Gov. Gina Raimondo on Tuesday shut down all state parks and Massachusetts extended its closure of non-essential businesses until May 4. We're undoubtedly in the midst of the coronavirus frenzy that has defined 2020 and grinded our nation to a halt -
Gov. Gina Raimondo on Tuesday shut down all state parks and Massachusetts extended its closure of non-essential businesses until May 4.
We’re undoubtedly in the midst of the coronavirus frenzy that has defined 2020 and grinded our nation to a halt – although there is no way to actually know whether or not we’re going to see the end of this crisis any time soon.
There are a couple reasons for this, and a primary one is because solving a widespread virus problem is – as we all know by now – not very easy to do. Viruses spread through human contact with someone who is hosting the virus, so the ultimate length of this pandemic will come down to how well our society is able to enact and maintain the protocols put forth by epidemiologists and scientists who understand exactly what needs to be done and why it needs to be done.
Unfortunately, that protocol is social distancing – and even the most introverted individuals cannot escape the reality that human beings are social creatures. It is ingrained into our collective evolution from the time we first gathered together in groups to share resources and earn protection from an unforgiving, dangerous environment. Hundreds of thousands of years later, and our country’s very motto denotes this survivalist spirit of togetherness – “United we stand.”
But a strict policy of social distancing does more than simply swim upstream against our human nature’s desire to congregate. Our economy, as we have seen demonstrated in an unprecedented way, depends on gathering as well. Gathering in shops and movie theaters and concert venues and dentist offices and government buildings to conduct business and exchange currency – it’s what drives our way of life.
As a result, having the ability to congregate and participate in our economy be rapidly torn away in the name of protecting yourself and your neighbors from something invisible – something that you can’t quite visualize – has resulted in some members of our society from going the complete opposite direction than they’re supposed to. They rebel, they disbelieve, they defy orders for the sake of being contrarian. Because it can’t possibly be as bad as the government says, right?
This is why it is vitally important to stress the difference between healthy skepticism and detrimental, voluntary ignorance.
It would be wise to be skeptical of an order that said the only cure for COVID-19 is to empty your bank accounts and send all the money to an unmarked P.O. Box in Omaha, Nebraska. It is detrimentally ignorant to – at this point in the outbreak – continue to get on social media, on television or through the radio and spout that this is somehow being overblown, or is a political stunt from one party to damage another.
In some ways, it is amazing to see how inventive the human brain can be to sew dissonance – to simultaneously be aware that over 40,000 people have died of this virus in a few short months, to see the hospitals being overrun in New York City and Italy with corpses literally piling up faster than healthcare workers can find places to put them, and yet somehow think at the same exact time that this virus is not a big deal.
The troubling “moderate” contrarian stance to the efforts to curb the virus seems to come from a mindset that the virus must be stopped – but NOT at the cost of stopping the economy – as if somehow a total overrunning of our society by an infectious illness wouldn’t also stop the economy in a much more permanent, horrific way.
We’re seeing right now in this moment just how essential the common worker is. Those who drive transport trucks, stock warehouses, staff shops, work in our hospitals and grocery stores and pharmacies, and toil hard hours in manufacturing have even been officially deemed “essential.” They are keeping our country held together by their fingernails and deserve our respect, admiration and above all, our protection.
And for the workforce deemed “non-essential” – which is a misnomer, as their disappearance from the labor force has clearly also crippled the economy – if these workers are put back to work before the virus is under proper control, and thousands or millions more get sick, those who are supposedly so concerned about the economy will have multiplied this problem exponentially through their arrogant ignorance – and there will be no end in sight or hope to be had.
There is no lack of understanding from those making decisions right now that sheltering in place and staying socially distant is not ideal. Elected officials are in the toughest position possible right now of choosing between shutting down the economy or risking astronomical death tolls – and thankfully, at least in Rhode Island, our leaders are erring on the side of saving lives.
But it is up to the rest of us to actually make the difference. End the arrogance and the ignorance. This disease does not discriminate or care whether you believe in its deadliness, or about what it’s doing to your 401k. Some things in life are bigger than money – like life itself.