Heading home late on a Friday night in the middle of a pandemic, I remember driving by Springville High School and being unpleasantly surprised.
After seeing both digital and physical signage of “SHS Homecoming Football Game,” I was met with rows upon rows of cars, bleachers overflowing with people and an entire community that seemed to be living in a different world.
I found myself perplexed. Do people not realize what is going on? Are people simply not paying attention? We’re really going to hold a superspreader event all for the sake of a football game?
I wish the answer was a simple “no” and that the solution was just as simple — that sharing valid information with people (you know, facts) would influence those around us to make smarter and more considerate decisions.
The blunt reality is that we can’t even agree on facts anymore, that something as obvious and straightforward as a pandemic led to yet another political divide. This split is so distinct that one side believes a worldwide pandemic is ravaging our communities, while the other doubts the validity of the sickness and the guidelines to prevent its spread. That, or an attitude is taken of, “Well, what can you do? We can’t live in fear. We have to live our lives.”
The problem I have with the COVID-19 doubters is that 241,000 people can no longer live their lives. Countless people in our communities are living in fear, fear that they or a loved one could contract a virus that kills people. Hospitals continue to hit capacity. People continue to lose relatives and friends and not even have the opportunity to say goodbye. Health officials and experts continually plead with us that the situation will not improve until we heed basic guidelines and procedures.
The problem I have with this attitude of not taking COVID seriously is not only that it is completely selfish, but that the reasoning behind it is not backed by any factual or real information. For whatever reason, people are more than willing to take conspiracy theories and videos shared on Facebook as fact — but let’s not trust the infectious disease expert who has served the American public for over 50 years, or the doctors, or the scientists.
If a doctor told you that wearing a mask, socially distancing and avoiding large group settings would literally save lives — why wouldn’t you? Why did something as simple as being considerate become a heated discussion of personal rights, freedoms and government plots? When did it become commonplace to believe something shared on Facebook is the truth, but that resources shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Infection and infectious disease experts are lies?
Look, you may think I’m wrong. All I’ll say is this: 672 people in Utah are dead, with more people becoming infected and dying every day. You can believe in Facebook videos and conspiracy theories — but — good luck telling someone who just lost someone to COVID that it “isn’t that big of a deal.” It’s really hard to dispute the existence and seriousness of a virus when it has, and will continue to, kill people.
We need to listen to experts. We need to start considering the validity and truthfulness of our sources. We need to have compassion and empathy for those around us. We need to care that hospitals are full, that people are losing loved ones and that their lives will never be the same. We need to recognize that following guidelines will not only bring us back to a state of normalcy, but that we will be saving lives in the process.
We need to return to reality.