The dangers of downplaying COVID-19

Why recent responses regarding the virus from the White House and Capitol Hill are irresponsible

Neysa Singh and Leanna Sun

Eight million COVID-19 cases and more than 200,000 deaths later, many politicians on Capitol Hill and in the White House continue to downplay the virus.

With the events leading up to President Donald Trump testing positive, as well as instances when Congress members ignored or opposed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendations of social distancing and wearing a mask, it is clear that the leaders, lawmakers, senators and representatives of this country have to start acting more responsibly.

Throughout the pandemic, Trump has downplayed and underestimated the severity of the virus by holding rallies, tweeting, “Don’t let [COVID] dominate your life” and refusing to acknowledge mask-wearing until July. Even during the first presidential debate against Democratic nominee Joe Biden on Sept. 29, Trump mocked Biden for wearing a mask whenever in public.

As president, Trump’s words and actions hold a heavy influence on the public, and by minimizing the impact of contracting the virus, he is misinforming Americans. When he himself contracted the virus, he allegedly recovered quickly, but the reality is, the healthcare and medical equipment that Trump had access to are not available to most Americans. Still, in his tweets, Trump simplifies the issue and insinuates that those infected can easily beat the virus.

At the first presidential debate, the Trump family was seen ignoring the multiple COVID-19 precautions, such as setting seats apart to adhere to social distancing guidelines, testing attendees and requiring them to wear masks. Instead, many members of the family removed their masks despite the explicit instructions not to. Just days later, President Trump and his wife tested positive for COVID-19.

Trump also faced extreme criticism from the public for his administration’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak by decreasing funding for public health agencies responsible for responding to the pandemic and spreading misinformation about the virus.

The Senate has also witnessed the virus affect many of its members over the past few weeks. In early October, Sens. Mike Lee, Thom Tillis and Ron Johnson tested positive for COVID. One week prior, those three senators were present at the Rose Garden ceremony that introduced Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Attendees were seen sitting closely next to each other and interacting, some without masks.

Despite the CDC recommending wearing a mask and social distancing, many White House officials continue to come to events without masks and disregard the social distancing rules put in place. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi mandated masks back in July for all house members. However, the Senate has not enforced this as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell claims that senators “practice social distancing” and have been diligent about taking precautions. If that is truly the case, then why are senators still clustering in close groups without masks while on the floor?

It’s dangerous for those in the Capitol to believe that they are exempt from following the CDC’s advice, but it’s also important to keep in mind that none of us at MVHS are exempt as well. Wearing a mask and social distancing won’t completely cancel out our chances of infection. Still, these small actions can make a considerable difference, especially when protecting not just ourselves but also the people around us.

Regardless of whether we are lawmakers, politicians, the president, or a fellow member of the MVHS community, we need to be held accountable in light of the pandemic and act more responsibly.

It is easy for us to criticize politicians from afar, but it is still important to keep in mind that these rules apply to us as well, and even though the pandemic seems unending, we need to continue persevering and following social distancing guidelines so we can return to normalcy as soon as possible. These conditions won’t last forever, and the more that we adhere to the guidelines that medical experts put out for us, the faster things will get better.