How selfishness prolongs the pandemic


November 29, 2020

Stock photo

Simone Bellengier

Iva-Mari Miskulin

Kiana Sharifi

Abigail Shin


Since the pandemic started, there has been one recurring question: when will this pandemic end? And yet, despite this longing for an end, we continue to elongate it. There is only one way to end this pandemic: by following the guidelines sent out by Toronto Public Health and being selfless.

With online learning, limited social interaction, and a quadmestered system, adolescents are struggling to keep up and remain positive. As the risks and long-term effects of COVID-19 are discovered, new misconceptions begin to circulate.

Many are feeling isolated, frustrated, and desperate, but by breaking protocol to ease our own agony, we are endangering others and lengthening the pandemic. By living our lives irresponsibly, we prevent others from getting sufficient access to education, mental health resources, and healthcare. This is now our new normal.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, teenagers have dealt with many drastic changes; one of them being online learning. Although someone may be afraid of contracting the virus at school, it would be ignorant to believe that online learning offers the same education as in-person learning. Learning virtually may have its positive aspects, such as allowing students to go at their own pace in the comfort of their home, but these advantages come with their downsides.

When students are left to their own devices they may find themselves unable to manage their time or find a quiet space to focus. The quadmestered system has pushed students to learn course material faster than ever before; they must memorize and complete months of learning in a couple days, leading to an increase in stress levels. Many teenagers also feel socially isolated in class and their personal lives. The break from normal social routines has been strenuous for everyone, as people find themselves falling into more severe psychiatric problems with no one to rely on.

A study by researchers at Indiana University of Pennsylvania into the effects of social isolation and online learning concluded that, “social isolation has been examined to have an effect on the performance of individuals at different levels.” With no social gatherings, the social development of adolescents is diminished, slowing their brain development due to the limited interaction.

Lastly, a downward trend in mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic is similar to the trends observed during the 2003 SARS pandemic. The inherent anxiety from the thought of getting sick and guilt of infecting others has been common throughout the pandemic. The challenge to access mental health services as a result of restrictions has also increased the feeling of isolation among the population.

“If you get it, you will recover.” That may be true, but what does ‘recovered’ even mean? Although you may no longer experience any symptoms or side effects from COVID-19, your physical and mental health may never be the same. Even after testing negative, a study by The Lancet medical journal indicates that the virus can survive in a patient’s respiratory tract for 37 days, and hide in other parts of the body for years. Likewise, a study conducted by Krys Johnson, an epidemiologist, has shown that when treating medical professionals from a Wuhan hospital, traces of the virus could persist in the body for up to two weeks after symptoms had vanished. Moreover, getting COVID-19 does not make one immune and studies show there is a possibility of getting re-infected within a year. As well, symptoms remain even after a person has fully recovered from COVID-19. For instance, Dr. Boling, a primary care physician, has “seen people who have lost their sense of smell and taste and have never gotten it back.” Asthma, brain damage, and COVID syndrome, which are post-COVID symptoms, are some of the outcomes a patient may be more susceptible to after ‘recovering’ from COVID.

“It’s my life, and I can live how I want to.” Of course, it is your life, and you can live how you want to. However, in a situation as dire as a pandemic, it is not a matter of what can you do, but rather what you should do. Even though activities like going to parties, hanging out with friends, and eating out were once normal, they are no longer simple ordeals. Now a “small” party can lead to an outbreak, and enough outbreaks can lead to a city wide lockdown that shuts down businesses and people’s livelihoods. The North York General Hospital Assessment Center finds that the highest finds that the rate of positive cases of COVID-19 comes directly from 15-29 years old. At North York, 25% of 15-29 year olds that are tested, test positive. So, while teenagers and young millennials may fully recover from COVID-19, a full recovery does not ensure that there are no consequences to others. A rule can only be bent so much before it does not exist anymore. The next time you desperately wish to go to a party, think about whether that party is worth more than another person’s job or even their life.

The consequences of your actions trickle into the marginalized and disadvantaged communities of Toronto; ones that do not have the same medical resources that you may have. Doctors, community organizations, and public-health workers have long suspected that racialized people – especially those who are Black and South Asian – have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Research from Toronto Public Health has shown that despite making up 52% of the population, racialized people account for 83% of COVID-19 cases. This data reveals health inequities that have existed long before the pandemic, which will continue to exist if governments do not look to address the upstream causes.

“Racism essentially sets up whether you’re able to have a life in which you can protect yourself from risk for any disease, including COVID, or whether you are forced into exposing yourself to risk,” said Arjumand Siddiqi, the Canada Research Chair in population health equity.

Companies across the world are working tirelessly to create a vaccine and it would be simple-minded to believe that everyone would have equal access to it. Continuing to live in an individualistic manner puts others at risk; especially those that hold less privilege and have less access to medical resources.

Recently, on November 23, the Ontario government placed lockdown on the City of Toronto and Peel for at least 28 days. This marks the second time the province has issued a lockdown since the start of the pandemic. Under the grey zone category, no indoor organized public events or social gatherings will be allowed with members outside of your own household. As well, outdoor gatherings are limited to 10 people, as long as physical distancing is maintained. Restaurants will only be open for takeout, delivery, or drive-through, and essential retailers, such as grocery stores, will remain open at 50% capacity. Although this is the second time the city has been put under lockdown, it does not mean that we should take these guidelines any less seriously. Because we have had to follow these public health measures for a long time, it is inevitable that people will become less caring of the risks and regulations. Nevertheless, we must remember that each reckless action may have a ripple effect in spreading the virus.