Social distancing is an urgent social responsibility

By MICHAEL CAPRIO
On March 23, 2020

Photo courtesy of Crystal Eye Studio, Shutterstock

Nations are sealing off their borders to outsiders, all non-essential travel is being banned and all major sports leagues are being postponed until further notice. We are living in uncharted territory that has never been seen before in the modern era. COVID-19 has brought the entire planet to a screeching halt, the world lying in wait as people remain anxious, not knowing what the next days will bring. 

Government officials, scientists and epidemiologists all urge citizens to stay put and to socially distance or isolate themselves for the foreseeable future. These seemingly draconian measures have incited panic, anxiety and fear into the world. In reality, these measures were not placed to make our lives inconvenient; they were placed to save as many lives as possible. 

What the Future May Hold

This is a virus that has epidemiologists squirming at the potential damage it can wreak on the globe. In an interview with CBS, Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at Harvard’s Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, said the virus is spreading so fast that it has the potential to infect 40 to 70 percent of the global population.

This is a projection of what could come if we do not start taking drastic measures. Its current fatality rate is estimated to be somewhere between one to three percent. If four billion people were to get infected like some projections are insisting, that has the potential to kill millions of people worldwide. 

This is why it is our civic duty to socially distance ourselves and to be mindful of who we can infect and potentially kill. The amount of misinformation circulating around the internet is not only nauseating, it is dangerous. The flu is not deadlier than this disease; the flu’s fatality rate is .01 percent according to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If COVID-19 lands at the low end of the current estimation with a one percent fatality rate, that is ten times higher than the flu. It is also more contagious, with patients being highly contagious before they even show symptoms. With an incubation period of 14 days, a person could be contagious for weeks and not even know it, infecting everyone they come into contact with.

Eight out of every ten patients that get COVID-19 will either be asymptomatic or will recover at home on their own. The issue with this disease is the rapidness in which it spreads. According to estimates made by CDC experts, if between 160 million and 214 million people in the United States become infected, that means as many as 200,000 to 1.7 million people could die. 

And yet, so many people, particularly young people, think they are invincible. Reports show that the majority of COVID-19 fatalities are elderly patients and patients with compromised immune systems. Despite this, people continue to go to bars, travel and ignore all the guidelines provided by the CDC because they are too selfish to stop their daily lives for the greater good. 

Think About Others

Stop thinking about yourself for a second. Consider your grandparents, your parents, your friend with asthma, your friend who beat cancer years ago but still suffers the nasty side effects of chemotherapy. You might be able to beat COVID-19, but you could potentially spread it to ten people who will die from it. How selfish and unfair is that? If the young and healthy were the vulnerable ones in this instance, we would be begging for everyone else to stay inside and to socially distance themselves from other people. 

Before you brag on social media about how this only affects the old and the immunocompromised, think about the human lives you are actively degrading and devaluing. The vulnerable in this instance are terrified, and they need our help. 

Everybody who is buying immense amounts of toilet paper, water and food are people with significantly less risk then the elderly. Hoarding all the supplies from everyone else prevents many vulnerable people from protecting themselves with the necessary supplies required to withstand a quarantine.  

Governments are shutting down borders, mandating curfews and banning nonessential travel because the health care system in this country cannot handle a massive surge of patients. 

With proper medical equipment this can be treated fairly easy. Otherwise, circumstances can become dire very quickly. In Italy, medical facilities are so depleted on resources and are so overwhelmed, they quite literally have to pick and choose who gets to live or die. The fatality rate will increase for everybody, including the young and healthy, if we do not start doing our part. 

So please do your part -- stay at home, watch Netflix or read a book, but do not be selfish and continue the spread. Help your neighbor out who is scared to go to the supermarket due to fears of being infected. Do not buy all the toilet paper and cleaning supplies; leave a fair amount to the people who also need it. 

Show some humility, help others and most importantly, flatten the curve to be on the right side of history. The only way we end this awful situation sooner, with as little loss of life as possible, is if we simply do our part.

 

mcaprio1@ramapo.edu

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