Do your part in curbing COVID-19 and stay home

Help break the curve

Collegian+File+Photo

Collegian File Photo

By Emma Garber, Assistant Op/Ed Editor

The world has turned upside down. The University of Massachusetts has sent a majority of students home for the semester. Grocery store shelves are empty. Hand sanitizer and toilet paper feel like currency.

The COVID-19 pandemic has erased any familiarity. There’s panic and confusion, plenty of disappointment and no shortage of questions concerning the future. This is our new normal.

I don’t intend to sound overly dramatic, but the simple truth is that we don’t have time for indifference. We must act immediately. There is no time to wait.

Unfortunately, there is a dangerous amount of disinformation surrounding the coronavirus. You’ve probably heard someone say: “It’s not that bad” or “It’s basically the flu” or “The warm weather will kill the virus” or, even worse, “I’m not going to die if I get it, only old people die.”

The frightening truth is that this indifference is deadly. COVID-19 is highly contagious and there is currently no evidence to support that the warm weather will slow its spread. Worldwide, the number of reported cases are growing exponentially. While the virus is more deadly in elderly and the immunocompromised, an influx of cases will put everyone at risk. Symptoms may not appear right away, meaning one could walk around for about two weeks, spreading the virus to others. Even if you are not at risk, you could be spreading the virus to someone who is.

Italy currently serves as a warning. Just three weeks ago, the first few cases were reported in the Northern regions. When numbers began to grow, unassuming Italians traveled South to escape the virus, unknowingly spreading it further.  In a matter of days, the number of reported cases grew exponentially. As of Sunday, March 15, there were 24,747 cases, with the numbers continuing to grow. Today, Italian hospitals are narrowly avoiding devastation: hospital beds overflow into waiting rooms and hallways, staff are overworked and they are running out of ventilation machines and respirators.

Italian doctors have been forced to make decisions on who they treat – in other words, they have to decide who receives potentially life-saving treatment. White House officials have warned that if we don’t take this threat seriously, Italy’s current state could be our fate.

The good news? Experts are not asking us to be martyrs. They are asking us to stay home. The exponential spike can be slowed with social distancing, thus “flattening the curve.” As the Washington Post explains, the math cannot be denied. If we don’t separate ourselves, we could be facing hundreds of thousands of cases in a matter of days.

Now is not the time to pretend we are invincible. We cannot say “YOLO” and act as if nothing is wrong. Furthermore, we cannot act as if our actions do not have consequences.

We do not need to go on spring break vacations right now. Our brunch dates and movie nights can wait. Your friends will be there for you on the other side of this. Right now, you need to stay home. This is not ideal for anyone, but this could literally save us. Find a good book, start a journal, do a puzzle, bake something, call a friend (we could all use an extra phone call right now).

The sudden change has been heartbreaking. No one has been spared. Our livelihoods – our jobs, our classes, all our plans – possibly our graduations – have suddenly been robbed from us. The future is uncertain, we have no idea when this will end and our lives will return to normal.

This immense grief does not however excuse us from our responsibilities. The past few days I have felt powerless, but staying home is the best power we have right now to stay safe.

As the younger generation, we have begun to hold our elders accountable for their actions. We have asked them to fight alongside us to combat climate change. We have demanded better gun control laws. When they have not listened to us, we have not kept silent. Now, they are asking us to help fight this pandemic. We have proven today’s youth will be tomorrow’s leaders.

There is no way to put this lightly: we are amid a global crisis. Now is the time to heed our own advice. Tomorrow is here. We need to act as leaders.

Set an example for others and stay home.

Emma Garber is an Assistant Op/Ed Editor and can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @EmmaGarber1.