Whether you like it or not, the COVID-19 pandemic, better known as the coronavirus, has probably taken all of us in the United States by surprise.
With no known vaccine or cure as of this article's publishing, and total nationwide cases reaching at least 1,000, it is perhaps only natural we are seeing people react in ways that might be overreacting but all-the-while explainable. In my area in Illinois, and maybe yours too, toilet paper, water, hand sanitizers, Clorox wipes and dry food have been flying off the shelves since the virus has taken a sizable grip among the U.S. population.
And that's not to mention that practically most of our daily lives have been upended too. Schools, libraries, large events and churches have all suspended their services amid concerns over COVID-19, leaving some students scrambling to find a place to stay or coming home early from studying abroad & switching to all-online classes, to the faithful no longer being able to go to Mass and parents finding out where to send their kids.
Truly, the list can go and on. But that's perhaps my main point of this article: that the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. reflects some of the major problems that exist in our society, yet don't need to.
The role of the school is more than just a place where kids go to learn. For some, it is their only safe place from home or trouble on the streets. It's their only source of food because there is none at home. It can be their only source of happiness in whatever circumstances happening in their lives.
And on a university level, the school is the heart and soul of many students. Residential halls make the school their home and communities their second families, and these school closures have practically made these students financially and mentally vulnerable.
The coronavirus outbreak has revealed many of the problems plaguing (no pun intended) our society. What does it tell us about our society that our schools are the only safe place for many of America's youth? What does it tell us about our society that people have effectively made grocery stores into a war zone? What does it tell us about our society that a global pandemic needed to happen to make us all realize how truly many of us are vulnerable in the richest nation on earth?
I might be criticized for "politicizing" a global pandemic, but frankly it is more shameful if I don't "politicize" it. Pandemics affect people, and people are affected by inaction on a political level. This pandemic could have been stopped or reacted to less hysterically if we had a Medicare-for-all system, guaranteed sick pay, universal basic income and a government that truly works for all people, regardless of situation.
A government that does not act in such a way is a complete moral transgression. And as we enter into a more contested election cycle, we should take that into account with who we vote for.