Stop the normalization of Covid-19

What is Covid Fatigue, and why is it a problem?

It has been over seven months since March 13th, the fateful day that Saint Stephen’s closed its doors for its first ever five-month-long spring break. Ever since that day, Corona has been at the forefront of daily life, but its importance in the public eye seems to be fading. People just aren’t taking it as seriously anymore.

To a point, that’s to be expected. After seven months, anything, no matter how big, can be integrated into normal life. To see an example of life getting back to normal, one can look at how mask regulations have slowly loosened.

On September 29, the Manatee County mask mandate was narrowly lifted with a vote of 4 to 3. Now, people are only “strongly encouraged” to wear face masks indoors when social distancing isn’t feasible, according to this proclamation published by the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners. While this new rule doesn’t pertain to schools, it does pertain everywhere else, with businesses to be the main affected area.

According to an article by Bay News 9, several businesses including local Mixon Fruit Farm were pushing for this rollback of the mask mandate. “This is America, it should be an option,” said owner Janet Mixon. “If you are afraid, wear your masks, I just choose not to.”

This is certainly a concerning fact for those who religiously wear masks to ensure their safety and well-being. According to The CDC, as of October 7th, Florida has the third worst record for total coronavirus cases in America. The only two states ahead of it, California and Texas, have far larger populations than Florida, making Florida’s number of cases very impressive. That is, impressive in a bad way. Is another precaution being taken away really what this state needs right now?

Governor DeSantis has already come under fire for his handling of Covid-19. He opened the state up earlier than most, and our numbers showed it. Now, he’s allowing county governments more autonomy in deciding what mask protocols they will have, and Manatee County has decided to go on a more lenient route.

However, not all business owners share Mixon’s anti-mask fervor. One business that has a different perspective on how to handle Covid-19 is the Anna Maria Oyster Bar. Lynn Horne, managing partner at this local favorite restaurant, thinks that taking more safety precautions is the best way to ensure the safety of her patrons.

“We love our clientele,” says Horne, “and we want to have their confidence that we are doing the right thing.” At the oyster bar, not only are they still requiring masks (at least until diners get to their tables) but they are also operating at limited capacity.

Anna Maria Oyster Bar is an example of a business that isn’t going back to normal so that things can be kept as safe as possible. As laudable as this is, shouldn’t this be the status quo? Why is it that the government has given other businesses the option to do anything else?

“In my opinion, the reason Florida (and Manatee County in particular) have gone more lenient on mask regulations is a simple one: money,” says junior Sophia Berry. When a state caters to its consumers, its economy will be better for it. So, when requirements and regulations get more lenient, a consumer’s experience will retain more normalcy, and therefore be more enjoyable.

Of course, it’s understandable for a state to want to better its economy, especially in the wake of such an economic downturn. However, it’s also important to consider how these decisions made by the government can affect everyone’s lives.

Covid-19 has become normalized too quickly. It is now treated like just another aspect of life, albeit an annoying one. People just don’t seem to care as much as they used to, and that’s a problem. Now, even people who acted with the utmost caution at the beginning of quarantine are easing up and taking advantage of lifted precautions.

Even though life keeps going for most people despite the pandemic, for some, it does not. The death toll for Manatee County as of October 23 has reached 324. That might not sound like a lot, but think about it. Over 300 people gone, over 300 families forever changed. 324 is a big number when considering human lives. If taking just a little more caution could save the lives of another 300 people, why not take that caution?

Beyond the loss of life, people are making sacrifices across the board. High School students, especially upperclassmen, are also “at risk” in their own way. Without even considering how much school has changed now, there is of course the issue of college. As Junior Janaki Menon puts it, “I don’t want to miss out on a normal college experience.” By trying to live as normal of a life as possible in high school, people may be sacrificing normalcy in college.

In fact, the normalization of this pandemic has become so common-place that there’s even a name for it: Covid Fatigue. Defined by UW Health as “a shorthand way of talking about an overall sense of exhaustion based on the combination of challenges people are facing during the pandemic,” Covid Fatigue is a serious problem, not only for our mental but also physical health.

As people inevitably get more tired of dealing with Coronavirus, they start slipping up and being less safe. The truth is, masks have been working, so it’s easy to think that things are getting better and precautions aren’t necessary. However, masks are still just as pertinent now as ever.

Everyone wants things to go back to how they were, but in order for that to happen, we need to recognize the gravity of the situation we’re in and keep living in a way we aren’t used to. The more we try to ignore the virus and act as if things are normal, the longer until they really will be.

Do you still wear a mask religiously?

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