About five months ago when I started this blog, I sat down and wrote my first ever post entitled “Why I'm done talking about the Coronavirus and why you should be too." While I stand by the points I made in that article (don’t be consumed by the media wave, talk to your family about how they are doing rather than how much the world sucks...), on Sunday morning I woke up to a call from the hospital, confirming my fears that I had contracted the Coronavirus. After I heard the news, I rushed to notify my friends as well as everyone I had been in contact within the last few weeks just to make sure they did not further spread the disease. In doing this, I started to feel a bit anxious about how many people I told about it. I didn’t want the word getting out and people assuming that I was being irresponsible by going out to parties and big social gatherings. After all, I had gotten it at my summer job as a mover. While I admit that it is selfish to only address an issue when it personally affects you, I started to see this incredibly toxic stigma around the Coronavirus.
The internet is filled with videos of people blatantly disregarding the social distancing guidelines that are intended to keep us safe. I will not dismiss the fact that a large amount of the spread in the United States is due to people my age thinking that they are invincible. As a result of this widely shared phenomenon, the growing stereotype has become that everyone who gets corona must be some unhinged teenager that thinks they are more important than the collective. I’m not saying that these assumptions aren’t based in truth or supported with statistical evidence, but these grand projections onto an enormous (and growing) group of people have the same issues that all stereotypes do. They apply rules to an entire group of people, many of whom are entirely innocent.
Many multi-billion dollar corporations and celebrities like to make videos from their Scrooge McDuck mansions and tell us that “we’re all in this together.” To pretend like the pandemic isn’t class-specific not only lacks common sense but also is refuted by the data. A UCLA statistical analysis found a strong correlation between income inequality in states and high numbers of coronavirus cases. The fact of the matter is that anyone who’s financially secure enough to stop working or in a career that lets them work from home is far less likely to get the virus than someone who needs to work. As someone who got it while trying to make some money for college, it hurts me when privileged people perpetuate the idea that everyone with Corona is just being irresponsible from their ivory towers. I don’t disregard my own privilege here either; I have not only a house to live in, but also a basement to quarantine in and the resources for necessities, as well as luxuries like an Xbox and a TV. All of that aside, it’s troubling that this narrative has been pushed onto the American public, one that breeds hostility towards those just trying to stay afloat.
This isn’t the first time this type of thing has happened. For years since influential climate research came out about the impact that individual companies have on the environment, those same companies (not so) coincidentally have been behind the push for the idea of the “personal carbon footprint.” The idea is to shift the blame on the consumer, rather than the 90 companies responsible for close to 75% of all carbon emissions (sciencemag.org). In the case of the Coronavirus, it’s the same thing. Those in power would rather you blame “those pesky teenagers partying” rather than the lawmakers and leaders who failed to invest in testing and resources before the pandemic, denied it was happening at the beginning, then reopened the economy far too early and caused a surge in cases (Vox).
At the end of the day, what you think about those with Corona matters much less than how you treat them. Don’t make assumptions before you have all the facts and try to be there for sick people you know rather than shaming them (no matter how they contracted the virus). Lastly, if someone tells you they are sick, don’t tell everyone you know, they may be trying to keep the information private. It’s a scary time, so the best advice that I can give is to wear a mask, wash your hands and try to be considerate of your fellow man.
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Also for anyone wondering: I am doing fine, only had a day or two of bad symptoms and now I am just riding it out in my basement.