Opinion: Let’s have some precedent in these unprecedented times

Shruti Patankar, Staff Writer

Among many of the contentious topics discussed in this year’s federal elections, the government’s reaction to the coronavirus remained one of the most important. Public health has become a partisan issue in the last decade, ranging from birth control to vaccines to, lately, the pandemic. As cases continue to rise and hospital beds fill to max capacity, mirroring the climax in May, other nations across the world are starting to lock down once again. It remains an essential health question and in the United States, an essential political question, as to whether the United States should be heading into another lockdown. 

The global economy is not in shape to handle another restrictive lockdown like the one most states implemented in spring. The impacts of unemployment and folding small businesses have shaken the economy to its core. Many families still struggle with restarting their savings and maintaining their jobs among shaky corporate wellbeing, issues with childcare and housing troubles. However, the truth is that the first place a lockdown should start isn’t with businesses and jobs that cannot be done online, but with bars, restaurants, and shopping places, which account for only 4% of our GDP. States should be able to effectively limit interactions only to those fundamental to economic well being, but clearly, as cases show, they can’t. 

On Nov. 12, there were 194,610 new cases in the United States, around 60,000 more than the seven-day average, showing a steep incline. States need to start enforcing efficient contact tracing when cases are found, and there needs to be a unified message on how to prevent coronavirus. Lost among political crises, Americans are finding it difficult to agree on aspects of the pandemic, and the intensely partisan atmosphere furthered by the election isn’t doing us any favors. This is the time when our politicians should be practicing bipartisanship and focusing on solutions. How are leaders going to get people to limit interactions to be within their social bubbles if they can’t convince their constituents to wear a mask? Scientists have long established that wearing a mask is the number one way to make a positive impact in your community, but even the prospect of saving other people’s lives seems to be valued less than what some consider freedom in a brazen, politically divided nation. 

Lockdown orders are the answer – not the suffocating restrictions that may initially come to mind, but organized commands that actually prevent people from socializing in bars and restaurants and recommend against holding small gatherings in their home. The upcoming holiday season is only going to worsen numbers if leaders don’t act fast. The pandemic is not going to disappear for turkey, latkes, and laddoos. 

So far, the reaction of state governments has been like driving a race car – speeding to open up and slamming down on the brakes when cases rise – but what we need is a comprehensive, federally mandated order that falls somewhere in between complete restrictions and opening up to a fully-functioning society. Information needs to be distributed on a federal basis from a relatively unified agreement, and ways to limit private interaction should be openly discussed and encouraged. 

With this, we can efficiently manage the small gatherings and mask-less leisurely interactions that are responsible for the spread without sacrificing small businesses and the in-person education of young children. We have practiced enough disorder in a society that depends on order, and now it is time for some precedent in these unprecedented times.