Editorial: Changing The Messaging

Editorial: Changing The Messaging

COVID-19 doesn’t care about your politics. 

It doesn’t care which cable news outlet you watch, which doctors and medical professionals you follow on social media, or the types of podcasts you listen to in your spare time. It only cares about one thing — infecting the next person, and the next person after that.

It’s why, despite all the hand-wringing and rhetoric, we’ve seen little difference in how the virus has spread throughout the U.S. In the spring and summer, it ravaged southern states. Now, as we march our way through the fall and winter, the virus has taken aim at northern states, particularly our neck of the woods here in the Northeast. While many of us thought the possibility of a seasonal surge in this part of the country would be tempered in 2021 to 2022, that has not been the case, at least not in terms of infection rate. 

In fact, when it comes to the numbers of people testing positive for the virus, things are worse now than they have been throughout the pandemic.

Of course, all of the understandable concern at the moment must be tempered with the facts on the ground. We have vaccines, something not widely available to the general public at this time last year. We have more ways to treat COVID-19 and effective therapeutics are increasingly being approved and should be offered to the public soon. And at-home tests provide people an opportunity to check themselves without having to wait days for a testing appointment.

It’s also true that evidence thus far points to the newest variant of the virus, omicron, being a more transmissible but overall less severe strain of COVID-19, though one that still presents a danger to large numbers of people. 

All of this is prompting, and rightfully so, a new discussion about how we can actually live with a virus that shows no signs of going away. How do we balance the need to try and keep people, especially our most vulnerable populations, safe while allowing for society to function the way it must? How do we balance all of this?

While those debates continue, one topic shouldn’t be open for conversation. We must discontinue the habit of suggesting, whether explicitly or implicitly, that contracting the virus is a sign of irresponsibility or the result of doing “the wrong thing.”

Yes, there are some in our society who, throughout the pandemic, have acted in an inappropriate manner, taking risks with their own health and the health of others that wasn’t acceptable. But as we’ve seen throughout the these past two years, and particularly since the arrival of omicron, there is no magic formula to avoiding infection.

The virus has mutated to spread more easily, and it is doing just that. While it’s understandable for our local leaders and public health officials to encourage vigilance and caution in our communities, any suggestion that this spread is being driven soley by people just not doing “the right things” is misplaced and could help feed the misconception that catching the virus is evidence of some sort of moral failing, or lack of belief in the dangers of the virus.

It also could promote the wrong assumption that avoiding infection is simply a matter of following a few easy guidelines, and that, if done correctly, it offers a full-proof way to “beat” COVID-19.

Obviously, during the current surge in cases, all of us would be better served to act more cautiously, adhere to medical recommendations more stringently, while weighing our movements and actions. But in truth, the only thing that’s shown itself to be truly impactful against this virus is vaccines, providing exactly what we need during this pandemic — protection against severe disease and death. 

We hope everyone who can will take advantage of the vaccines, because we aren’t likely to ever “beat” this virus, but we can, and must, learn to live with it.


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