COVID-19: Bringing Back Sanity

Paul Romani

If you’ve seen the following scene in the movie Borat, you’ll have a idea of how some people are (over)reacting to COVID-19 social distancing

Somewhere between hypochondria, lack of critical thinking skills, and virtue signalling, a portion of the Vancouver population is acting as if breathing the air will kill them.

Basic social distancing rules aren’t enough for such people. While they might not run for their lives like in the Borat clip, you’ll nevertheless meet people who aggressively turn away and throw their arms up around their heads, or will walk in the middle of the road to avoid you.

These people not only don’t understand the purpose of social distancing, but are also heading towards having mental health issues.

1) Purpose of Social Distancing

First things first, it’s essential to remind everyone of the actual purpose of social distancing and all of the subsequent business closures that have taken place.

Social distancing is to slow down the spread of COVID-19 to those who are at risk.

It does not eliminate COVID-19. It delays the spread of the disease so that:

  1. Hospitals are not overwhelmed
  2. It buys time to create and test a potential vaccine (minimising deaths in the meantime)

The government decided that closing business and schools would help with this endeavour.

“The sacrifices [children] have made by not seeing your friends and by stopping going to school and other activities are your contributions to fighting the pandemic. By putting societies and economies on hold, we have reduced the ability of the virus to spread through our communities. These defensive measures have helped to limit some of the short-term impacts of the virus, and bought us time to translate what we have learned about the virus into solutions so that we can get back to a more familiar way of living.” WHO

Despite undoubtedly having saved lives, it has also severely impacted the lives of billions of people in the process (arguably causing deaths).

2) Who is at Risk

It’s also important to remember who is at serious risk of COVID-19:

  1. People aged 70+
  2. People with specific health conditions

BC data supports the case that the rest of the population are not at serious health risk from COVID-19, even though – yes – they can obviously catch it and transmit it to others (hence the social distancing).

3) Why Are Schools Closed? Surely Kids Are At Risk?

No, check the statistics. The statistics for children are the lowest of any age bracket.

Not a single person (at the time of writing this) under the age of 40 has died from COVID-19 in BC.

Page from BC_Surveillance_Summary_May_11_2020_Final

The reason schools are closed is because the government considers children more likely to infect adults:

“Virus transmission in the school/childcare setting, as well as in the home and community, is amplified as students/children are generally less compliant with effective hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette practices, they socialize with other students/children in a way that is likely to increase transmission and they can shed the virus up to twice as long as adults”

Whether or not children really are worse than adults in terms of hygiene is debatable. Perhaps left to their own devices, this may be the case. However, most quality educational institutions and childcare facilities have had high standards in child hygiene and safety long before COVID-19 ever came around.

Regardless, what percentage of parents not wanting their kids to return to school are doing so because they believe that their children are at risk? What percentage of teachers believe they, too, are at risk, even though they’re almost certainly aged between 21 and 65 (therefore below the risk category)?

Why Are People Acting This Way Then?

Situations like a pandemic can bring out the worst in people (example 1, example 2, example 3).

The level of vitriol towards people or businesses that in anyway, shape or form try to return to some normality is beyond absurd! Do these people that criticise others not want to return to a normal life? You’d have to be insane to want to continue living life like this!

So why are people acting in ways that suggest that they think COVID-19 will kill everyone? One has to wonder about the role of the media.

Take the follow article, for instance.

While the image caption indicates that people can and should go outside (albeit still maintaining social distancing), the headline highlights alongside the photo the deaths caused by COVID-19.

This, thereby, exploits people’s lack of critical thinking skills and forces the reader to assume that going to the beach causes deaths.

It makes them think that you shouldn’t go to the beach, and that anyone that does is selfish and irresponsible.

Likewise, the photos provided in the media are also often misleading, as this person demonstrates:

Conclusion

Again, social distancing is not intended to protect all of us from dying, but from us spreading the virus to those who are at risk and to minimise the impact on critical care facilities in hospitals.

Nevertheless, there are many people acting as if social distancing is designed to protect the entire BC population from dying. Such people are misinterpreting media coverage, which to be fair is arguably stoking people’s fears in order to increase viewers / readership.

Instead of relying on and trust media outlets (particularly non-Canadian media outlets), it’s so important for people to get their information from reliable sources. In the case of COVID-19, government websites are the go-to resources:

Lastly, the air isn’t toxic; you’re not going to die from breathing it.

And, considering that a vaccine will likely take at least a year to arrive – and may never arrive – would you be willing to continue living life with everything shut down or not being able to be with any family or friends in any kind of normal way?