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#HighRiskCovid19 Hashtag

Did you see this invitation on Twitter last night? “Please join us in putting a face to those who are vulnerable to the coronavirus,” patient leaders, led by advocate Molly Schreiber (@mollyschreiber) urged. “I am immunocompromised and my life counts. #HighRiskCovid19.”

Schreiber, along with other chronically ill and immunocompromised patients including Charis Hill, Dawn Gibson, Jennifer Walker, Jed Finley, and Ray Bouchard, working with support and cheering from CreakyJoints, rallied thousands of patients to use the #HighRiskCovid19 hashtag to share their photo and their story.

At a time when people across the country are still treating social distancing like a prolonged snow day, when too many restaurants and non-essential public places are still overly crowded, when school districts in high-risk locations are still refusing to close, and when the numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths show no sign of slowing down, this message needs to be heard louder and more clearly.

“Molly brought me into a group of amazing and active patient advocacy folks with this fantastic idea that our lives count also,” says Jennifer Walker, who wrote an impactful essay weeks ago about feeling dismissed in the early coronavirus coverage. “Her message just hit a chord because I am so tired of hearing the language at a federal, state, local level and among friends or at work that I was hysterical or it wasn’t such a big deal.”

High-risk patients’ lives have been ignored. We cannot let them be ignored anymore.

That’s why showing the faces (and hearts and souls) of our country’s most vulnerable people is so important.

“Campaigns that emit emotions are a really powerful way to help people understand the impact of their actions,” says disability advocate Charis Hill, who has written article after article about the forgotten high-risk population during the coronavirus pandemic. “I was hopeful this hashtag would help some people feel seen, but I didn’t expect it to take off like it did, and immediately — within minutes — begin trending and offer real hope for multiple thousands of people. The tweets I saw by some healthy people drove it home; we were making people cry both for finally feeling seen and for seeing us.”

Showing faces is important, says Walker, because “it’s the same theory/idea that truly fights xenophobia and discrimination based on sexual orientation. If folks are exposed to real life people instead of just numbers or an idea then it makes the reality more tangible. It brings the risk into real life instead of  abstract. [People] get to see our humanity and how we shouldn’t be dismissed.”

At one point, #HighRiskCovid19 was ranking among the top hashtags on all of Twitter — in the whole country (number 13, to be exact). As of this writing, there have been nearly 85,000 tweets using the hashtag.

“This kind of advocacy effort is vital to help healthy people who may only have mild symptoms realize the impact their actions can have. They can either help save lives by flattening the curve via social distancing, or be part of the problem by continuing to be out in public when they don’t need to,” Hill continues.

Hop on Twitter and contribute your story to #HighRiskCovid19. And while you’re at it, sign on to support our Open Letter: Coronavirus Among the Immunocompromised, Chronically Ill and/or Disabled.

Below, here are 50+ patients’ tweets from the campaign. We had to stop somewhere, so 50ish seemed like a good number. We encourage you to visit the hashtag on Twitter to read and share every single one.

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