Coronavirus: The apocalypse-esque global pandemic that has slapped the modern world across its unsuspecting, smartphone-addicted face.
COVID-19 is not the first pandemic the world has ever seen, nor will it be the last. With the privilege of global travel comes the risk of global emergencies. The true test of our society is how we respond when that threat becomes a reality.
One thing I am sure of is that panicking is not the answer. This is not, in fact, the apocalypse (I know, quite a shock, right?). But it is also not a fluke. This is the Earth giving us a heads-up: “Hey folks, you might wanna start pulling together about now.” If we want to continue to be able to travel between continents with ease, we need to be able to keep our heads when situations like this arise.
Most importantly, we need to be willing to learn from the experiences of other nations. We need to be careful that we do not become too proud to ask for help.
When the virus first appeared in China, the Chinese government tried to downplay the threat. It silenced doctors who tried to warn the public, which cost valuable time and resulted in the rapid spread of infection as people were encouraged to continue business as usual.
When the first case of coronavirus appeared in the U.S., our government seemed ready to follow in China’s footsteps. On Jan. 22, when asked by a CNBC reporter if he was concerned about the virus becoming a problem in the U.S., the president responded “No. No, not at all. And we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it totally under control. It’s going to be just fine.”
Not to state the obvious, but it was clearly not “going to be just fine.” So either the president was intentionally spreading false information, when he knew that a pandemic was at our doorstep or, despite being surrounded by the nation’s top health officials (all of whom have known this was coming for months), he was still ignorant of the threat coronavirus posed.
Neither of those thoughts instills comfort in me. Taking pride in one’s nation does not mean ignoring the facts to save face. Truly caring for one’s country means being willing to admit that we have vulnerabilities and being ready to act accordingly. If we do not recognize our weaknesses, pandemics like this one will not hesitate to make them obvious to us.
And we have proof of this. Italian officials also tried to ignore the threat of COVID-19. And now because of the failure of the Italian government to react quickly enough, Italy has surpassed China in terms of casualties with 10,023 deaths and more than 90,000 confirmed cases reported as of March 27.
I don’t point out these things to scare people. On the contrary, I say them to empower Americans. As odd as it sounds, being quarantined at home is the best way to positively contribute to our society right now. It shows that we are taking the situation seriously.
In the long run, it is far more rewarding to accept the sometimes ugly, unflattering truth than it is to hide behind comforting lies. Not to mention that ignoring the facts in this situation will most likely result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.
OK, so this is scary. I think we’ve pretty much confirmed that. There is an incurable disease on the loose and many of the people who are supposed to protect us seem reluctant to take it seriously. So what on Earth are we, as citizens, supposed to do? This may seem a bit anticlimactic. But really the best way to take action in this case is to stay home.
Our society is one that loves progress, so this might prove a hard pill to swallow. It isn’t going to be easy to change our habits and give up our beloved rat race for a few months, but we must try. Look around at your family and home and be thankful for life. The universe is telling us to slow down and enjoy the present. The cosmos is shouting at us to stop and smell the flowers. And if we want to make it through this thing with minimal damage, we don’t have any choice but to listen.
In conclusion: Keep calm, be happy and wash your hands.
Lucia Marsiglio is a sophomore at Delaware Academy in Delhi. Readers can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.