By now, as a country and a campus, we are all well aware of the worsening COVID-19 pandemic. Classes have been moved to an online-only format at many universities, including at Missouri Southern. Many businesses are preparing to send workers home and complete work remotely.
This all comes as the CDC recommends that for the next eight weeks, gatherings of more than 50 people not be held.
Despite all the warnings that are in place, there is still an overwhelmingly large number of people that are refusing to adjust to the current circumstances; they are continuing to live their lives the way they have been, ignoring the recommended practice of social distancing.
As recently as last week, I was one of those people. I had planned on traveling to Philadelphia on March 31 to see the 76ers take on the Houston Rockets with my grandpa. My grandfather had purchased tickets to the game months ago and I had covered my own airfare.
When the NBA announced that the season was suspended indefinitely, I briefly conversed with my grandfather and decided that I would still come, despite the fact that no game was going to be played.
Fast forward 36 hours later, and Missouri Southern announced that they would be moving to online-only classes for the duration of the semester. Before heading to campus to tie up some loose ends before it shut down for good, my mom expressed to me that I should really reconsider going to Philadelphia.
I wasn’t just putting myself at risk-- I was putting everyone I came into contact with at risk as well. As much as I wanted to ignore her concerns and continue my life, a voice in my head kept telling me that even though I would probably survive coming into contact with coronavirus, my grandfather might not. That was an unnecessary risk I would never be okay with taking.
Was I disappointed that I had to postpone my trip? Yes. Was I irritated at the prospect of being out money? Definitely. Should any of that have ever factored into my decision? No.
Despite my disappointment, I felt firm in my decision because I knew I was doing my part to slow the spread of the virus and protect the most vulnerable people in our nation. So when I logged onto Instagram the Sunday before Spring Break, I was disgusted at what I saw on my feed.
“I wouldn’t be mad if I got quarantined here,” one user captioned her beach photo.
“Might mess around and miss a travel deadline,” read another.
“Social distancing? Never heard of her.”
I did not find any of these cheeky captions funny, or ironic. They were ignorant and irresponsible at best, selfish, arrogant, and disrespectful at worst. I could only imagine what the family members of someone who was lost to COVID-19 would think if they saw these posts. I couldn’t believe how dismissive they were of the people that are going to die due to this pandemic.
What exactly are these people trying to prove by ignoring the warnings of our country’s top health officials, and making a mockery of a pandemic that will be a matter of life and death for a lot of people? Are you trying to prove that you aren’t afraid? That your immune system is better than everyone else’s? If so, grow up.
This is not just about you, or your vacation, or your personal health; this is a public health crisis that will eventually affect us all in one way or another.
There are many groups of people that are at heightened risk to be affected by coronavirus: the elderly, people with underlying health issues, and healthcare workers. Chances are, we all know and love someone who falls into one of these categories.
So, before you decide to continue on with your spring break trip like everything is fine, consider this: a global pandemic is not your quirky Instagram caption; it’s a very real public health threat that will likely claim many, many lives. Take it seriously.