EDITORIAL: Samantha Dorm's story should serve as cautionary COVID-19 tale for all of us

  • Samantha Dorm recently went public with her son's COVID-19 diagnosis.
  • She decided to publicly share her son's story because she wanted to warn others to be responsible.
  • Dorm's son, Michael Graff, has Down syndrome, is autistic and is athmatic.
Samantha Dorm with her son Michael Graff.

Smantha Dorm’s story should serve as a cautionary tale for all of us.

COVID-19, despite the naysayers, is not something that can be shrugged off as nothing more than a glorified case of the flu.

This isn’t about snowflakes running scared of an overblown pandemic.

This is about real people, with real health issues, being put a real risk by those who feel mostly invincible because they are young or strong; or because their personal freedoms trump everything, including the health of their neighbors; or, even worse, because they don’t believe there’s a pandemic at all.

Well, there is a pandemic, it is real and it is dangerous, especially to the more vulnerable among us.

Just ask Dorm.

A different challenge every day: Mom of COVID-19-positive teen shares story

Going public: She posted an update on her Facebook page early Thursday morning that her son, Michael Graff, is infected with COVID-19. She decided to publicly share her story because she wanted to update his family and friends — but she also wanted to warn others to be responsible.

“PLEASE don’t take chances. ... Your actions impact others who are weak. Others who don’t just develop a mild ‘inconvenience,'” she wrote.

Those words should ring in everyone’s ears. Obeying the COVID-19 protocols, especially wearing masks in public, washing your hands and the keeping social distance, is not so much about protecting ourselves, it’s about protecting others.

It’s about protecting people such as Graff, a 19-year-old who has Down syndrome and autism. That means dealing with a COVID-19 diagnosis came with its own set of special challenges for Dorm. He’s also asthmatic, which adds to his vulnerability to the disease.

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Not a joke: Dorm’s experience with her son has been difficult, to say the least. Now she is urging families to pay attention and not be blasé about the pandemic. Dallastown Area High School had put multiple precautions in place, she said. Graff’s classroom is not near the general population at the high school. He doesn't take the bus. He uses separate bathrooms. Still, he got COVID-19.

“This isn’t a joke," Dorm said. "It can happen to anybody.”

She recalls watching a nearly 5½-hour Dallastown school board meeting on Aug. 20, in which Superintendent Joshua Doll recommended starting the school year fully online. Many parents and board members balked, intent on an in-person return.

“So many people that are fixated on, 'We have to have sports, we have to have events, we have to do things the same as they were six months ago,' and it’s not (the same)," Dorm said.

Dorm is right. It’s not a joke and things will not be the same for the foreseeable future.

Listen to the science: Lots of folks don’t want to hear that.

So, they tend to believe any unlikely story from any fringe site that dispels the seriousness of the coronavirus, just because it supports that storyline that they want to believe, not because it is backed up by the science.

Well, it’s high time we listen to the science and heed the experts.

Protecting the vulnerable: Yes, it’s true that the majority of folks who get exposed to the coronavirus will either be asymptomatic or, if they do get COVID-19, they will recover to full health.

This isn’t about protecting the majority, however. This about protecting the vulnerable minority. Folks such as Michael Graff and our seniors.

Their health, and their lives, have value and they shouldn’t be dismissed as a necessary risk so the rest of us can continue business as normal.