“Live Free or Die”

“Kiss My Constitution”

“Even if the virus were 10 times as dangerous [...] I’d rather take the risk and be a free person.”

From New Hampshire to Michigan, protests against the stay-at-home orders have begun.

However, it seems that the protesters have grossly underestimated the consequences lifting stay-at-home orders would bring. Thousands of people are taking the gamble that their young immune systems will be able to beat the virus. As of April 1, there has been a growing trend of younger, previously healthy adults being put on ventilators within hours of being admitted to hospitals. Not only will each of these “free” people be at risk of getting sick, but they will also become much more likely to carry  COVID-19 and spread it to others who desperately need to stay healthy, such as people who are elderly and/or immunocompromised. Although the freedom many so desperately want is, arguably, a Constitutional right, in the context of this pandemic, it will lead to disastrous social and public health outcomes in the already resource-strained US healthcare system.

We are not at the end of the war. We are right in the middle of it. The US has more than 770,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 to this date. More than 37,000 people have died and the number continues to increase by more than 2,000 per day. This moment is crucial in determining how long the quarantine will actually last. If we stay at home one more day, one more week - the virus will come under control so much faster than if we ignore the highly contagious disease and let the numbers rise exponentially.

We want to remind everyone that social distancing is the KEY to fighting the pandemic, and we know this from looking at regions that successfully controlled the spread of COVID-19: Taiwan is one of the most-at-risk areas outside mainland China, and it has been able to contain its total number of confirmed cases to only 422. Taiwan was able to do this through fast implementation of strict rules and regulations: School closings began in late January after the first few confirmed cases, and those who step outside of their house before the mandatory 14-day quarantine expires will be fined up to $33,000.

The same thing happened to my, Skye’s, hometown. All my family members live in mainland China. When our cities went into lockdown in late January, people did not leave their houses for months. Everyone needed to have their temperature taken before leaving their neighborhoods. Even though Western media is calling this a radical authoritarian measure, a measure that was later adopted by those same Western countries, I believe China’s quick action was the main contributor to its one-month containment of the virus. Earlier implementation of this so-called radical authoritarian measure could have saved thousands of American people and eliminated the need for a still ongoing stay-at-home order.

Of course, not all countries took immediate action. Take Italy for example: Although the statistics were disastrous when quarantine began, it still happened. On March 15, 2020, Italians shared their own regrets and sorrows in recorded messages to their past selves from ten days earlier. “The worst case scenario? That’s exactly what will happen,” one says in the video. They have, like many of us, doubted the warnings of public health officials and have come to regret it. We are simply steps away from regretting our own selfish wishes.

Yet, it doesn’t seem as if the US is learning from countries who have fairly successfully contained COVID-19 spread. Many US states are considering easing stay-at-home restrictions. On April 17, 2020, Jacksonville beaches in Florida reopened for “essential activities.” Hundreds flocked to the beach. People cheered as the police took down the barriers. Crowds were seen swimming, surfing and fishing. On that day, Florida had 1,413 new reported cases of COVID-19 - the highest since the beginning of the outbreak, according to the state’s Department of Health.

We are all potential carriers. We should all understand that avoiding mass gathering isn’t just for our health, but for everyone’s health around us. It is essential that people realize that the stay-at-home order is not a matter of violating personal freedom. It is a restriction put up in order to save thousands of lives. We are all fighting in this war together. We are responsible for the safety of ourselves and everyone else around us.

Stay home, stay healthy.

Editor's Note: The views presented in this story belong to the writers and are not necessarily reflective of North by Northwestern as a whole.

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