Social distancing? Why tho?
The people who still think that coronavirus is something that is being blown up by social media and is no worse than normal flu are probably living their best lives on the edge. No, coronavirus is not “like the flu” and scientific evidence have shown that, although you might experience symptoms that feel similar to the normal flu, the novel coronavirus is simply another thing!
Let’s talk a bit about science before we move on with the main point of this post:
Numbers have spoken. Hundreds of thousands of people have died because of flu every year, which many people use it as an effort to quell anxiety and panic about coronavirus being the same as the normal flu. So far, the new coronavirus has caused more than 220,000 cases all over the world, with about 9,000 deaths; but that is nothing compared with the flu (or influenza), which causes more than 500,000 deaths every year according to World Health Organization. Scientists have spent years ever since the 1500s to study flu and viruses, however, they know little about the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes; as well as the fact that they keep investigating and doing research on this virus simply because it is new. Therefore, this virus is something of a “wild card” in terms of how deadly it is and how infectious it can develop.
While influenza can be caused by several different types and strains of flu viruses; coronavirus or COVID-19 can take us down with only one type of virus (now called SARS-CoV-2). Transmission-wised, both flu and coronavirus can be spread from person to person through droplets in the air (when an infected person sneezes, coughs or talks). However, people can have COVID-19 virus while they do not expose directly to the infected person because of the remained droplets in the air even after the ill person is no longer near. Therefore, it is totally important to remember the fact that: just because you do not expose directly to the infected person does not mean you are not prone to coronavirus. Moreover, another fact that I hope everybody should bear in mind: we have already had vaccines to prevent most dangerous types of flu but not for coronavirus; therefore we are fragile towards the virus itself. Doctors and scientists are working on the mortality rate estimating process of this virus and it is reported that COVID-19 is far deadlier than the flu. So far, the death rate of coronavirus is around 3–4% while the flu is around 0.1%.
Enough with science. I believe that the easiest and safest thing to protect ourselves and others from the novel coronavirus is trying to stay indoors as much as possible. Across the world, people are asked to stay inside and away from public places, crowds to avoid catching the virus itself and spreading the virus to others; which also means that there is no party, no bar, no drinking and no concert. The keywords of “self-quarantine”, “isolation” or “lockdown” have become “viral” (that’s the word!) trend on the Internet. I am trying to get the fact that many people still think that it is a joke because their mindset of “social media is taking the virus beyond itself” or “there is no point staying at home when it is just like flu”, those kinds of responses are lackadaisical and selfish. As I have mentioned above, the transmission of coronavirus is more complicated than influenza because the virus is still there in the air even when the infected person leaves. Therefore, going out means you might be one of the victims or worst-case scenario, you can actually carry the virus all over the place. Staying inside means that we subjectively think about the consequences that this pandemic can bring about and somehow, you are doing a good deed to others, especially the elderly and vulnerable people with compromised health and existed diseases. People who are against all the recommendations from the authorities and keep staying out are revealing themselves as cruel or if not, stupid. A prominent example of only one person in Korea (31st patient) may have infected more than 1,000 people by participating in seemingly innocent activities such as going to the church and going out to eat can prove that the spread of this pandemic can be worse if we do not listen to the head up from the authorities and learn from previous mistakes. Tests are not available for everybody, there are not enough rooms for everybody to be put in mass quarantine, there are not enough staff at the hospitals and there is always never enough care for each and every one of us. We cannot ask for a better measure from the government and urge them to act up if we do not put ourselves into shelters. Where can you become infected, you can be a risk to other people and can be a burden to the healthcare system.
There is also another type of mentality that we need to discuss. “I’m young, this virus cannot affect me”. This is straight-up bullshit! Jim Thomas, the associate professor of the University of North Carolina stated that humans owe many things to each other, and when it comes to public healthcare, “We lose some of our autonomy by being in a society,” Thomas said. “And we take on obligations by living with others”. Imagine, you go to a conference or party and one of the attendants is positive, would you consider going out again? Because you could be infected and have no idea about it. We should all give up our personal inconvenience for a while and think about people who suffer higher risks of having the virus more than us. One of my friends is hospitalized because of staying out and still now in the hospital. The effort of keeping ourselves inside is never an easy task but in the end, it is not about you but it is about everybody working together as a team with responsibility and honesty.
The ethics of staying home goes on with the effort of keeping other people around you to stay home as much as possible. This is the problem of choices: how to keep employees away from the office, how to help unhoused people to stay home, how to enable the elderly and kids to be inside. And the list goes on and on. Moreover, many cities have ordered shut-down of many non-essential services, therefore, people do not have to go outside. You will need permission to go out (as in France). The problem is: we cannot give up our habits because of the virus literally from “out of nowhere”. However, not going to all the places you used to go to every day can protect your lives but also your friends, your relatives, your grandparents, your barista, your bartender, your bus drivers, etc. Crowded cities like Hong Kong or Singapore have been keeping the death toll as zero, while being vibrant and populated, have handled the epidemic well with their strategies of social distancing. “We want to stay one or two steps ahead of the virus,” said Vernon Lee, the director of the communicable diseases division at Singapore’s Ministry of Health. “If you chase the virus, you will always be behind the curve”. However, these strategies or whatever strategies would never work if cooperation and obedience are dismissed among citizens. “The most important thing is that Hong Kong people have deep memories of the SARS outbreak,” said Kwok Ka-ki, a lawmaker in Hong Kong who is also a doctor. “Every citizen did their part, including wearing masks and washing their hands and taking necessary precautions, such as avoiding crowded places and gatherings”.
If the word “isolation” can be something that sounds serious, think about it in a different way. This can be a chance for all of us to reconnect with ourselves, finding our true core and doing things that we could not do because we are busy being outside. And it is also a good time to connect with each other, just a couple of clicks away. Thanks to the development of communication technologies, we have our phones and laptops at our disposal. Anxiety is still there but at least, we can try not to have feelings of loneliness by “socializing” during social distancing. Video chatting, phone calls or simply messages can enable heart-to-heart connection across the distance. During this dark time, all we need is holding on to each other with hope, encouragement, and responsibility.
Remember that social distancing is not something that lasts forever, although it is going to get worse. But also remember that you are doing this out of the sense of community, for yourself and for other people. And in the end, that is one of the most beautiful things.
I still am making a playlist for you all to jam to during this hard time: