Why is the U.S. the leading nation in COVID cases?

by Tanvi Rao | October 5, 2020

Art by Katherine Cordova (’22)

COVID-19 has raged through the United States since March, spreading like a wildfire and infecting an astounding 7,000,000 people and counting. Since there is no definitive timeline for when we can expect a cure, many states have implemented important policies to ensure the safety of the public. For instance, the California Department of Public Health’s most recent public safety alert ordered that “all individuals living in the State of California to stay at home except as needed to facilitate authorized activities or to maintain the continuity of operations of critical infrastructure sectors.” Orders like these were not limited to just California. Oregon, Washington, Texas, and more have issued similar statements. Despite these efforts, the United States remains as the nation with the largest population of COVID victims. Wow.

So why is it that the United States remains at the top in spite of the many warnings given and extra measures taken? It is because people simply underestimate the severity of this virus. Many are too quick to jump back to their old ways, from a time when the consequence of contact with one another was not constantly in the back of their minds. Georgia, Florida, Nebraska, Idaho—the list goes on—they all have one thing in common: a population that disregards masks. These small pieces of cloth have a much greater value than one may expect. A simple mask can influence whether someone is infected or not—essentially, life or death. Wearing masks is the very first step towards stopping COVID-19’s reign, so the fact that a large population of the United States refuses to wear them is utterly appalling.

However, the reasons behind an individual’s rebellious actions may not always be what you expect. According to Claire Gillespie’s article published in Health, “Why Do Some People Refuse to Wear a Face Mask in Public,” denial serves as a “defense mechanism” when people are unable to register the severity of the pandemic. This denial manifests itself in a blatant disregard for rules, causing people to ignore mask regulations. On top of this, false information present on the Internet contributes to this irrational behavior. Yes, there are so many people intentionally rejecting masks out of spite, but some are just “subconsciously in denial about the virus.” Their fear fuels awful decision-making as a coping mechanism for their helplessness. After considering my own and other authors’ opinions on mask-wearing in the United States, I sought the insights of fellow students at Saint Francis on the thought processes of non-mask wearers. “I think people really want some sort of control over their lives,” Junior Emily Williams commented. “Coronavirus has taken away control over our own lives through lockdowns and restrictions, and people who refuse to wear masks just want to regain that control.” Williams makes an excellent point, showcasing how masks may serve as a barrier between someone’s old life and the current crisis.

In a sea of helplessness, a person may falsely believe that rejecting a mask is a lifeboat. Junior Sydney Fuentez stated, “Some ignorant people decide that they don’t want to wear masks simply because it’s harder for them to breathe, even if they don’t have respiratory issues.” Sydney’s point is also important since a large population of people do in fact refuse masks because of discomfort. Please do not be like those people—a couple months of minor discomfort will help our nation immensely. This is the time for us to unify as one in the battle against COVID-19. If each and every one of us takes a stand for the well-being of our country, we will surely get through this together.

Categories: Opinions

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