Jack P. Carroll ‘24
Now that President and Vice President-elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are soon to take office, all concerns about the future spread of the coronavirus are guaranteed to depart along with Trump’s flimsy public health guidelines, right?
Despite the Biden-Harris transition team’s formation of a COVID-19 “transition advisory board,” as well as the development of “The Biden Plan” which calls for increased testing, vaccine research, and accessibility to medical supplies, the careless behavior of citizens nationwide indicates that it is going to take a lot more than a cleverly named policy agenda to put an end to the many horrors of 2020.
To those who make the narrow-minded assertion that executive leadership, alone, will halt the further spread of a highly contagious and undetectable respiratory illness, I encourage them to take the time to look at the present condition of our country.
The Johns Hopkins COVID-19 dashboard recently reported a total of 244,304 deaths and more than 10 million cases in the U.S. alone. Furthermore, The Wall Street Journal reported that the country reached over 150,000 new coronavirus cases, as well as 67,096 hospitalizations this month on Thursday, Nov. 12.
“But wait!” my emotionally-charged readers may be quick to exclaim, “these numbers are a result of the current presidential administration’s failures to contain the spread of the virus!”
This is fair and well-deserved criticism.
In fact, it was reported that Trump was first briefed about the virus as early as Jan. 18, 2020 by Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar via phone. After which, the President referred to COVID-19 as a “hoax” during a rally in February, and in October, tested positive for the virus along with First Lady Melania Trump. Furthermore, a recent study conducted by economists at Stanford University found that the President’s campaign rallies–held in the months between June and September–have resulted in 30,000 coronavirus infections and over 700 deaths.
However, when criticizing the current presidential administration, it is also important to hold accountable the one faction of Americans that many disregard when constructing their own emotionally and politically fueled narrative of the COVID-19 pandemic: people who behave in a careless and irresponsible manner when pursuing their own self-interests.
Indeed, since the initial outbreak of the pandemic in March, it appears as though some of the most outspoken critics of the White House on social media have also been those who selectively follow public health protocols on their own terms.
Apparently, according to some of the sharpest critics of the federal government online, as well as those who think they know more than medical experts at Johns Hopkins, the following events are COVID-19 proof: indoor dining, large family gatherings, parties, sports, and in-person schooling.
To those who may speculate the validity of these claims, one only needs to observe some of the incautious behavior that has been recently reported in national media.
After the Notre Dame football team beat Clemson in a double-overtime game at their home stadium in Indiana earlier this month, thousands of students rushed to the field to celebrate the victory. Videos and images released of the event reveal that social-distancing and mask wearing safety guidelines were not thoroughly followed by all those in attendance.
Since the start of the fall semester in August, when Notre Dame first began COVID-19 reporting via its online dashboard, the university has recorded a total of over 1,500 positive cases. At the time this article was written, the dashboard reported a 6.7% coronavirus positivity rate.
On Nov. 7, the same day of Notre Dame’s game against Clemson, President and Vice President-elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris gathered in Wilmington, Delaware to celebrate their election victory before thousands. However, video recordings of the event display many people in the crowd closely huddled together, and vocally cheering for their elected candidates without always wearing masks.
Here at Trinity, it was reported that 15 students were removed from campus in October “as a result of significant COVID-19 conduct violations.” Fourteen of these students lived in campus housing and had attended a local bar; another student failed to comply with the “COVID-19 guest policy.” During that same month, the college entered into an “orange” COVID-19 Campus Alert Level after reaching a total of 21 positive COVID-19 cases. This number later rose to 56 and the campus remained on lock down for almost the entirety of October.
While the Biden-Harris transition team’s COVID-19 agenda is comprehensive and a step in the right direction towards putting an end to the pandemic, it is not enough in and of itself. As the careless behavior of Americans nationwide indicates, the future of the coronavirus in the U.S. also boils down to a couple of attributes that are all too often disregarded: common sense and willpower.
Until a vaccine is in widespread circulation, our judgment and perseverance in adhering to the recommended guidelines are all we have to combat the further spread of the virus. Whether or not people will come to their senses, only time will tell.