this crisis in a country that does not provide the same basic public goods that other developed countries do.

Coronavirus has reminded us that our own health depends on the health of the person next to us, and the person next to them. It is also my hope that this will serve as a reminder of how imperative it is that we elect those who believe in science and value competence and expertise.

Julie Oliver is running in Texas’ 25th Congressional District, which stretches from Fort Worth to Austin

Photo: Hays County Democratic Party

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