Earlier this morning, I received an email regarding a “quarantine party.” The event description read: “We are young people who don’t take this BS quarantine seriously. Let’s crowd in this condo and have a good time. I promise, you won’t get sick.” I am 21 years old, healthy, and, subsequently, very unlikely to succumb to the coronavirus. I could party. I could attend that event and laugh in the face of all the talk about social distancing. Odds are, I would be totally and completely fine if I did so. But I won’t.
This is not about me. This is not about whether or not I find staying home for two weeks to be boring. This is not about any individual person. This is about community: local, national, global community. With widespread panic comes widespread misinformation, and with widespread misinformation comes widespread misunderstanding. The fact is, for the vast majority of young and healthy individuals, the idea of quarantine is much less about your safety than it is about the safety of others. Do you really think not missing two weeks’ worth of partying is a fair trade for someone else’s life?
Well, maybe you’ve heard that some experts believe the virus is going to spread everywhere, so you figure, What’s the point of this ‘BS quarantine’ anyways?”
Quarantine is a method to delay and slow the spread of the virus, and because of this, it has the potential to decrease the number of infections and the number of deaths. Delayed spread in outbreak situations means more time to develop vaccines, more time to work on treatments, an opportunity to spread out the timing of severe cases so as not to overwhelm the health care system.
Maybe you totally understand the purpose of quarantine, but you figure, “Well, shouldn’t that really only be for people who aren’t feeling well?”
The coronavirus, while fatal in cases, can also be extremely mild in other cases. You could be infected and not even realize it. Unfortunately, short of taking a test, there’s really no way to know for sure who’s sick and who’s not.
“OK,” you’re thinking, “but if all the at-risk people are self-quarantining, what’s the big deal if I’m not social distancing?”
Firstly, the longer the disease remains out-of-control, the longer all those people will be stuck in quarantine. What happens if they need to visit the doctor? What happens if the only way for them to make their livelihood depends on risking their health and not quarantining? The truth is, you just don’t know what sort of options everyone has, and putting them at increased risk is just not worth going to a St. Patrick’s Day party.
These are people. They’re probably just as bored as you are, but even worse: They’re also scared. You and me, we’re lucky to be in the position that we are. We’re lucky that we can make jokes and not feel afraid to go to the supermarket. But that is not the case for everyone. We are part of a community. Let’s act like it. Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay home.
Samantha McCormick is a public health student.
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