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Column: Social distancing is not an option — it's a necessity

April 14, 2020
A turned off "Open" sign in downtown East Lansing on April 1, 2020.
A turned off "Open" sign in downtown East Lansing on April 1, 2020. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

Walking down empty streets with darkened buildings once filled with life, it’s hard not to notice things have changed. Libraries whose collections built my childhood are dark. K-12 schools are closed until fall, universities are remote through the remainder of the semester and restaurants are shut down for the unforeseeable future. 

With 21,504 Michigan COVID-19 cases as of April 9, people need to do their part now more than ever, and yet there is still a vast group of individuals seemingly convinced the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” orders don’t apply to them. 

I log on social media and there are undoubtedly new posts each day with peers boasting their decisions to ignore quarantine guidelines. Some utilize the young and healthy argument — that they are immune to the effects of the virus because their immune systems will be able to handle it. Others say ordering a population to remain home is a violation of constitutional rights, and no one should be able to tell them where they can or cannot go. 

What both of these arguments fail to recognize is how one person’s actions can catastrophically impact the whole. According to the World Health Organization, data to date suggests 80% of COVID-19 infections are mild or asymptomatic. Further, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, reports symptoms could take as long as two weeks after the initial exposure to appear.

Age does not grant anyone immunity to this disease. It’s a virus that doesn’t care who you are or what you do, but one that demands you care about it. 

All it takes is for one person to catch an infection. One person to travel to the store, hang around his or her friends and single-handedly created a domino effect leading to any number of infections without any second thought. 

I’ve read people saying even if they do get it, they don’t care — it’s not worth changing their lifestyle over a 'mild flu.' While still not impossible, a young and healthy individual may not see the more severe impacts of the disease, but they can very easily pass it on to someone who will. 

My hometown is Warren, Michigan in Macomb County. As of April 9, there are 2,783 cases and 165 deaths in the county. Though I remain in East Lansing, I have family back home who put themselves at risk every time they leave to make necessary trips to the grocery store. 

My mom has four different autoimmune diseases, each of which makes her more vulnerable to the severity of COVID-19. I’m worried every time she has to leave the house because some people continue to ignore social distancing guidelines and could pass something on to anyone, anywhere. 

My brother, a Walmart employee in Ohio was told by hospital staff there was a 90% chance he had COVID-19, though at the time he lacked a primary care doctor needed to test it. People come in and out of the store, many without crucial need to shop. They pass it to workers, who may pass it to friends or family members — any of whom may not be able to handle its effects. 

I know I’m not alone in this. People, including myself, fear for their loved ones because this disease could impact their lives. Just because one person doesn’t care about getting it themselves, doesn’t give them the right to make that decision for others.

The decision not to stay home affects real human lives. If not for yourself, stay home for the people whose lives you could unknowingly be risking.

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