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When the odds are unknown

A favorite pastime among me and my cousins has always been a good game of poker. Perhaps playing several rousing rounds of Texas Hold’em is not the best idea for young children, but we absolutely loved the game. In fact, we still love it even now as adults.

Of course, we never gambled for money. We’d just use poker chips or whatever else we could find to ante up with at the beginning of each round. To us, it was just a game like any other we’d play. My brother has always been particularly fond of wearing sunglasses whenever we’d gather around the table just like he’d seen poker players do on TV. I’ve heard that covering your eyes like that made it easier to bluff, but I don’t think it made any difference to us. We’d laugh and tease and grin whether we were winning or losing.

I am generally pretty awful at the game, no matter how much I enjoy it. Bluffing and betting just aren’t my strong suit, and those are the skills you need in order to be good at a game of otherwise pure chance. The odds are rarely in my favor, even when I get dealt a good hand. But at the end of the day, it’s only a game anyway, so it doesn’t matter that I’m terrible at gambling.

But gambling at a silly game is much different than gambling with your life. And I feel like this pandemic we’re all living in has been one big, long gamble with unknown odds.

There are people out there who want to downplay the seriousness of COVID-19. They like to point to mild cases and asymptomatic cases as their examples of why the disease isn’t a big deal. Those people want to brush off concerns and pretend everything is just fine. “Don’t let it dominate your life,” some say.

But everything is NOT just fine.

As I’m writing this, there have been over 210,000 deaths in the United States caused by COVID-19. Locally in the Roanoke-Chowan area, that number is more than 60 people so far, and has been moving upwards faster in recent weeks.

Statistically, the local number isn’t catastrophically high right now, but many of those deaths could have been avoided if those people hadn’t gotten infected. And the fact is there are several simple ways to prevent infection. It is very easy to wash our hands, stay six feet apart when we’re around people, and wear a mask. While the weather is nice this time of year, it’s also very easy to hold gatherings outdoors and spaced out where the risk of spread is lower than being crammed together for indoor events.

Are these preventative measures sometimes inconvenient? Admittedly yes, but ultimately, they’re a lot easier to do than staying locked in our houses 24/7.

Yet, some people refuse to do these things and take this pandemic seriously.

Where is our compassion? Why don’t we do the simple things that can keep each other safe and alive if possible?

Maybe you know some of those people who have died after contracting COVID-19. Maybe they were a close friend or a friendly neighbor or a family member you loved dearly. Maybe they were already ill with a preexisting condition or maybe they were rather healthy. Either way, they still had years of life to look forward to before they got sick.

Maybe you didn’t even get to say goodbye.

I was just reading a story earlier this week about a student at Appalachian State University who died on Sept. 28 after testing positive for COVID-19 three weeks prior. According to the article I read, the student was in seemingly good health, but the virus may have triggered a previously undetected health condition.

Don’t get me wrong. We are very lucky that this virus doesn’t automatically mean death for those who get it. Other pandemics of the past have been diseases with severe symptoms for everyone. But COVID-19 affects people in different ways. Some thankfully only have mild symptoms (or no symptoms) and recover just fine. But the odds are not always that good, and we have no way of knowing how we will be affected by the virus unless we get it ourselves.

I know I’m not good at gambling. And when lives are at stake, I know to fold the hand I’m dealt and wait for better cards later instead of going all in and losing everything.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or at 252-332-7206.