Illustration: Jamie Kornheiser

In 2020, America has seen what is arguably the deepest political divide in recent history, and tensions only continue to heighten. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this divide as this public health issue has become highly politicized. Without dialogue between those with different points of view, it can be hard to envision a way forward. The Knightly News has interviewed two anonymous Pace students who expressed differing views on the pandemic and how it should be approached by individuals and the government. 

Interviewee #1: 

Gabriel: What are your thoughts on how other people have been handling the virus in America?

Interviewee: I mean, I feel like there’s a lot of different degrees of seriousness that people are taking. For the most part, it’s not being taken as seriously as it should be at this point. I feel disheartened by the fact that not everyone will put on a mask to go inside of a store. I think personal choices get trickier. I don’t think it’s smart for somebody to be going to a huge party with a bunch of people inside of a house, but I’m not gonna hate on someone for hanging out with a few friends. I feel like that’s fine. I think it’s hard because everyone has their own limits, but it is kind of annoying to see people pretending like it doesn’t matter at all, like on college campuses. At UGA for example, it’s getting out of control and there’s just no accountability for people that are going out without masks all the time. I guess my main stance is that if you wear a mask when you go places and you don’t hang out with a ton of people outside of your essential group, there’s not much more that you can do. Other than that, I feel like a lot of people aren’t taking it as seriously as they should and are acting like the pandemic is over, which it definitely isn’t. 

Gabriel: So based on your response, I take it that you’ve just been hanging out with a few people and not going to big events.

Interviewee: Yes, right. I guess the biggest change is that I’m not really sleeping out anywhere. I’ve only done it once since school started and that was only with two people. I haven’t gone to any big parties or anything inside with a ton of people. I hang out with a few close friends, and even then it’s usually outside. I try not to go inside of other people’s houses and I wear a mask anywhere I go. I also don’t eat inside any restaurants. 

Gabriel: What is your stance on the mask “issue”? 

Interviewee: For me, it’s weird to qualify it as a debate. Obviously it’s not 100% effective, but if you can do something that even somewhat protects other people, I don’t know why you wouldn’t. If you’re going inside somewhere within close contact of someone I feel like it’s good [to wear a mask]. We’ve seen at Pace that it’s really not a big deal, I mean we wear a mask for 7 hours a day. It’s so normal now. If I’m asked to wear a mask for an hour or two, it shouldn’t be a big deal. Now that we’ve seen that it works for the most part, I don’t see why people wouldn’t. 

Gabriel: What would your message be to people who are just neglecting the pandemic and partying and going to bars?

Interviewee: I would just say that this kills people. In our community, we’ve seen the virus hurt people. Parents, grandparents… people can get really, really sick. I think it’s a selfish point of view to not even attempt to mitigate the spread of something that is killing so many people. I’d say that the fact that you don’t care about it is selfish. Just think about other people a little more, because this is real, and it does hurt people. 

Interviewee #2: 

Gabriel: What do you think of the President’s response to the virus and what do you think that the appropriate response should be from the American people? 

Interviewee: I think that when we look at the response, what frustrates me is that the issue became partisan. I think that the initial response should have been nonpartisan, and it should have been both sides of the government working together to find a solution to an issue that’s pretty big. With President Trump, I think that the initial shutdown of travel from China was a good thing. It was quick and decisive. I think where Trump screwed up and lost a lot of trust with the public is his downplaying of the virus. Sometimes he would say things that are true, but a lot of it was just speculation like saying “this isn’t a virus that’s going to take over” and stuff like that did not work well with the public. The appropriate response to this comes down to priorities. The left prioritized public health a little more than the right while the right prioritized the economic side more. Personally, while I obviously think that public health is important, I don’t think that the response to the coronavirus can be worse than the coronavirus itself, which is easier to say in hindsight where you see how bad the coronavirus has been. I feel like keeping the economy strong is important, but finding the balance between that and being able to keep people safe is very important. 

Gabriel: How do you think people should be viewing the virus on an individual level? Locking themselves in the house, or going to bars and parties without wearing a mask? What do you see fit in these times?

Interviewee: Well that’s just it, I think it should be individualistic. I think that if you’re COVID prone and worried about it, then you should stay inside if you want to. If you’re not high risk and you’re in that group of people where you have a 99.8% chance of living, then do what you want to do. I think that the government’s play in it should be to advise. I think that they should advise people not to congregate in groups larger than 10 people, to wear a mask in public, and to take proper precautions. Where you start getting into that gray area is when you have enforcements and restrictions, because then you’re impeding on people’s everyday pursuit of happiness. I know that that’s a bit extreme, but that’s what it comes down to. So I just think that it should be an individual choice. 

Gabriel: So based on that response, I’m assuming that you disagree with the government forcing businesses to shut down and imposing curfews.

Interviewee: Yes, I can’t agree with that. Restaurants especially have taken a hit from the pandemic. I work at a restaurant so I see it first hand. We’re not hitting the numbers anywhere near we were hitting pre COVID. You have 40% of small businesses that don’t know if they’ll make it past this quarter. I think that those are the types of businesses that we have to be supporting right now, and not through government stimulus packages. We have to let them reopen and determine the safety of their business by themselves. 

 

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