Editorial, Opinion

EDITORIAL: COVID-19 fatigue is not reason to be irresponsible

The COVID-19 outbreak has exposed two types of people: those who care about the pandemic and those who don’t. Even more so, it has revealed those who have been personally affected by the virus  — financially, physically or emotionally — and those who haven’t.

We have seen people switch between those categories throughout the pandemic. Social media has highlighted the hypocrisy of friends who once reprimanded their peers for going to large social gatherings but now hang out with a new group of people every day. Suddenly, the rules don’t apply to them.

This hypocrisy isn’t just apparent on college campuses. It’s exemplified by celebrities and influencers who claim they’re getting tested regularly but are jetting off to Mexico and filming music videos every week. 

Even our elected officials have become more relaxed. California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently attended a dinner party with lobbyists and San Francisco Mayor London Breed dined at the same restaurant the day after. 

At the federal level, we’ve seen President Donald Trump poke fun at President-elect Joe Biden for wearing a mask — our standards for public officials seem to be even lower than we thought.

When some state governments took action and shut down normal functions earlier this year, everyone understood we were in a bad place. And because we have reopened, people are now under the strange illusion that life is normal again and they are no longer properly adhering to COVID-19 guidelines.

What we are experiencing is “COVID-19 fatigue.” Even though the United States harbors more than 15 million cases of the coronavirus, we seem numb to the immeasurable losses we have faced since March.

Large social gatherings and superspreader events, despite mounting COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., are contributing to the spike in cases. 

But, going to big gatherings isn’t the only way to spread the virus. You may hang out with only small groups of friends, but if you rotate between groups often, then your social bubble grows that much more. 

The second you mingle with someone you do not live with, you are expanding the number of people you are in contact with — every single person you interact with is part of an ultimately gigantic social network, and we must understand the magnitude of this.

We should be disappointed with the selfish behavior of those who choose to recklessly socialize, not with businesses wanting to re-open so they can make a living. We must have empathy for business owners and essential workers who don’t have the luxury of simply staying home.

States have begun to reopen businesses, somewhat re-stimulating the economy. But, we were only forced to do so because the federal government has been too busy bickering over uselessly partisan rhetoric to remember that they’re elected officials who should be putting all hands on deck to roll out much-needed monetary aid. 

Too many young people are simply unconcerned about catching the virus. Those who live with peers of similar age — and so don’t have to worry about bringing something home to older household members — cite lowered risk of extreme symptoms as justification for their social outings, while ignoring stories of youth who are living with long-term side effects.

People are still spreading misinformation about the severity of the virus, and those who are looking for reason to argue the country is infringing on their constitutional rights by requiring masks are quick to latch on to these lies.

Americans even argued against wearing a mask for the same reason in 1918 when they were fighting the Spanish Flu. History repeats itself, but one would’ve thought 100 years later, humans would have evolved past the urge to spew conspiracies about masks being a government effort to undermine personal freedom.

Some people have also referenced the changing U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance as reasoning for why science can’t be trusted. We were told back in March that masks aren’t helpful, they say.

Our learning of new information about the coronavirus throughout the year demonstrates exactly how science works: beliefs change when we gain new insight. We should be glad our leading scientists are diligent in updating guidelines in accordance with research developments.

Misinformation and selfish attitudes must no longer feed into this country’s handling of the pandemic. We need to change our overall messaging and tone when discussing this public health crisis. The government is not reaching the people it needs to, and the willfully uninformed remain rampant in the U.S.

We also expect the federal government to pick up its slack.

Congress passed a $731-billion defense bill Thursday. We know bipartisan compromise is possible, so why are our representatives’ full efforts not being funneled into another stimulus package? They are making some progress, but it is far too late and not enough.

U.S. residents need a message of unity from their federal government, which will be difficult to attain after the four years of pure division we’ve just experienced. But, our priorities must be to protect those who are dying every day and provide aid to businesses so that more people are not forced to expose themselves to the virus.

COVID-19 fatigue is affecting us all, but the pandemic is only getting worse in the U.S. If we want a return to actual normalcy — unlike the false reality we are living in now — we must stay diligent in our commitment to public health and safety. The federal government will be a leading figure in allowing us to do so.

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