What has COVID-19 revealed about us as a society? A lot actually, but sadly, not very much of what has been uncovered is positive. Our nation and the entire world has been largely unprepared, with the exception of a few countries. Singapore has had an amazing response to COVID-19, and despite being near the top of confirmed cases, they have not seen exponential growth in cases. President Trump, who is tasked with leading the country, has had a disappointing response to the pandemic. We as a society, our social media especially, is simply not ready for such a crisis.
COVID-19 has taken the world by storm, and it amazes me how unprepared we are as a society — more specifically, how unprepared the United States (US) has been. For years, hospitals have operated at maximum efficiency, only ordering exactly what they project needing and nothing extra because ordering extra wouldn’t be as efficient. Operating this way reduces costs and waste from hospitals, but it also ensures that hospitals will not have extra medical equipment or resources if more than usual is needed. This is that event: COVID-19 is extremely infectious and much more deadly than the seasonal flu. This has led to an extremely high number of cases: as of May 11, 2020, the Center for Disease Control says the current number of COVID-19 cases are about 1.3 million in the US. This is overwhelming hospitals nationwide, with numerous patients dying due to the lack of medical equipment.
“‘A series of cost-cutting decisions made by the Trump administration in preceding years had gutted the nation’s infectious disease defense infrastructure. The ‘pandemic response team’ firing claim referred to news accounts from Spring 2018 reporting that White House officials tasked with directing a national response to a pandemic had been ousted.” (Snopes.com).
Trump has also failed to produce ventilators that hospitals so desperately need. People are losing the fight against COVID-19 due to their absence. Ventilators essentially force people to breathe by pumping air in and out of their lungs for them. President Trump, due to the state of emergency, can compel companies to produce necessary supplies, like ventilators. He eventually began leveraging his power with the Defense Production Act (DPA) to get some companies to produce much needed medical supplies. However, in the time it took Trump to get companies to produce ventilators, COVID-19 had gotten a head start.
The lack of overall medical equipment has led to bidding wars between states to get the medical equipment for themselves. The reasonable solution to this would be to distribute medical equipment among all states, considering the population. Instead, states are forced to fight with one another to fulfill their medical supply needs.
COVID-19 has shown us how easily lies and misinformation can be spread, and quickly. This rampant spread of lies and misinformation is largely propagated by social media, which we give so much of our daily attention to. In the case of COVID-19, misinformation is rapidly spreading, and it’s a cause for concern among all the uncertainty. Misinformation is often not completely a lie, but definitely not the whole truth. The fact that misinformation isn’t completely untrue is what makes it so dangerous. A complete lie is hard to spread because it’s so unbelievable and overtly false. But a half-truth, a lie wearing the appearance of truth — that is what will spread like a wildfire. A half-truth being spread right now is that the damage COVID-19 will cause to our economy is so detrimental, that we must stop self-isolating to save our economy. While yes, this disease will undoubtedly cause economic damage to countries around the globe, continuing on as if hundreds of thousands of people more aren’t going to die will only further hurt the economy.
Stopping self-isolation isn’t dodging a bullet, it’s jumping into the path of two bullets: more people than necessary die and the economy goes down the toilet. Lies like this are what is being spread now with COVID-19, and this is something our society needs to stop forever, not just with COVID-19. Our social media platforms must moderate themselves, because without moderation, these lies are guaranteed to trick more people into believing them.
An argument against moderation is that moderation is an attack on our right to free speech. This is one of those half-truths because it conflates freedom of speech with freedom of reach. Freedom of speech is guaranteed by the US Constitution, “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.” However, there is no insurance for the freedom of reach, no law saying that every single person has the right to spread their ideas to as many people as possible. There will always be racists, bigots, fascists, pedophiles and homophobes who want to express their views; this does not mean, however, that they have the right to reach as many people as possible. This is why social media companies need to moderate their platforms.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented time in our history. Its difficulty has revealed and accentuated many things about our society, most of which aren’t very pleasant. However, this allows us to see what we as a society must accomplish. On a positive note, COVID-19 has shown how strong we are when we stand together as a society, and just how much people are willing to sacrifice for their fellow humans (especially our health care and essential workers on the front lines). We must continue to stay strong and persevere through this crisis so we can start to recover from this pandemic as soon as possible.