The past few weeks have brought with them a plethora of changes. Finals were taken online and this week, Spring term classes are being conducted remotely. For me, the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, postponed my dream co-op, canceled a family trip to California and made my future fuzzy.
Yet, I know my situation is one to be grateful for, as others have been impacted more harshly. Many people are sick, others are scared of contracting the virus due to pre-existing conditions and over 6.6 million Americans have applied for unemployment. To be clear, I’m not worried about getting sick myself or having a trip canceled; I’m worried about our economy, innocent people dying due to lack of resources and our inability to stand in solidarity rather than act selfishly.
For the first time in recent history, the health and wellbeing of society as a whole simply relies on our ability to stay home, accept boredom and minimize social contact. Yet, many young people find social distancing impossible to fully abide by.
In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, there is a large divide between those who abide by the necessary precautions and those who selfishly ignore warnings and take advantage of the tumultuous conditions. Just a few weeks ago, we observed the ignorant and nonchalant actions of spring breakers in Florida who, despite warnings, continued on with their travel plans, potentially contributing to the spread of the disease all over the country. Now, cell phone tower data shows that each of those individuals scattered throughout the U.S., potentially bringing COVID-19 with them.
On a personal level, a few of my friends have made similar decisions to travel, despite warnings. This isn’t surprising, considering the lack of initiative from people in power from the university level to the federal level. While Drexel students were still attending classes in week 10, my home country of Poland had already taken drastic measures to enforce social distancing: All schools and businesses were shut down and a steep fine was given to those who refused to stay home.
Now, it doesn’t do any good to argue about whether or not social distancing works — the data gives us the facts, ones we should take seriously. Using social distancing as a method to prevent the spread of viral infections has been around for a while. In 2006, Robert Glass and colleagues published a study that used social network analysis to provide a method for targeted social distancing. Here, “social networks” does not refer to Facebook or Instagram. Instead, we are talking about the social connections and distance we have in our environment.
Although it may not seem like a big deal to visit a friend’s house during mandated social distancing, if everyone made that same decision, then this is no longer social distancing. Our social networks intertwine and overlap, so meeting with even one small group of people may result in the expansion of social connections, giving the virus a method to spread. Our individual decisions may influence the fate of others. Overall, this is not about “avoiding sickness,” but rather mitigating the spread of COVID-19, which needs to be minimized in order for life to return to normal.
So, I urge you all to stay home! Minimize your social interactions to the bare minimum in order for us to be able to maximize our social interactions in the future. It is up to us, young people, to lead the world with a good example. After all, we are the rising leaders of our country and world; let’s show our responsibility and leadership now. Let’s stand in solidarity with those who may have lost a loved one, lost a job or are fearing for their health in these uncertain times. Staying home for a little while will not kill us. In fact, it will save lives.