Soter: We Can Decide to Shorten the Pandemic

Freshman+Michael+Manhard+takes+a+break+from+online+classes+in+a+common+area+at+the+University+of+Utah+on+Oct.+10%2C+2020.+%28Photo+by+Gwen+Christopherson+%7C+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29

Gwen Christopherson

Freshman Michael Manhard takes a break from online classes in a common area at the University of Utah on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Gwen Christopherson | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Theadora Soter, Opinion Writer

 

I’m not normally one to complain, but after the week I’ve had, I have to indulge myself. In the span of 72 hours, I’ve had to kick out my roommate due to her lack of concern about the coronavirus, I’ve been informed I can’t see my partner for the next two weeks because of his immunocompromised family and I learned that my cancer-ridden grandfather’s nurse tested positive for COVID-19. All-in-all, not the best week — but a week I’m sure many people can relate to, considering the skyrocketing case counts we’re seeing here in Utah.

Like so many others, I was robbed of my senior year of high school on the promise that if I stayed inside, I might still get to have a normal college experience. Yet here I am nearly eight months later, still sitting inside and waiting for my college experience to begin. I am exhausted, emotionally depleted and flat-out angry that we are still in this situation — which is why I’m turning to you, my young adult peers. We have a responsibility to ourselves and each other to slow the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the future we were promised.

Throughout the pandemic, college-aged people have been told that we’ll survive. We’re safe. Our grandparents are the people to be concerned about, not us. For a while, that was enough to scare us into staying home — but now, understandably, we’re sick of it. Unfortunately, this desire to return to pre-pandemic life has put us and the entire state in a desperate situation — full hospitals, thousands of new cases every day and ultimately more innocent people dying before their time. We must return to acting responsibly. If we don’t, we’ll likely be forced into lockdown again — which is so much worse than having to go about our daily activities in masks. Furthermore, no matter what people have told us, we’re not as invincible as we might think. People our age are dying, even those that are perfectly healthy.

It’s also important to remember that we’re risking more than our immediate well-being by being complacent about the virus. Many specialists are finding that those who contract the virus could experience long-term effects, no matter their age. We also don’t know how COVID-19 might change our bodies, brains or societies years down the road. It’s naïve to stop being safe now when we still know so little about this disease.

Beyond the effects that the virus could possibly have on our own health, we must also be aware of the effects it can have on those around us. 20% of cases this past summer were spread by people around the age of 20, indicating that our age group is responding carelessly to this severe situation. And now, nearly two months into the fall semester, students are continuing to throw parties and socialize indoors — hence the surge in cases that is overwhelming Utah hospitals, and there is an upcoming mandate that will require all Utah college students to be tested for the virus on a weekly basis. We are now experiencing what we were so afraid of in the spring, yet we’re being exponentially less cautious.

Of course, our state leaders shoulder the biggest blame for Utah’s record-breaking case counts. Time and again, despite the surges in deaths and cases, our elected officials have done little to prevent the increase in cases but plead with the people of Utah to change their behavior. Gov. Gary Herbert refused to enforce a statewide mask mandate until late last month. That said, it is now up to us to take responsibility for our communities’ health. We must find our compassion and realize that despite our society’s emphasis on the individual, the pandemic is not an egocentric matter. We are all at risk, and we must act like it.

With the cold months approaching and cases rising, we need to come together — figuratively — like we did in March and make the sacrifices to return to the life we so desperately want. That means, first of all, taking a step back from the dating scene. It’s a frustrating suggestion, but romance is a risky business to be in these days. At the very least, masks must stay on over the nose and mouth. Young adults also need to stop going out in public. We can still grocery shop and eat “out” via food delivery apps — Uber Eats works great, plus you get to dine from your own bed. And for those of us who need some retail therapy, I strongly recommend turning to online shopping. It’s a lot easier to spend money when you’re not forced to physically hand it over — just ask my debit card.

My last suggestion, in all seriousness, is to create a small social bubble, commit to it and trust it. That’s the best way to care for your mental and physical health simultaneously.

This is a difficult time to live through. It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting and each day seems a little less hopeful than the one before, but this too shall pass — and it’s up to us how quickly it does. If all of us wore our masks consistently for four to eight weeks, the pandemic would be under control. So please, keep sacrificing, for just a little bit longer. It’s the safe and right thing to do.

 

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@SoterTheadora