by Jewel Merriman (’22) | March 29, 2021
On January 21, 2020, the CDC confirmed the first coronavirus case in the United States. On January 21, 2021, exactly one year later, there were 190,138 new COVID cases reported in the nation. In March 2021, as we reach the one-year anniversary of quarantine, there have been a total of 29.8 million confirmed cases and 542,000 deaths due to COVID in the U.S. As we continue to gain thousands of newly reported cases every day, it is hard to imagine a world without the pandemic. A place where there are zero COVID cases and the freedom to move on from this year of isolation and panic seems far-fetched.
However, this place exists. Several nations were able to control the COVID-19 pandemic within months. For example, on March 24, 2020, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced her plan for a six-week nationwide lockdown. Only the most essential businesses were open: the grocery store, pharmacies, banks, and hospitals. Even within those businesses, strict social distancing and mask-wearing rules were mandated. All schools, restaurants (including those serving fast food), museums, libraries, and other non-essential businesses were closed. After six weeks, the country found itself with zero COVID cases and was able to return to normalcy. Despite the short economic effects of a complete lockdown, New Zealand was able to beat the pandemic in the long run and return to typical living.
The United States, on the other hand, quickly rose to the number one leading nation in COVID cases. This can be credited to the lack of initiative from our former president as well as the numerous citizens who refuse to follow lockdown rules. The U.S. values its economy more than the lives and health of Americans, so a strict lockdown, such as the one in New Zealand, seems to be out of the picture. However, what we have to ask ourselves is whether a slight decline in the economy is worth years of a pandemic that we could have solved much earlier on.
Although the rate at which cases are increasing is slowing down, the CDC expects a spike as we approach spring break and many Americans carelessly break social distancing guidelines. Of course, as more and more Americans are getting vaccinated, there is hope for a COVID-free future. Nonetheless, the CDC does not know how long the “immunity” from the vaccine will last, and there could very well be another wave of COVID-19 in the years to come. At the end of the day, we need to work together to beat this pandemic. A pandemic should simply be a matter of science, and nothing will work unless the whole country is dedicated to its citizens’ well-being and safety.