We need to stop making this public health emergency political

What a bag of mixed emotions these last few months have been in the face of COVID-19. I’ve watched my community doubt the seriousness of COVID as it reached the U.S., been pulled from my clinical rotations and stood in solidarity with other medical students as we brainstorm how to serve our community in this trying time, celebrated with my colleagues as we called for social distancing and effectively flattened our curve. Maybe it was easier at first, as this was all new, but as things got more serious and our numbers continued to climb, something changed. And not in the way you’d hope—instead of extra precautions as COVID spread, people started to get angry and push back against the very recommendations meant to keep them safe.

Here’s what we know: COVID-19 is serious. It kills people, all kinds of people. People who are my neighbors, my friends, my relatives. Without proper public health regulations, this disease will run rampant and will overrun our hospitals, stripping our ability to care for patients and ourselves. Our numbers continue to climb, with a total of 4,845 positives so far and an increase by 225 in the last day alone, we aren’t in the clear yet.

Here’s what we don’t have: Widespread testing. Enough PPE. A known cure.

Despite what we know, here’s what we’re seeing: Resistance to social distancing regulations. Essential workers showing up, and outbreaks in the factories in which they work (Brown County has 147 cases linked to JBS, a meat plant.) People, letting their selfish boredom and self-taught medical knowledge convince them that public health experts are making foolish recommendations. Our Wisconsin spring is inevitably happening, and warmer weather inviting people out of their homes to gather again regardless of the rules. Elections happening with last-minute changes, people never receiving the absentee ballots they had requested, and too few polling sites requiring people to risk their own health to stand in overcrowded lines for hours just to vote. And now, legislators are filing a lawsuit against the best tool we’ve had so far—our Safer at Home order.

COVID is hurting our state and our communities in more ways than one. The economic impact of a global pandemic is threatening the livelihood of our people. I’m happy that citizens are asking questions and challenging the status quo in order to find solutions to the looming economic ramifications. Some of these questions do not have clear answers yet. But we need to balance coming up with financial solutions and keeping people safe, and right now, we know how to do this. It takes sacrifice. It takes not allowing fear and anger to dictate the narrative. It requires staying home.

Wisconsin, I’m ashamed. We need to stop making this public health emergency political. We need to leave the decision-making in the hands of experts who have trained their entire lives to handle things like this. COVID-19 is happening, our numbers continue to increase, outbreaks continue to happen, and until we have that under control, we cannot resume working like normal, shopping like normal, and socializing like normal. Please, Wisconsin, stay home.

Mackenzie Carlson and Jane Salutz are medical students.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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