By: Samantha Westlake-Hart
If you’ve ever been the victim of gaslighting, a form of manipulation that causes one to question their own sanity, then you know how traumatic an experience it can be. Compound that with a global pandemic which, as of today, has killed over 200,000 Americans and almost 1 million people worldwide, and you wonder how anyone can doubt the severity of it.
But people do, and their insistence that COVID-19 is not a real threat, but a government conspiracy blown out of proportion to control citizens, is not only frustrating, but incredibly dangerous. For those of us who acknowledge the dangers of COVID, watching people continue to throw large weddings, host family gatherings with vulnerable people, and go on impromptu vacations without any sort of cautionary measures, can make one feel like we’re living in an alternate universe, separate from the one where these “post-COVID” events are taking place.
It's an extreme sense of cognitive dissonance, to see articles updating the COVID death toll, immediately followed by photos of unmasked acquaintances and their fifty closest friends celebrating a bachelorette party because, “Quarantine won’t kill our vibe.” The selfishness of people who insist on going back to normal when the world is anything but, is evident, and it makes those who are continuing to practice safety measures feel like our efforts and sacrifices are all for naught. Moreover, it makes us feel trapped in some form of the Upside Down, wondering, “Does everyone else still realize we’re in a deadly pandemic, or is that just me?”
Caution fatigue is real, but we can’t just stop taking the proper precautions because we’re tired of it. Or we got bored. Or we just want to go back to normal already. As we learn more about the virus, we discover more ways in which we can adapt our wants for a return to normalcy with the safety measures needed to protect everyone. It’s a give and take. If you want to get coffee with your friend, wear a mask. If you want to go on vacation, drive instead of fly, and try camping instead of a hotel.
If you want to have your wedding, do it outside, cover your faces, and for the love of god, keep it small. But don’t just pretend that things are back to normal because you want them to be. We all want them to be. And please stop saying that you don’t need to be cautious because you’re not worried about yourself getting sick. Not only does that completely shirk responsibility for the harm you may cause to others, but just remember, according to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 6% of people who have died from COVID had no preexisting conditions (or “comorbidities”). To put that in context, that means approximately 12,000 “perfectly healthy” Americans still died.
I’m tired of feeling gaslit by those around me who have decided that the pandemic is over. I’m tired of questioning my sanity in believing that I’m being too cautious when the numbers prove we’re not being cautious enough. I want the pandemic to end just as much as the next person, but aborting precautions too soon will just make it last forever. So the next time you’re about to head out to that barbecue, or that football game, or that wedding, think about how you’ll do it safely, and please, turn off the gas on your way out the door.