ISSUE 1: Life, Liberty & The Pursuit of COVID-19

Give me liberty or give me death!

Ingalls Witte, Staff Writer

On December 31st, 2019, the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Wuhan China. Exactly a month later the World Health Organization International Health Regulation Emergency Committee declared the coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. By March 11th, 2020 the World Health Organization stated COVID-19 as a pandemic. In April of 2020, with 23,036 dead, the United States became the global leader of reported COVID-19 deaths, no thanks to our slow reaction, inadequate policies, and inability as a nation to follow simple mandates.

A little over a year following the start of the pandemic, more than 42 million cases have been reported in the United States and with hospital admissions averaging around 10 thousand a week, the coronavirus doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.

Since the start, right-winged outrage over wearing masks and social distancing rang loud and proud throughout our country and even Capitol Hill. Former president Donald Trump spent his last months in office downplaying the severity of the virus, mocking mask wearing and going so far as to suggest injecting disinfectants such as bleach. Trump’s negligent actions not only resulted in thousands of Americans sick, but thousands dead as well.

The spread of “fake news” this past year seems to have spread faster than the virus itself, with popular right-wing network Fox News contributing greatly. Early on, coverage surrounding the coronavirus was downplayed, as Fox New personalities pushed the notion that COVID-19 was no worse than the flu. As the pandemic progressed, even more outrageous claims were spread. Fox anchor Tucker Carlson stated Dr. Anthony Fauci created COVID-19, that the vaccine didn’t work and even likened children wearing masks to child abuse. While these over the top notions may be enough to strike the average person as absurd, millions still tune into Fox News every day and, ironically enough, their most popular age demographic are those most susceptible to COVID-19.

Due to the rampant misinformation delivered by the right, it’s no wonder no one wants to mask up or get vaxxed. When you’re placed in an echo chamber of people repeating the wrong thing, sooner or later you’ll begin to believe it’s right. A vast majority of Americans believe it’s within their personal liberties to refuse. However when donning a mask or getting a shot aids in saving other’s lives-or your own-the line between your personal liberty and being a empathetic human being tend to blur.

Since the implementation of COVID-19 restrictions and mandates, protests in defiance have cropped up across the country. The party of “facts over feelings” choosing to completely disregard the WHO and CDC in favor of Facebook posts and Fox News. Despite their confidence in falsehoods of COVID-19 and its legitimacy, figureheads of right-winged groups and even local, state and federal officials have died due to virus.

The start of this school year has kicked off with mask mandates mandates across the nation, including our own Hillsborough County. Yet the measures put in place to protect children and teachers have sparked outrage, as self-proclaimed “patriots” flock to school board meetings to scream baseless claims about vaccines and masks. In Vail, Arizona one woman stated “It’s my constitutional right to be as mean as I want to you guys.” Protesters at these meetings have harassed officials relentlessly, often resulting in violence and said patriots being escorted to a police car. The abhorrent lack of respect for school board officials over something as trivial as a piece of cloth over your face illustrates the iron will of the anti-maskers across the country and, consequently, how long this pandemic will truly last.

As anti-maskers continue in their valiant efforts against the face covering that poses such a threat to their livelihood, we can still enact change: continue to wear your mask, get vaxxed if you haven’t, and stay vigilant against misinformation by getting you facts from reliable sources, such as the CDC website. Together, we can end this pandemic for good.