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Two sides of the coronavirus

| Monday, March 23, 2020

Well, we’ve officially lost it. No doubt about that. Make no mistake, containing the coronavirus, let alone actually curing it, will be anything but an easy fight. But the media has spun the American public into an absolute frenzy. Grocery aisles once filled with nonperishables (and toilet paper) now lay absolutely bare. As everything flies off the shelves, more and more people, scared to be left empty-handed for the next two weeks, are flooding into stores — and so the vicious cycle accelerates. We are now quite literally fighting over parking spaces and frozen food. No, apparently we are not, in fact, better than this.

But, considering the circumstances, who’d expect anything different? It’s had a near-monopoly on news reporting for the past three weeks or so. It’s increasingly the only thing we talk about, and it’s taking over what we think about, too. It haunts us. Our eyes are constantly on our phones, waiting to get the latest update on the virus’ spread across America and the world, waiting to hear the latest closures and restrictions, waiting to hear how many are infected in our area. While it’s good to be informed and to know the facts, this has devolved into paranoia for far too many of us, and it’s simply not healthy. Yes, be smart. Be reasonable. Don’t go out unless you need to. Do what you need to do to keep yourself and others healthy. But excessively worrying isn’t helping anything and is making things worse for yourself.

A common translation of Matthew 6:27 reads, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” We all, myself certainly included, struggle with this a lot, but there are some steps we can take during this crisis to reduce our anxiety and keep our sanity. Do you really need to read about lockdowns and speculation about how bad it’s going to get if you’re already working from home and socially distancing? Do you really need to hear your local news anchors talk again about how to wash your hands, as if we all somehow need to be reminded of what’s been drilled into our heads since elementary school? (Of course people know how to wash their hands; the problem is whether people decide to or not. But I digress.) What about finding some time to do something you really love instead? That’s a start. This is no doubt going to be a tough adjustment, but if we approach it with these things in mind, it can be done.

Still, if everyone were overreacting, we wouldn’t be hearing about how rapidly the virus is spreading or how we need to “flatten the curve.” That’s because for as much as some people are freaking out, others, especially young people, are doing the exact opposite: ignoring the warnings and, more or less, continuing with their normal lives. Lines are out the door for bars in cities across the country. A lot of college students and millennials are taking advantage of discount flights to travel and take a vacation that they couldn’t do otherwise. And if that wasn’t enough, while many local officials are finally beginning to take action, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott still refuse to close their states’ beaches amidst the sea of spring breakers continuing to flood their coasts. In the words of one visitor, “If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I’m not going to let it stop me from partying.” This is absolutely sickening, and although he obviously doesn’t speak for everyone, he speaks for too many. While they wouldn’t actually say what he said, their actions produce the same result. I’ve seen too many pictures of crowded beaches and bars and heard too many people reject and even make fun of social distancing to think otherwise.

As a writer for The New York Times pointed out, “If low-risk people don’t socially distance, then the entire containment process is not effective.” By refusing to protect yourself, you’re refusing to protect others. If this isn’t selfish, I don’t know what is, and we must call it out. When lives are on the line, this cannot be taken lightly. The more people you interact with, the greater the opportunity for the virus to spread and infect others. It’s that simple. And even if you don’t get sick (and, yes, young people can get sick from coronavirus), that doesn’t mean you can’t infect others. It doesn’t take too much for it to spread if we’re not doing our part in stopping it. Who wants to be faced with the possibility that someone we know, or don’t know, got seriously ill because we thought that taking precautions was too inconvenient or would “mess with our plans and routine?” No one wants to be in that position. Make sure you aren’t. Our nation and our world depend on it. 

The next weeks and months will be challenging, to say the least. To get through this, we can’t surrender to a culture of fear, but neither can we neglect our responsibilities and our duty to one another. It’s on all of us to navigate between these two extremes. Doing otherwise only makes things worse.

Andrew Sveda is a freshman at Notre Dame from Pittsburgh intending to major in Political Science. Besides politics, Andrew enjoys acting, playing the piano and tennis. He can be reached at [email protected] or @SvedaAndrew on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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