December 8, 2020

YAO | Complacency: Just as Contagious, Even More Dangerous

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Recently, Pfizer announced that the company had ended its coronavirus vaccine trial with a 95 percent success rate. Moderna shortly followed with news that those who received two doses of the vaccine still had elevated levels of antibodies three months later. This is news that we have waited on for almost a year, and it is most certainly cause for hope and celebration –– we finally have the means to quell the virus that governs our lives. 

However, that doesn’t mean that we can relax and resume our lives as usual. It’s dangerous to succumb to the boredom and agitation that makes us complacent and impulsive. We cannot forget that contracting the virus can mean life or death. New York alone just reported its highest daily case count since the April surge. Early December marks the highest daily death toll this country has seen and double the number of hospitalizations that November had. 

As college students, most of us are not in the high-risk demographic, but that’s no excuse to stop taking the pandemic seriously. I guarantee that every single one of us has friends and family who are threatened by the virus. We have a responsibility to those we interact with to limit social gatherings, get tested frequently and follow local and national health guidelines. 

The death rate only declined after the April peak as states imposed lockdowns and curfews on restaurants and bars. The American public committed to stopping the spread of the virus. #stayhome permeated various social media channels for weeks in May and June. Unfortunately, I doubt this winter season will trigger the same levels of national vigilance. 

Just the week of Thanksgiving, nearly 2000 counties across the nation saw increased closeness levels. To make matters worse, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci M.D. ’66, we won’t even feel the full effects of the post-Thanksgiving case spike for another few weeks –– just in time for the onset of the winter holidays. So, If you plan to travel during winter break, understand that doing so may mean potentially exposing the people you care about to infection. Get tested before you leave and after you return and try to limit large indoor gatherings. Since such get-togethers often take place over food in spaces with limited fresh air, they make for perfect superspreader events. This holiday season, make sure to protect your loved ones by protecting yourselves. 

Finally, to those expecting a vaccine to immediately solve all of our virus-related problems, you’ll be waiting a long time. In the meantime, stay vigilant. Assuming the Food and Drug Administration approves both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines this month, there still exist countless logistical issues in manufacturing and distribution, including lack of funding and public skepticism. Furthermore, the vaccine will be administered on a rolling basis, with healthcare workers and nursing homes receiving the initial wave of doses. The general public ––  including us young adults –– may not be able to get inoculated until summer of next year or even later.

Until herd immunity is achieved, diverting our concentration from stopping the spread of the virus is a mistake. Wear a mask, wash your hands and consider cancelling holiday plans or getting tested if you need to travel. We haven’t won the battle –– not even close –– so don’t act like we’re in the clear just yet. 

Katherine Yao is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. Her column, Hello Katie, runs every other Wednesday this semester.