A plea from Paul Gross

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Here’s a message from Local 4 meteorologist Paul Gross about COVID-19:

Last week, I got the dreaded phone call that so many of you have received: a friend of mine died from COVID-19.

To protect the family’s privacy, I’ll just call him Ron.

Ron had a heart of gold and knew what is truly important in life. He and I coached kids together for several years in two sports, and those kids got more than just better at the sports they were playing -- they got important lifelong lessons from Ron.

Ron’s family did not tell many people that he was in the hospital, so I did not know he had COVID until last week’s terrible call from his wife. I told her that, had I known, I would have spent time at the hospital comforting him. But she said that visitors weren’t allowed; that even she wasn’t allowed to see him. Her own husband. In the hospital. Dying.

So I’m very sad this morning -- but I’m more than sad. I’m angry.

At this stage in the pandemic, Ron didn’t have to get COVID. Sure, the virus is still out there, and those like Ron with pre-existing conditions are still most vulnerable. But there’s also a vaccine out there. And a lot of people aren’t getting it.

If you are one of them, I respect the decision you’ve made out of concern for yourself ... but the reason we get the vaccine is not just for us, it’s also for everyone else.

You see, if you’re vaccinated and don’t get COVID, then you become one less person who is able to spread the virus. The only way we can check this virus is if enough people get vaccinated.

Let’s frame this another way.

You’re driving on the freeway and you see a car blow a tire, lose control, flip over and come to a stop. What would you do? Would you immediately stop and see if the driver and passengers are hurt? Would you try to get them safely out of the car before it catches fire? I wouldn’t even think twice about this: That’s what I’d do. Would I have to accept some risk in order to potentially save somebody’s life? Sure. But that’s what people do.

The risk of complications you face by getting this vaccine is significantly lower than the risk of pulling somebody out of that car. Everything you do in life involves risk, and you accept those risks almost without thinking about them. The medical community’s message about the vaccines is very clear: Any risks from serious complications are extremely low, and much, much lower than your risk of contracting the virus.

Even if you aren’t concerned about getting COVID yourself (and you should be … sure, you might not die, but you could have medical problems for the rest of your life), think about this: You could get the virus and not have any symptoms, but you’d still be contagious. You could give the virus to your spouse, your parents, your grandparents, your closest friends. One of them could get sick and possibly die. And you’ll have to live with that for the rest of your life because, had you been vaccinated, it is highly unlikely you would have ever contracted COVID and given it to them.

And remember this: The new variants of this virus are infecting younger people in much greater numbers than the “original” virus did last year. More of those younger people are dying than those who had it last year. So this is no longer an “old person’s” disease. We are all at risk.

I could go on and on, because I have so much on my mind that I want to say. But I will close with this: Get vaccinated, if not for yourself, then do it for those you love. It’s a badge of honor that I am proud to have.

LIVE BLOG: Tracking COVID-19 vaccines in Michigan: New openings, clinics, appointments

About the Author:

Local 4 meteorologist Paul Gross was born in Detroit and has spent his entire life and career right here in southeast Michigan. Paul has researched, written and produced eight half-hour documentaries for WDIV, as well as many science, historical and environmental stories.