Keywords: Pandemic and science; human kindness and caring; wearing a mask; COVID-19; public health and pandemic precautions
Not by itself. Over the past few months, I have had reason to ponder this question, particularly as the COVID-19 virus has hit us all hard, some more than others, with close relatives and friends dying because of it. I have had to take time to think this through, why, with all the science that we have, do we still have to lose loved ones through this pandemic. It has forced me to the conclusion that science alone cannot save us.
Through science, our society has made tremendous strides in improving the quality of life for most people. Human ingenuity must be credited with much of the innovation as scientists have dared to build upon earlier accomplishments. Evidence of this ingenuity is most evident in recent months as scientists have sought ways of finding treatments and possible cures for COVID-19.
At times, human ingenuity has been called into action, particularly when our society has been faced with emergencies, as in the recent pandemic that has been devastating many countries for roughly a year. Ingenuity has been called into action, as evident in the speedy development of vaccines to immunize the world’s population against this virus Science has again been harnessed to bring us a potentially long-term solution to this pandemic in a relatively short period of time. But while science has been making this major breakthrough, its effects worldwide may not be felt for another year or so. While science can save us, it cannot achieve this without a sound dose of commonsense and human kindness. We need to embrace both commonsense and human kindness more than ever, if we are to save lives until our communities are immunized against the virus.
Commonsense to the Front of the Line
Although with the onslaught of COVID-19, scientists have been able to use their ingenuity as well as knowledge of science to develop vaccines to help curb the spread of the virus, as a society we have failed to use commonsense to protect ourselves and our loved ones from infection. Commonsense tells us that we should use whatever measures are at our disposal to reduce the spread of the virus. Yet, many of us resist the precautions that our public health officials have given us, with devastating results.
Public Health COVID-19 Precautions
Public Health officials have itemized measures that can be used to prevent the spread of the virus. These measures appear to be based on commonsense. Wearing a mask and washing our hands frequently help to prevent the spread of the virus. Commonsense also tells us to employ physical distancing. Yet we insist on congregating in large numbers even when there are legal restrictions against doing so. We are also told not to shake hands because of the possibility of spreading the virus. Yet, for all of these commonsense measures that we can use, many of us appear indignant and question the right of public health or government to tell us what to do. Commonsense tells us that in order to safeguard our health and that of others, we need to contain the spread of the virus. To show our dislike for these public health orders, we do exactly what commonsense tells us we should not do, if we are serious about protecting ourselves. We congregate in large numbers, do not wear masks, and do not employ physical distancing.
Human Kindness and Caring
The fact that we do the opposite to what commonsense tells us to do may indicate that we either do not believe that there is a virus raging even within our communities, or we believe that we are impervious to any disease. Either we hold a conspiracy theory that there really is no pandemic, or we believe we are invincible in the face of possible illness and death. Regardless of what we believe about our invincibility, we must think of our community at large.
Human kindness and caring require that we consider not just ourselves but others in our community. In the case of the pandemic, human kindness and caring demand that we do not spread the virus to others. We know that we do not have to be symptomatic to be a spreader of the virus. With a global infection of over 100 million and a global death load of over 2 million, and with U.S. infections reaching over 25 million and with close to half a million Americans dead, we are all called upon to stop the spread of the virus.
With evidence that the virus takes lives and that wearing a mask and restricting physical distance protect against infection, it appears that in not wearing a mask and not taking the precautions insisted on by public health that we are really shirking our responsibility to our community.
What about Our Rights?
Do we not have rights to regulate our lives: the right to refuse to wear a mask and the freedom to congregate with whomever we wish whenever we want to do so? Do we not have the right to keep our businesses open and continue to make a living as before the pandemic? Do we not have the right to oppose regulations that restrict our actions during the pandemic? It is important to note that with rights come responsibilities. We have a responsibility when living in community to recognize our accountability in ensuring that the community survives. We are not being accountable as members of our communities when we oppose commonsense rules that are designed simply to protect us, and save not only our lives, but those of our family members, friends, and our community members.
Life is Precious
While most of us pride ourselves in having the right to life, liberty and freedom, to do what we want when we want to, we surely do not have the right to prevent others from enjoying life, liberty and freedom. Yet, we throw caution to the wind, when we ignore, deliberately or otherwise, the commonsense and scientific precautions of public health officials to wear masks, employ physical distancing, avoid crowds, and wash our hands frequently. While science can help save lives, it requires commonsense as well as human kindness and caring to achieve this. It takes losing a family member or friend to really understand the true meaning of the statement, Life is precious.
If you have lost a family member or friend during the pandemic, you will understand the pain of loss and realize just how precious life is. But if you haven’t lost anyone yet to the virus, stop and imagine what it would be like if you did.