COVID-19 was first announced as a National Emergency on March 13th, 2020, and strict mandates were issued all across the country. However, within the months that followed, restrictions quickly lifted, and cases surged. Now with almost 5.6 million cases and 180,000 deaths in six months, the United States has been leading the world in COVD-19 cases and deaths.
This pandemic has quickly deviated from a medical crisis to an all-out political war. We are now suffering the consequences of partisan polarization plaguing the United States.
As these cases continue to skyrocket, many American’s are pleading to re-open and for life to get back on track. Unfortunately, given the circumstances, normal is not attainable, nor equitable.
As the pandemic dreads on into its seventh painstaking month, many are refusing to abide by the rules and regulations set in place to protect and keep people safe. Not only that, but many have changed their toon regarding this issue. What once was portrayed as an overarching threat, is now being boiled down to a “hoax”. And some are advocating for the country to re-open for fear of economic demise.
The disagreement on how to approach this issue has left many to beg the question, how did we go from a “life-threatening disease” to “hoax” in a mere matter of months?
Even before the Trump declared COVID-19 a national emergency, the debate surrounding the pandemic response was widely disputed. During Trump’s administration, he disbanded the pandemic response team, marking the initial divide. Since then, feeble attempts to curate a national strategy has proven unattainable and divisive. Much of the hysteria stems from the administration’s confounded response and policy implementation surrounding this issue.
For instance, on February 26th, when Trump was asked to comment on the state of COVID-19 he said:
“And again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.“
However, that was seemingly not the case because on June 6th the death toll surpassed over 100,000. A few days later, Trump stated that the virus was going to simply “fade away”. even without a vaccine. As the mortality rate surpassed 140,000 in mid-July, Trump lied tweeting we have one of the lowest mortality rates in the world” even though we are currently leading in cases and deaths. As a last-ditch effort, he then argued that the reason we have so many cases is that we are testing too much, stating that if we test less, we will have fewer cases.
During this time the CDC also recommended that people wear face coverings for precautionary measures. Trump, up until recently, appeared in public several times without a mask. This action undoubtedly contributed to the confusion concerning the state of the pandemic.
As the pandemic trudges on with no resolution regarding policy insight, the detrimental consequences continue to surge. Inextricably this failed response has disproportionately affected those with disabilities.
An easy argument for someone worried or more susceptible to catching COVID-19 may seem as simple as staying home. However, this rationale is not only implausible but unfair.
The fear of catching COVID-19 and experiencing detrimental side effects or possible death is not unfounded. Since people with disabilities are more vulnerable to complications, this situation can be especially straining. Disabled people take risks every time they leave. Whether it be going grocery shopping or seeing a doctor- disabled people should not be expected to hide away until the dust settles, nor should they.
While it is easy to bat an eye to those worried about their personal health, rushing to re-open the economy further exemplifies the moral issue surrounding the pandemic.
The moral issue
To insinuate that those more susceptible to dying from COVID-19 should just stay home or risk catching it demonstrates the larger issue surrounding the pandemic. The reality is, some are willing to risk “returning back to normal” so that their lives can resume. However, there are devastating consequences as the pandemic disproportionately affects the disabled and elderly. Some are willing to re-open the country for the economy’s sake because they believe the positives outweigh the negatives. This monumental issue has erupted due to the amounting apathy over those most vulnerable and at-risk in our society.
To say that this is an extenuating circumstance or that this a new argument would be fallacious. In fact, the devastating consequences of the pandemic are a testament to how we have treated and valued disabled people in the past. We, as a society, have often undermined and underrepresented the needs of the disabled community. The system does not respond unless it is forced too.
Society only began acknowledging their needs and taking ‘some’ preventative measures to help disabled people when COVID-19 hit. Before this, uprooting and creating legislation to aid disabled people was not the main priority. It took for lives of even the most privileged to be at stake before immediate changes were made. Albeit, disabled people, like everyone, deserve to return to a world that is safe for all, not just those who will be spared the negative consequences.
Steps we need to take
As a disabled woman myself, my contact with the outside world during this time has been slim to none. To me, my health is not a risk worth taking. However, just because I am personally more conforable and able to confine myself at home, doesn’t mean I want to, or should be the only one required to. As a society, we have a moral responsibility to others.
We don’t wear masks to protect ourselves, we wear masks to protect others. We don’t distance because we fear catching COVID, we distance so that we do not possibly infect others. It is why now more than ever we need to be diligent about how we handle and view this situation.
Because it could quite literally cost people’s lives.