COVID shaming is destructive

Chloe Burdette

Editor in Chief

 

As someone who struggles with generalized anxiety, living through this rollercoaster of a pandemic hasn’t been easy on my mind. Don’t get me wrong — I am so incredibly grateful that most of my friends and family have managed to stay healthy during this past year, but that doesn’t mean that my worry about this sickness has faded. I have been quite vocal in my opinions on how to handle this virus, including creating arguments with people at home who think the vaccine has a microchip in it (trust me — I wish I was kidding too). Personally, I think everyone’s duty in a time like this is to social distance, wear a mask and simply give a damn about others who may not be able to fight this virus off. Nevertheless, I have never claimed to be a perfect, pandemic-living being. I take my mask down every once in a while in a public space to take a drink of water. I may get too close to those I work with in order to hear what they are saying. I mean, hell — we have all eaten in Lowry, sitting near a table with complete strangers. With all this being said, I am here to say we are all imperfect beings. Even people who try to do everything right in this COVID-filled world can still come down with the virus. I believe COVID-shaming is hurtful, damaging and may even work counterproductively in our goal of eliminating COVID for good.

Let me set the story for you — I was watching a rerun of “The Bachelor” on a Wednesday night. It was midnight when I started the episode, and the night owl in me was ecstatic to watch the unreasonable, ridiculous drama unfold for a straight hour. I had just gotten set up in my chair when I got the dreaded email from EverlyWell: “Your test results are ready!” I don’t know about you, but my heart drops every time I get that email, even though I had gone through five weekly tests with a negative result each time. I decided to immediately open the email and type my username and password in. “View Results” appeared on my computer screen. I clicked the button, and truly, my life flashed before my eyes. “Hi, Chloe! You ARE infected with the virus responsible for COVID-19.” I immediately threw on a mask and called security. A million thoughts ran through my head — who have I been in contact with? Are my roommates okay? I have work; who will work in my place? Who will announce the basketball games? How will we print The Voice this week? Looking back, I noticed one particular thing missing from my thoughts. What about ME? I had put my mental health on hold because I was too worried about others and their opinions.

Soon, I gathered my things and headed to Douglass. My roommates and close contacts were given a call the next morning, and they had to gather their things to head to the Best Western hotel in Wooster. Now, I am very happy they were comfortable in their living space for the next two weeks. But why were COVID-positive students forced to share a community bathroom — showering only one curtain away from other sick and coughing students —  and to live in a small, confining room with no fridge or microwave? I felt like I had failed; that I was being punished for being sick. Those feelings prevailed for the next ten days.

Fast-forward to the day I was released from isolation. Although I was contacted by many friends and family throughout my isolation period to check in on me, I was sadly also greeted by the many stares and comments that come with a positive test result. “Wow, way to go. You put your roommates through that!” someone said. “I am going to have to be careful around you from now on,” another person joked. “How did you get it? Why were you being irresponsible?” another asked. Even my closest friends made comments, including, “I missed out on this because YOU put me quarantine.” The comments may have seemed harmless at the time, but only made me feel worse. I still am being avoided by some of my peers, and it has been over a month since I tested positive. 

Today, I am still doing exactly what I have been doing since the start of the pandemic. I am following all CDC guidelines when I have to be in public, and now double-masking at all times. I was completely asymptomatic throughout my isolation and never had to deal with the nightmare that a COVID diagnosis is to some people. Yet, I still have those nasty comments running through my head when I pass another person in Lowry. For those who can relate to my situation, I feel for you. COVID-shaming makes you feel guilty, embarrassed and unworthy. For some, it may even keep those from disclosing their symptoms to health professionals in fear of distasteful comments and bullying. So, in reality: what does COVID-shaming accomplish? If you get anything from this Viewpoint, I just ask you to think twice before making a short-handed comment to someone who had or has COVID, even if they are asymptomatic. You have NO idea how those comments can impact their mental health.