As of November 2020, more than 242,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. Worldwide, more than 1.29 million people have died. At this point, it feels that Americans have reached a numbed state of existence towards the pandemic. It’s real and also not real. Masks are now normal. People now think of distance in terms of six feet. Despite these changes to everyday society, the statistics make it clear that as a country, we are still not doing enough to stop the spread.
Even so, it’s hard not to feel fatigued by the restrictions and measures. As the months drag on, it becomes easier and easier to make social excuses. “Well, I’ll have a distanced coffee study session so it’ll be okay” or “We’re just going to have a few people over for some drinks.” There’s this idea that if people only stick to seeing the friends in their “bubble” then there’s little to worry about. I see it on social media and in my own social circles. We’re all victims to our desire to socialize. However, the people we consider within our “bubbles” also have contact with others that aren’t in our own bubble of safety. There’s no way to socialize without acknowledging that we are potentially putting ourselves and others at risk of infection. It’s easy to look at the increasing case numbers and think incredulously, “How could this be? I’m taking all the precautions!” However, this kind of bubble mentality gives a false sense of security, contributing in part to the rising COVID-19 cases.
Perhaps the biggest contributor to COVID-19 infections is the detached apathy towards the pandemic. I have friends and family who live in areas that don’t have mask mandates, and it’s a completely different world from Forest Grove, Ore. Many feel that the pandemic isn’t a grave enough threat to worry about. Others are only surrounded by younger people and those who are not in risk groups, believing this means they do not need to take precautions.
Even if you believe the pandemic is a hoax, even if you’re not worried about your personal health, the social reality of America isn’t going to change until either 1) people start following measures 2) there’s a vaccine, or 3) herd immunity is reached, which would result in thousands of more deaths. This country has been riding a COVID-19 rollercoaster the past eight months: quarantine in March, slowly opening things back up, people become too comfortable, and then life abruptly halts again. It’s like being trapped in an endless Twilight Zone episode where the same day repeats over and over. What has been proven the quickest way to return to normalcy is to follow measures and guidelines. Why not swallow the bureaucratic pill and do what’s best for everyone? Maybe by summer 2022 life can have some semblance of what was “normal.” However based on how people have treated the pandemic so far, I’m not going to hold my breath. — Hannah Kendall