I have been blessed to raise my hand and pledge to serve my community as an elected official many times over the past 16 years. However, last Monday was the first — and hopefully, last — time that I will take the oath of office in my living room.
I had looked forward to joining my colleagues on Jan. 10 for inaugural ceremonies marking the start of the 14th session of the Nassau County Legislature and my third term as a legislator. However, on Sunday, the 9th, I felt congested, unusually tired and was coughing, sneezing and had a runny nose.
Initially, I figured it was probably the cold that I seem to get every winter, but I am loath to assume anything — especially as the Omicron variant continues to spread so rapidly. So I took a Covid-19 home test, and it came back positive.
Physically, I felt all right. My booster shot did its job, and my symptoms were like those of a common cold. The discomfort I was experiencing didn’t inhibit my ability to work full-time for the residents of the 5th Legislative District. And, through the marvels of modern technology, I was “in the room” virtually to be administered the oath of office by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer with my minority caucus colleagues.
No matter how busy you may be, though, being hunkered down for a few days leads to contemplation and reflection.
My experience illustrates how vaccines and boosters are key to preventing severe illness from the coronavirus. Since the emergence of Omicron, data from the state Department of Health continues to show that fully vaccinated people are much less likely to get Covid-19 and much less likely to be hospitalized with breakthrough cases. If you want to get vaccinated or boosted, go to https://www.nassaucountyny.gov/5126/COVID-19-Vaccine-Information
to find a site near you.
My breakthrough case didn’t shake my belief in masks as one of the key tools to slow the spread of Covid-19 and other airborne illnesses. In a recent Newsday report, Jack Caravanos, clinical professor of environmental public health sciences at the NYU School of Global Public Health in Manhattan, stated clearly that while N95 and KN95 masks are most effective, cloth and surgical masks are still beneficial — especially if everyone in a room is wearing them.
That, perhaps, is the biggest point of all of this: By protecting yourself, you are protecting all of us. Why not err on the side of caution if there is a potential benefit to others? In all honesty, I don’t like to wear a mask — I suspect no one does. I do it to protect myself, those I love and people I don’t know.
Over the past several years, I have grown disheartened by how deceit, division and political ambition have been amplified to undermine our faith in our institutions and drive wedges between us. It is profoundly unhealthy.
Especially now, caring for one another is essential to repairing the fabric of our society. We need to protect the most vulnerable among us — those who are too young to get the vaccine, the immuno-compromised and those who have other underlying conditions that would make Covid-19 especially perilous.
As we embark on this new year — a time for healing and growth — it is my fervent prayer for us to work together to end this public health crisis once and for all, and renew our belief in the pursuit of the common good.
Debra Mulé, of Freeport, was first elected to the Nassau County Legislature in 2017. She represents the 5th Legislative District.