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In matters of COVID awareness, ‘underlying condition’ is a hurtful phrase

Lauren Sullivan wore a mask during a volleyball tournament at Carson Beach in Boston on July 4.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Why is it apparently OK for people with underlying conditions to die?

Is it more palpable hearing that, for example, a 32-year-old wife, mother, and educator who died of COVID-19 had a lung condition? Categorizing patients as those with underlying conditions as opposed to those without becomes a way to condone irresponsible behavior. When a deceased COVID patient’s age doesn’t match as predicted, the question becomes “What’s the preexisting condition?”

Knowing that someone has diabetes, asthma, or another condition shouldn’t make the so-called healthy feel that the danger of the coronavirus doesn’t apply to them. Health is a privilege. Use your privilege to protect others while maintaining your own health. Don’t diminish the value of those with chronic illnesses. Wear a mask. Think deeply about your choices and its implications for others.


I am an educator with chronic illness. The risk of COVID-19 has completely isolated my family since early March. In order to protect me, my husband cannot work. The three reopening phases are meaningless for my family. I have no assurance that I will be able to work from home if schools move forward in reopening. Our ability to enter the “new normal” relies on your actions.

Someone’s underlying condition didn’t kill them — this virus did. Collectively, we must act responsibly toward one another.

Katherine Lockwood