This is an opinion piece based on my personal experience. I don’t pretend to be offering scientific or polling data on the question. I have talked with a good many people about this topic and have my own thoughts about it, as well as having read a few articles. I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.
So, after millions of cases, millions of hospitalizations, and hundreds of thousands of deaths related to COVID-19, why are some people still not taking coronavirus seriously? Here are my thoughts:
Misleading or inadequate information and recommendations from healthcare experts during the early weeks of the pandemic. In the late winter and early spring of 2020, there was still a want of information on the virus. We simply didn’t know much about it. That included healthcare experts. This led to a lot of misleading and inadequate information and recommendations, sometimes contradictory recommendations. I recall watching a program where Dr. Drew was cautioning people about getting too worked up about the virus, even making comparisons with the flu, which at that time he viewed as a more serious threat (he later apologized for getting it wrong). Even Dr. Fauci and U. S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams early on discounted the value of wearing masks. The inconsistency stuck with people. It’s easy to conclude that, if the experts aren’t too worried, or if they can’t get on the same page with their information or recommendations, how can I take them seriously?
The politicization of the virus. Unfortunately, too many politicians sought to exploit the virus politically in hopes of hurting their opponents or improving their own position with voters. President Trump consistently downplayed the seriousness of the virus early on. But, when he imposed a travel ban from China, Joe Biden opposed it as xenophobic and unnecessary. Nancy Pelosi encouraged people to visit Chinatown in San Francisco. When the serious threat the virus represented became clear, politicians took an about-face (hoping people would forget their original laxness on the issue) and demanded that the country be locked downed, imposing restrictions on businesses, gatherings, worship services, and travel. Many people became concerned, in my mind rightfully, that some politicians were exploiting the virus to expand their powers, or impose their preferences by allowing some businesses and institutions relative openness while placing strong restrictions on others. The politicization of the virus inspired some to regard it as a hoax thrust upon the population by politicians. Too many political leaders acted in ways that encouraged this thinking and justified it in the minds of those already predisposed to have little trust in government.
Oh, the hypocrisy! The cases of political and social leaders and media elites encouraging or demanding restrictions on the activities of citizens while blatantly ignoring those restrictions themselves infuriated many people and, again, justified their thinking that the virus was not serious, if not an outright hoax. The most egregious examples that come to my mind are those of Chris Cuomo, the CNN anchor, who announced on his program that he had COVID and would be in quarantine, then was caught on the streets of New York and got angry about having been called out, Gavin Newsom, governor of California, imposing restrictions on gatherings and restaurants and then attending an exclusive party where precautions were not followed, Michael Hancock, the mayor of Denver, CO, getting on television and encouraging the residents of his city to not travel to visit family for Thanksgiving (“pass the potatoes, not the virus,” he said), then within the hour boarding a plane to visit his family in Mississippi, Bill DeBlasio, mayor of New York City, who shut down Times Square for New Year’s Eve because of the virus, only to be shown dancing with this wife in Times Square and, of course, Nancy Pelosi and her hair appointment (and then she lied about being set up!). These are but five of numerous examples. Then, of course, there were the marches and the riots across multiple cities, where thousands congregated or marched elbow-to-elbow to protest police brutality or other concerns. The same politicians and media elites who demanded that restaurants be closed, businesses be shuttered, events be cancelled, and churches remain empty were effusive in their praise of the protesters, despite the fact that few practiced any precautions. People cannot abide a hypocrite, and the hypocritical actions of political, social, and media elites, as well as the protesters themselves, enraged many, inspiring in them an attitude of ” I’m not gonna deprive myself if these jerks aren’t!”
Anger about the lockdowns. The United States, and most other countries, acted on the recommendation of the health experts by locking down the country in hopes of mitigating the spread of the virus. As a consequence, people lost their jobs, lost their businesses, lost their homes, and some even lost their lives. Ordinary people, and occasionally the healthcare expert, became alarmed that the lockdowns were having a greater negative impact than the virus itself. At one point, there were more deaths from overdoses in Shelby County, TN than there were deaths from the coronavirus. But, the consequences of the lockdowns were largely ignored by politicians, experts, and pundits because the emphasis was on “flattening the curve” and “saving lives.” Basically, if someone died from a lockdown related death, their death was ignored. The only deaths that mattered were those caused by the virus. When Trump spoke of the need to open up the economy in late spring/early summer, articles in magazines and newspapers announced that he was condemning the elderly to a death sentence. Also, the inconsistency of the lockdowns broiled people, who usually don’t mind being imposed upon for a good cause as long as the imposition is seen as being imposed fairly and equitably. But, it wasn’t. Finally, even after the WHO announced that the lockdowns caused more harm than good, and recommended against them, and even in the face of increasing cases of coronavirus in those states where very strict lockdowns are enforced, there are politicians who continue the policy and insist that it is necessary to stop the spread of the virus.
It won’t happen to me! The reasons I cite above are mostly social or political reasons. People look to the political, social, or medical leaders and see a lot of inconsistency, which inspires in them a lack of confidence that these people know what they’re talking about, or that their recommendations can be trusted. There are, of course, psychological reasons people don’t take coronavirus seriously. These are similar to the reasons some people don’t wear seat belts, or refuse to plan for someone to drive them home when they’re going out for a night of drinking, or engage in risky sexual behavior. It’s the age-old idea that “It won’t happen to me!” No matter the information backed up by research, there is something about the psyche of certain people that makes them think they are immune to the consequences of bad choices or even of nature itself. We accept this in young persons, of course. Learning that you’re not immune or protected from bad outcomes is part of growing up. That’s why we limit their activities by law (and that’s why it’s been difficult to get them to practice common sense precautions during the pandemic). But, the number of adults who hold on to this myth is disconcerting, especially when the community is attempting to protect itself against a common threat.
So, these are my thoughts on the matter. I would very much like to hear from those who agree or disagree, or who have other ideas of why some people still don’t take coronavirus seriously. In the meantime, I will once again repeat what I’ve been saying for quite some time: Don’t panic. Take the proper, commonsense precautions: wear a mask in public, wash your hands, and practice social distancing. And, get the vaccine!
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.