covid op ed

Photo by Alin Luna on Unsplash

A few weeks ago, our staff editorial centered around the importance of helping to flatten the curve. At the time, the first infant death related to COVID-19 was just reported in Cook County, Illinois. While certainly many were concerned about their futures and staying healthy, we still needed to write to urge the rest to stay at home. 


A month later, we are at it again, issuing another public plea. This time, stay-at-home deniers don’t just include selfish college students booking a last-minute trip on cheap airfare, but people who are actually taking to the streets to “protest” the orders. 


Armed with signs donned with messages such as “Reopen! Now. Tyranny is spreading faster than the China virus,” “Free (insert state name here),” “Stop the hysteria, end the shutdown,” and “We Have Rights,” these protesters include those wishing businesses to return to their former full functioning and that their respective states “reopen” and some who just claim COVID-19 is a hoax. 


While the reasoning behind one’s choice to protest differs from person-to-person, anybody who looks at images from the handful of protests the country has seen will notice a couple of things: 1. Few protesters, if any, adhere to the CDC recommendations and cover their faces; 2. Many are marching alongside each other, not six feet apart; and 3. Many are clothed in red, white and blue, insinuating they are advocating for what’s best for America. 


But they aren’t. Leading scientists have shown this, and these are the people we should be listening to right now. The Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization say the same things: Don't go out unless absolutely necessary; if you have to go out, wear face coverings and stay at least 6 feet apart; flatten the curve; and the list goes on and on. Hell, it has been named a pandemic for a reason. 


We at The Alestle understand the impacts restrictions have on both one’s economic stability and mental health. We have talked to many local business owners and listened to — and reported on — their struggles, we have seen our incomes and those of our loved ones fluctuate or disappear entirely. We get it, but not at the risk of killing innocent people. 


Now, others are channeling fear in a new way: conspiracy theories. These theories are all about the coronavirus, and there are even some about the vaccine that doesn’t exist yet. There are some theories that new 5G towers have something to do with spreading the coronavirus. One video said that being around lead wallpaper was safer to be around compared to 5G towers, and another video even said the coronavirus vaccine will install microchips in people’s brains. These conspiracy theories can and are very dangerous for people to believe, especially because there have been reported burnings of 5G towers directly linked to these theories. Instead of spreading misinformation and dangerous ideas about safety during this pandemic, post information from official sources, like WHO and the CDC, so people won’t buy into something so dangerous that they burn towers for communication. 


In the midst of all this, both local media, like The Alestle, as well as national news organizations are working non-stop to keep people informed, seeking information from those most qualified to give it: scientists (particularly those who specialize in infectious diseases) and medical professionals. Never has the need for public information been greater, and the same shutdown that is impacting all other businesses is seriously impacting the news media, with furloughs and layoffs compounding the stress on people literally risking their lives to keep you informed. We aren’t brainwashing you. We aren’t “spreading hype” or sensationalizing very real problems. We are simply giving you information. What you do with it is another story. 


First, don’t share things on social media just because they make your jaw drop or the headline seems to support your already-existing opinions on the pandemic. Karen may be advocating for businesses to return to full operation, but is Karen a scientist? Did Karen get her info from scientists who have been studying infectious diseases for the majority of their lives? Did Karen get her information from a trustworthy news source? No? Well then don’t take her words as facts, and certainly don't share the false information. 


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