Pushing to relax COVID-19 restrictions is selfish

Emily DiSalvo, Arts and Life Editor

It’s getting warmer, vaccines are becoming widespread and well, COVID-19 is still here. Thanks to the new strain, B117, cases are popping up across the country causing some medical experts to call it a “fourth wave.”

This is serious business, especially considering that many states, including Connecticut, have relaxed COVID-19 restrictions, drawing backlash from public health experts.

The argument that restrictions need to be relaxed, particularly for young healthy people, is misguided. Every case of COVID-19 is tragic, whether or not the person who contracted it dies. It ensues panic in those who have contacted this person. It can lead to the spread of cases in the community. But, for that person, even if they survive, their life may never be the same.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists several possible “long-term” effects of COVID-19 such as shortness of breath, joint pain and cough. But other symptoms are less obvious. Some people who had COVID-19 have experienced long-term “brain fog” or difficulty concentrating. Others have no sense of smell or taste. Some face depression, mood changes, sleep issues and memory problems that did not exist prior to the disease.

Illustration by Michael Clement

This is scary stuff that can affect people of all ages, not just old people. But if it was just old people affected, does that make it any better? I am tired of people saying we should reopen because it is only the elderly who are dying of COVID-19. First of all, that isn’t true. Second of all, don’t those lives matter too?

Let me answer that for you — those lives do matter. Elderly people deserve the same value and appreciation as young people, if not more. If young people are forced to stay away from their friends to prevent an old person from contracting COVID-19, it is entirely worth it.

Taking COVID-19 seriously isn’t just about preventing deaths. It is about thwarting long-term health effects, protecting our elders and making our communities safer for everyone.

I can acknowledge that some people feel that lockdowns are so detrimental to people’s mental health that it is not worth it to keep things closed. I would counter this on multiple fronts.

First of all, keeping restaurants, in-person entertainment venues and other businesses closed or at a reduced capacity is not a lockdown. It is a moderate inconvenience for everyday people and a huge inconvenience for people who work there, but it has nothing to do with mental health. The only “lockdown” existed last March and April.

Secondly, I understand the importance of mental health extremely well. And I think the stress a full reopening would place on people with the fear of getting sick is just as concerning as the depression that isolated people face. With the anxiety I have about germs and full capacity stores and restaurants, a reopening would keep me relegated to my home more than a lockdown would. For some people, the fear of getting sick is just as severe as the sadness of facing restrictions.

But why are we even comparing hardships when lives are at risk? A death from COVID-19 is a harrowing, painful death of suffocation. Any small inconvenience we face is nothing if we can save even one life because of a restriction.

Who are we to plea for normalcy when it is our decisions, along with lackadaisical mitigation measures, that have made this pandemic drag on so long? Complaining is selfish, especially when we have so much to be grateful for — the vaccine, nice weather, outdoor dining. Things are looking up, but if we rush the recovery, we will stumble.