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Editorial: The continued importance of social distancing

Graphic by El ’21

The outbreak of COVID-19 has thrust the world into uncertainty, as schools and restaurants remain closed, sports seasons are cancelled or postponed, and people continue to dramatically alter their daily lives in order to comply with stay-at-home orders and social distancing.

The UltraViolet Editorial Board believes that everyone has a responsibility to their friends, family, neighbors and communities to comply with social distancing measures.

Social distancing, or limiting close physical contact with others to prevent the spread of COVID-19, is an effort to flatten the curve (or slow the spread) of the disease. By slowing the growth of the disease and the number of new cases, we can avoid overwhelming the healthcare infrastructure and putting lives at risk. While social distancing is in no way a panacea, experts estimate it could limit the number of deaths in the United States to about 100,000. While certainly an unconscionable number, it is undeniably a far cry from the number of Americans who would die absent those measures, recently estimated to be about 2.2 million. A Columbia University study estimated that absent any measures, the number of cases in Los Angeles County could skyrocket to 8.5 million.

Yet despite countless experts’ warnings to stay inside, social distancing is far from universal in the United States. Essential workers who are keeping the country functioning should be commended as they risk their safety for us, yet others have been unnecessarily leaving their homes, putting themselves and those in their communities at risk. Recently, 19 different states have loosened stay at home orders, including Texas, the second most populous state in the nation, and Illinois, where disturbing racial disparities have been recorded in COVID-19 cases (African-Americans, despite being only 30% of the population in Chicago, account for 68% of deaths).

These re-openings fly in the face of research. Caitlin Rivers, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins, has warned that not a single one of the states opening or partially opening have met the requirements laid out by the White House for a safe reopening, putting workers at immense risk.

And yet, even when re-openings go against the White House’s own guidelines, President Trump has remained adamant about reopening the country, even as the death toll is projected to rise in the coming weeks. The administration is even keeping COVID-19 experts from testifying before Congress without the express approval of the Chief of Staff.

At this point, the Trump administration’s actions go beyond honest or legitimate oversight; the sheer immensity of research at his disposal means the administration has no excuse. President Trump knows the dangers of reopening, and yet is encouraging millions to flout safety measures and risk their lives.

Beyond the lack of government-issued orders, individuals also have a responsibility to stay inside when possible, one that far too many Americans are not taking seriously. In Missouri, a man has been accused of taking his daughter to a school dance even after she was diagnosed with COVID-19, and in Los Angeles, law enforcement and government officers are expressing anger and frustration at their constituents’ refusal to abide by Governor Newsom’s and Mayor Garcetti’s orders, as nonessential businesses, including smoke shops and shoe stores, keep their doors open and people continue to meet in large group gatherings.

Additionally, wearing a mask when leaving one’s home remains critical. Although evidence suggests masks do not prevent one from contracting the virus, they do prevent someone who has it from spreading it to others. Given the prevalence of asymptomatic infected people, and that people can transmit the disease before they begin showing symptoms, it is imperative that everyone takes precautions to avoid accidentally infecting others.

The UltraViolet urges the Marlborough community to adhere to social distancing measures. Being young and healthy does not make one immune. Cases have been appearing in the United States of young people with no preexisting health conditions succumbing to and dying of COVID-19. And aside from the personal dangers, continuing to spend unnecessary time outside puts older people and immunocompromised people at higher risk as well.

As the pandemic sweeps across the nation, it is undeniable that we are living in a confusing and chaotic moment in history, and we ought to do everything in our power to bring it to a close as safely as possible.

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