Opinion: Wear a mask and pay attention

(graphic by Katie Toler, University of Georgia graphic design student. Follow @katiepillars on Instagram.)

By Jenna Ingalls |
Staff writer

Before the nation was shut down, I remember getting a call from someone in my life who wishes to remain anonymous. They called to tell me that one of their patients was a presumed positive case of COVID-19. Immediately, the fear that had slowly been rising in me about the novel coronavirus spilled over into panic.

I remember leaving work that afternoon in a daze. Little was known about the virus at that point, so I began to assume the worst. Exposure meant they were going to get sick. Once that person got sick, tragedy would strike. How could I adequately take care of her/him while still trying to navigate my responsibilities?

That was a question I never had to find the answer to since the patient thankfully tested negative. However, that has not been a reality for everyone.

We are now over 100 days into this pandemic as this Fourth of July weekend passes. There are more than 2.9 million cases and 130,000 deaths in the United States alone. Georgia has had 95,500 cases and 2,860 deaths, according to the Department of Public Health. Richmond and Columbia counties have combined for nearly 2,000 cases and 63 deaths. In my initial fear, I could have never imagined things would progress to this magnitude.

The nation shut down on March 13 for approximately 1,600 recorded cases in the entire country. Stores were sold out of toilet paper and bottled water for weeks because people panicked. Now with over 2.5 million people infected by the virus, people are trying to go back to normal.

The normal we know is gone for the time being. No matter how hard we try to ignore the pandemic, we are still living in it and should live in it responsibly.

When the virus was first making its appearance, young people were told to take precautions, but they were not the group at the greatest risk. Now the number of infections among young people is spiking. As we pretend to go back to normal, the virus is spreading as we try and make our way back into the world.

The optimism of youth is blinding us to what we are facing. Thinking “Oh, it won’t happen to me” or “Even if I get it, it won’t be so bad” has allowed people to believe our actions have no consequences. Just because you were asymptomatic, doesn’t mean your family members or friends will be.

It’s not the time to be selfish with our actions if we want this pandemic to go away. It’s the time to sacrifice our social lives for a little while. It is a time to wear a mask when we don’t want to. It’s the time to take care of each other in new and unprecedented ways.

Failure to social distance, refusal to wear masks and ignoring our reality is going to keep us here even longer.

I implore you: Wear your mask. Take this seriously. If you won’t do it for yourself or your neighbor, do it for the health care workers who will be taking care of you.


Contact Jenna Ingalls at JEINGALLS@augusta.edu.