This essay was prompted by a question someone asked on Quora: Why do so many people not comply with COVID treatments? This is what I replied, plus a few other thoughts on the situation.
One reason is that there is no simple treatment that cures people. Until you are so sick that you’re in the hospital and require drastic treatments including ventilators, which increasingly have to be rationed, all you can do is treat the symptoms – cough, fever, sore throat, congestion, etc. – with over-the-counter remedies and hope that you are one of the lucky ones that experience only a mild case of COVID, like me and my husband.
Since there are no treatments (or only drastic, not always effective ones), people need to take measures to help prevent the spread of the illness, to themselves and to others. Unfortunately, these precautions have become controversial. Various news sources and social media have been claiming that such measures are violations of personal freedom (which is, after all, an American ideal).
Large segments of the population have over the years become deeply suspicious of the truthfulness or good intentions of government, medicine, and “big pharma,” to name just three institutions that are increasingly doubted. Since much of the information on COVID comes from these sources, people are skeptical. They turn to home remedies they hear about from friends and family, as well as news sources they do trust – which often give less-than-sound advice.
The pandemic is like nothing we have experienced in our lifetimes. People feel – and have been – isolated. They turn to easy answers for a complex problem, whether that be complete denial or horse-dewormers. Denial makes them think that the pandemic does not really exist, or is exaggerated by people and institutions with an agenda. They want to return to a “normal” way of life so badly that they grasp at anything that promises that normalcy. They don’t realize that by avoiding the harsh realities of the pandemic, they are ensuring that it continues to spread and they continue to be vulnerable.
This denial is so strong that, even on their deathbeds, some people refuse to believe in the disturbing reality that COVID exists, is ravaging our society, and can only be stopped by taking preventive measures rather than denying it exists or trying home remedy solutions to what is a devastating medical problem that affects all levels of society.
I know that this is a difficult, touchy subject and that some people will disagree with what I say – even disagree violently, unfortunately. I understand some of the motivations of people who refuse to accept ways to prevent the spread of the pandemic. And my words are not likely to convince them otherwise. But this is what I believe. I don’t agree with the COVID deniers. I believe that our medical professionals are right more often than they’re wrong. I believe that until or unless people do what is necessary to stop the pandemic – wear masks, isolate to keep from spreading it, and vaccinating – it will continue. New variants will keep cropping up. Ways to keep these new threats at bay will take time to develop and also be subject to denial and disinformation.
I’m afraid – genuinely afraid – that the pandemic will claim even more lives and keep doing so. My husband and I have been afflicted with COVID and so have many other people, from all levels of society. I hate to sound defeatist, but I can’t help it. Defeating the new plague, which I believe COVID is, and getting back to something approaching, but never fully reaching, “normal” will continue to elude us and the political aspects of the problem will continue to delude us.
There are no easy answers, though the steps to reduce COVID are simple. I don’t know how to get through denial. Perhaps no one does, if the number of people ill or dead won’t do it.