First, I wanted to take a moment to say a big “thank you” to everyone who’s wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. With stores reopening, the weather getting warmer, and quarantine fatigue having set in, it can be easy to want to ditch the masks and pretend like the pandemic is over already. But it isn’t and acting like it is puts yourself and everyone else at risk.

For some people, like me, that risk is high. That’s because I have lupus and joint hypermobility syndrome. In order to manage them, I have to take a number of medications, including two that radically increase the odds of dying from COVID-19 and one that’s an immunosuppressant. For years before my lupus was diagnosed and properly treated, I experienced a whole range of symptoms, culminating in me almost dying. These days, though, most people don’t even know about my health conditions. They don’t need to. My medications saved my life and – thanks to them, a healthy lifestyle, and my amazing family doctor – I can focus on my loved ones, community activism, and my work. But when it comes to something like COVID-19, I’m at a higher risk than most people.

When you’re out, you don’t know when you could be passing someone who’s at a higher risk with it comes to COVID-19 – or who has contact with someone at a higher risk. Even if you think you’re healthy, you could be asymptomatic or within the virus’ incubation period. So please always wear a mask because, for those of us who are vulnerable to COVID-19, that could be the difference between life and death.

-Danielle Cole