Viruses are a natural part of life and the steps society takes to prepare for them ensures the publics quality of life in the event of a pandemic. Due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak our government has been widely criticized for the handling of the epidemic, especially in comparison to other world governments. The spotlight has been shifted to shine light on the role the public plays in the spread of a virus that rivals the level of fatality seen in the 1918 Spanish Flu.
Even though citizens depend on government for a plan of action, it ultimately falls on the collective behavior of society to control outbreaks but what happens when the citizens refuse to take steps to flatten the curve of the virus ? In a recent health.com article the reporter has stated that due to mixed messaging from local and state government citizens are having a hard time adjusting to these new norms. When asked why people are more or less ignoring social distancing measures to flatten the curve of the virus, Dr. Jeffrey Cohen stated “People change behavior when they understand why to change behavior, how to change behavior, and when they see other people modeling the new behavior. Mixed messaging around social distancing from people in authority decreases the probability that people will practice it.”
To make matters even more complicated, Trump’s recent decision to allow state governments to reopen at their own discretion has already caused a spike in cases and further confusion as to how citizens should proceed with their lives. In states like Texas the COVID cases have spiked and that is directly tied to states abandoning social distancing practices after reopening. According to a recent CNN article Texas seen an increase of 1,801 reported cases in a single day after reopening. “Well, more than likely what you saw in the cases jumping in the past few days that we’ve reported is a change in policy with respect to the reopening of parts of our economy, a couple weeks ago,” said Dallas Mayor, Eric Johnson. Texas continues their plan to reopen businesses even though they have had a total of 48,640 Covid-19 cases as of Monday afternoon, with 1,344 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
There is a clear correlation with human behavior and societal norms when it comes to spreading the virus. Although Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Saturday attributed the spike in Amarillo’s cases to increased testing, the viruses high transmission rate means business can not be conducted as usual without causing further spreading of the virus. Governor Abbott tasked a newly developed “surge response team” to the city to test people in high-risk areas like meatpacking plants. Many argue that it is way too early to reopen states and abandon social distancing practices because the virus is no where near its peak. Recently John Hopkins Center for Health scholar Caitlin Rivers told the US House Appropriations Sub Committee that there is not one state in the US that’s ready to be reopened. We risk complacency in accepting the preventable deaths of 2,000 Americans each day. We risk complacency in accepting that our health care workers do not have what they need to do their jobs safely. And we risk complacency in recognizing that without continued vigilance, we will again create the conditions that led to us being the worst-affected country in the world.”