The rapid spread of COVID-19 has shocked the world, and many young people, Westmont students included, are unlikely to have experienced anything like it. However, I have lived through two previous epidemics, those being Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and the Swine Flu in 2009. I realize the current pathogen is now a pandemic, but my point is my prior experience. Both epidemics substantially altered daily life in Hong Kong, where I was raised, and it was undoubtedly a difficult period. Fortunately, both of those outbreaks were contained, and so I choose to be optimistic that, as a community, we can beat back this new coronavirus.
It is incredibly easy to let fear dominate one’s mind in times like these. Internet communications allow us to view instant updates on COVID-19’s direct effects, such as infection rates, and indirect effects, like economic instability. Seeing other people rush to grocery stores to stock up seemingly compels us to scramble ourselves, or risk getting nothing. Our homes come to resemble the USA and USSR’s Cold War arms race, except our arms are not towers of nuclear weapons, but towers of toilet paper.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I still see people going about their daily lives, gathering in public places en masse, and I cannot help but shake my head. Infectious diseases are no joke, and such behavior is incredibly self-centered. Those not at risk do not get to free ride on everyone else’s caution. We live in a connected society, whether we like it or not, and our own rights to freedom are not an excuse to ignore those who are more vulnerable.
All this said, there is still much hope to be had, but only if we seize it. As the British Special Air Service motto says: “Who dares, wins.” As a connected community, we must dare to beat COVID-19, and act on our daring. We cannot idly wait for the WHO, CDC, and our governments to save us. They cannot do our job for us. But we can, person by person, community by community.
Numerous agencies have given detailed guidelines for ways we, the everyday populace, can do our part. Practicing social distancing, minimizing travel and enhancing personal hygiene seem inconsequential at first, but have incredible effects. Johns Hopkins University reports that Hong Kong’s infection rate is so low (approximately 190 cases, compared with a population of 8 million) because of community response, not government action. Taiwan and Singapore’s populations have also done their part, with similar success. Individuals acting on their own may not seem to do much, but communities who dare, do in fact win.
COVID-19 will leave lasting effects on daily life for long periods to come. It is up to each one of us to do our part, cooperating with our communities. For most of us, our actions may be mild inconveniences, but they could very well save lives. Recall President Kennedy’s famous line: “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” We can dare to act on it, and win, together. #flattenthecurve