Here’s the simple truth: If you’re still going out to bars or partying with friends or otherwise refusing to practice “social distancing,” you’re directly participating in putting your own and everyone else’s health at risk. Because of your behavior, people will die.
I’m having trouble believing a few weeks into this pandemic that people aren’t aware of this yet. And yet it’s equally hard to believe that so many people would be so reckless, so selfish.
I think that a lot of young people — and relatively young people (i.e. older millennials, like me) — feel invincible, particularly with the early reports that this pandemic disproportionately kills older adults. However, this misplaced sense of invincibility and disregard for safety means young people are spreading and have and will fall seriously ill from coronavirus. (Less risk is far from no risk.)
That said, this behavior isn’t limited to young people on beaches in Florida or playing in parks in Seattle either. For example, last week New York Mayor Bill De Blasio violated his own official government recommendations to New Yorkers to hit the gym “once last time.” In Las Vegas, the mayor is fighting to keep open busy casinos — exactly the kinds of spaces designed to spread this disease.
None of this is meant to blame the millions of us who continue to have reasons we must travel. There are essential services that need to be run and people who need to go to work. It’s the job of the rest of us to minimize the risk those people face by not unnecessarily increasing social contact and speeding the spread of this pandemic.
But then you already knew all of this, right? How couldn’t you? It feels like all the news today is pandemic coverage.
So perhaps this column is a waste of time. Perhaps it is merely some self-righteous punditry. But I can’t help but write it. Just like I can’t help but stay in my apartment while looking down on the streets with judgment as I occasionally see people pass on the sidewalk without even attempting to maintain six feet of distance.
At times I feel helpless because it feels like in the face of the scale of this pandemic, how much can any of us hope to do? The tragic impact seems almost inevitable — and yet, the potential impact any one of us can have is perhaps greater than in any other national challenge we’ll face in our lifetimes.
It matters how much we can slow this pandemic in very real terms. Hospitals are likely to become overwhelmed in many parts of our country — and certainly in Washington state. Every bed we can help keep empty leaves a spot for someone else.
Even if no single person can totally stop this pandemic, through our individual choices, we can very likely prevent at least one other person from getting sick. And, because of how this virus exponentially spreads, that can have a huge impact on thousands more.
Our actions can kill people or save lives. Please, let’s choose to help each other.♦
John T. Reuter, a former Sandpoint City Councilman, studied at the College of Idaho and currently resides in Seattle. He has been active in protecting the environment, expanding LGBT rights and Idaho’s Republican Party politics.