Borrok: We cannot afford to be fatigued over the pandemic

Ben Borrok, Opinion Editor

This past week marked the worst period of the COVID pandemic thus far, which seems odd, as the news of vaccines and relaxed safety measures have occupied much of the news since the summer. Yet, despite the return of fans in stadiums, students in schools, and diners in restaurants, the death toll continues to rise — 61,964 people were hospitalized with COVID in the United States on Tuesday.

Hospitalizations and positive test results have remained stubbornly high in the United States, an indictment of our country’s response and protocol to combat the virus. We aren’t the only nation to face an increasing number of cases, but our refusal to embrace science-based practices kept us from meaningfully flattening the curve like other nations had over the summer. Instead, we now head into what could be the deadliest winter in much worse shape than comparable industrialized nations.

It has been nearly eight months since stay at home orders were enacted in the US and the stress of remaining vigilant has begun to wear on people. With many out of work or struggling to recover from the lockdowns earlier in the year, news of more restrictions is devastating. There doesn’t appear to be another stimulus package on the way, a metaphorical middle finger from our government to those who need help. This callousness is intentional, if they break people down to their lowest point, their fear of bankruptcy overtakes their fear of illness. What’s more American than that?

We have no universal healthcare and our essential workers, a moniker created so that corporations can continue to operate while paying near minimum wage, are most often from the working class. The result is our most vulnerable being exposed the most often while not having the means to pay for treatment. And yet, many essential workers and low income individuals have been pressing for less restrictions and expressing anger over the hoax being perpetrated on the American people. But what choice do they have when the pandemic is more likely to end before another stimulus package is granted? Food still needs to be put on the table, rent needs to be paid, and small businesses need customers.

Fatigue is setting in, especially for those who have attempted to practice social distancing and other guidelines. We are on a collision course for overwhelmed hospitals, except this time the public is apathetic to the risks on the horizon. We have already established that the working class has, for the most part, no choice but to press on and head back to work, so what should the rest of us do? While it may not feel like it, working from home is a privilege. Having the option to remain safe with family, access to testing, and reliable medical attention are resources that many do not have. It is on us to remain vigilant and take extra precautions so that we may see this pandemic to its end with as little death and malaise as possible.

We are no longer in uncharted territory. We know that a vaccine is imminent, so the idea of giving up on following these guidelines isn’t just selfish, it’s spiteful. You dangle your privilege in front of those who lack it, attending large gatherings and engaging in other reckless behavior. A few more months of quarantine may cost you memories, but at least it won’t cost your life.

This plea may be ignored. Plenty of people have refused to heed warnings from scientific experts and politicians, but it is a message that bears repeating. When we look back on this period of history, it is imperative that we hold accountable those who have knowingly lied to the American people, especially those who lied for personal gain (think of people like Clay Travis). This willingness to claim that the mortality rate is negligible, I invite you to say that to the families of the 200,000-plus dead. In order to avoid a similar fate for 200,000 more, we step up for each other and brave this upcoming winter.

Ben Borrok is a School of Communication junior. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.