My! 2020 is certainly an interesting time to be alive. The presidential election was the longest we have had in a while and, to be honest, it was really distracting! While the candidates were on the campaign trail, the coronavirus situation seemed to be simultaneously getting worse and better.
Not too long ago, I participated in a group hike at the Blue Hills Reservation outside of Boston (more here). This excursion was long anticipated as it was the first group hike held by our chapter of the organization in over half a year, due to social-distance coordination challenges. There was a consensus among the group leaders that things were “getting better,” and therefore we could now organize events somewhat regularly. However, if one were to look at the number of new coronavirus cases for October/ November, things clearly do not appear to be getting better even a little bit!
Those in the outdoors group do not seem to be the only ones making more time for in-person socialization during this new peak. In the late summer and early fall, in Boston, many restaurants began to offer indoor dining with restrictions. This past week, Boston officials announced that they are considering a pause in indoor dining due to the spike in cases, but as of this writing, no decisive policy has been enacted to sanction indoor service. On a personal level, I know of friends who are planning in-person get-togethers and I also heard that my childhood school district is re-instating 5-day-a-week in-person instruction (while keeping asynchronous teaching as an option). Why are we feeling relaxed when things appear to be getting worse?
Sources predict that COVID-19 cases will spike this winter. This season, people may be more willing to meet indoors instead of out in the bitter cold and will choose to spend Thanksgiving and the winter holidays with family and friends. Given that cases spiked in the summer when restaurants, hotels, and tourist attractions were given permission to operate more freely, it would be of zero surprise to see a larger spike in the winter months. In response to my earlier question, I give you my opinion: I believe that we are feeling relaxed about the COVID-19 situation because we are both used to it and exhausted from it.
Can you believe we have been living with a pandemic for seven plus months? Why shouldn’t we be able to enjoy a hot toddy with friends at the local pub? This is, of course, a rhetorical question. If you do not think twice about meeting up with friends (who do not reside with you) for dinner or drinks at a restaurant sans masks, I’m going to ask you to pause and reflect. Half a year ago, people were denying the existence of the virus. Even this past week, I saw someone on my Facebook newsfeed skeptically remark that it was too much of a coincidence that COVID-19 cases were increasing in the leadup to the election. With the cases surging and the death toll rising, how much proof do you need that the virus is a big deal? When people question and disregard the danger right in front of them they can put others in harm’s way.
If so many people are dying, why haven’t I seen even so much as someone cough in my presence? If the situation is getting worse, why are things slowly going back to quasi-normal? While we know people are dying and see the new infection count rising, we somehow compartmentalize this information because our reality and the realities of others seem mutually exclusive. If in our day-to-day lives we only see healthy individuals wearing masks and keeping their distance, we may easily forget that hospitals continue to struggle and very many are suffering. Because we do not always see hardship, it can be easy to give our personal experience more credence than what we hear on the news. This can be very dangerous when our little choices (like whether to wear a mask) can have disproportionately large (or even fatal) repercussions.
To become fatigued now or delude ourselves into thinking that things are getting better because we’re not under total lockdown is the best way to make things worse for absolutely everyone. We’re still in a pandemic for heaven’s sake!
Wash your hands; keep your distance; make good choices! You are loved.