By Megan Loock
Elm Staff Writer
2020 felt normal up until mid-March. Airlines shut down, schools were evacuated in a matter of days, and the economy plummeted — all while an initially seemingly harmless virus invaded the United States. As of Aug. 22, there are 5, 598, 547 new cases of COVID-19 in the United States, according to CDC records.
In a midnight conversation with my fifteen-year-old sister, in which we discussed everything from memes to Black Lives Matter, she astounded me when she said, “What if the world has already been this bad and now, since we don’t have our normal lives to distract us because of quarantine, we are forced to look at it at face value?” Ever since COVID-19 infiltrated the U.S. it has been one of the prominent topics major news sources have been covering —“corona TV” as my mom labeled it. The people who complain about this coverage are the ones who do not want to believe that we live in a scary and dangerous world — thus propelling us into further unrest.
While the virus is viewed as a personal inconvenience to spoil the lighter moods of the day, there could be a point where it is recognized as a tool to bring us closer together, if we let it. In our current climate, individualistic values serve to politicize everything, creating a deeper divide within not only our political parties, but our personal values. American apathy strikes again — now, even death rates are a partisan issue.
There is a drastic difference between mask mandates in blue states versus red states. Most schools in blue states are completing a virtual semester, while schools in states such as Georgia claim “wearing a mask is a personal choice” to which there is “no practical way to enforce,” according to the Paulding County Superintendent in an interview with The Washington Post. The country seems increasingly apathetic in regard to eradicating the virus. There seems to be more concern for getting “back to normal” than protecting the public’s health.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director of the World Health Organization, said in a statement “to not politicize the virus” in response to President Trump’s threats to pull the U.S. from the organization in a White House Press Conference in early April.
The World Health Organization has repeatedly made claims about the coronavirus that were either grossly inaccurate or misleading,” President Trump said in a four-page letter to Ghebreyesus sent in May in an attempt to justify the suspension of funds to the WHO from the United States. Trump, like countless other Americans, chooses to believe what he would like to be true. This practice has evolved into something more serious than just petty politics. It has become the roadblock between saving American lives and not.
President Trump has been at the center of politicizing COVID-19 ever since it first harbored in the United States. He has labelled it the “Chinese virus” or “the kung-flu” in multiple press conferences. Democrat or Republican, it is hard not to politicize issues—indeed, Americans politicize everything. The danger comes when we cherry pick facts in order to support political parties and our own self interests.
The world of the individual has shrunk significantly. If sacrificing a few nights out with friends — or a year of college — can get us “back to normal” then we must do it. How we act determines what “normal” will mean in the future. As Americans, we have that choice to make, but that choice needs to be made collectively.