We’ve all heard the saying that ignorance is bliss, but what about during a global health crisis?
Throughout this pandemic, college students have been dealt an especially unfair hand. While most of us aren’t physically being affected as severely as other age groups, we have the responsibility of keeping the virus from spreading to someone who may not be as lucky. Some students have chosen to stay home to avoid getting sick and infecting their families. Others have stayed on campus and have continued to do some not-so-distanced social distancing, all while broadcasting videos and pictures of crowded parties and social gatherings with not a single mask in sight.
I’ve been living at home in Tampa for the last few semesters and taking classes virtually. However, the constant reminders on social media that people my age are partying despite COVID-19 has made my choice to live at home even more difficult.
A few months ago, my parents finally allowed me to start working outside of the house after several months of strict quarantine procedures in my household. Since then, I’ve been working around twenty-five hours a week at my local Starbucks.
Working there has been great, since I can be social with my customers and coworkers, spend some time outside of the house, and of course, make some money. One of the best parts of working there has to be how seriously our store is taking the pandemic: Starbucks employees are required to wear masks and take orders from behind protective glass. Most importantly, we are not permitted to allow anyone in our store unless they’re masked.
With all of these precautions in place, including a sign on the door explaining our mandatory mask mandate, our store frequently encounters unmasked people. Most of the time people accept the mask we keep for such occasions behind the register, however, some start to argue with us, even going as far as threatening to sue our store and cursing at my manager. You’ve seen the videos of ‘anti-maskers’ storming through department stores and restaurants on social media.
That’s my reality as a food industry employee.
It saddens me that these situations are no longer as shocking to me as much as they used to be.
With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ recent Super Bowl victory and celebratory boat parade downtown, I’ve noticed that people are becoming more and more relaxed with social distancing and are neglecting their masks, despite the consistent warnings and guidelines from the CDC. Young people are no longer the only ones who seem to think they are invincible.
It’s exhausting living in a constant state of fear and anxiety, but not taking the necessary precautions are only going to prolong the pandemic, and make things more difficult for those like myself, who are trying to work outside of home.
According to Florida’s Covid-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard, as of February 19, we have surpassed 1.84 million coronavirus cases, with 29,474 total deaths. In Gainesville alone, there have been 22,004 cases. But with the facts and information printed so clearly in front of us, why is it that we can’t agree to stop partying, attending indoor gatherings, and going out to our local Starbucks without a mask?
The short answer: ignorance. It’s just as contagious, and the symptoms can be highly dangerous for every age group.
Fortunately, normalcy is on the horizon as vaccine distribution in Florida has been expanded to Walmart, Winn-Dixie, and Publix locations. Unfortunately, the vaccine distribution process has moved forward unbearably slow and virus precautions are still going to be necessary even after vaccination. Only time will tell how our nation will handle these crucial few months to come.
It’s important that we continue to act responsibly and follow the guidelines presented by those who know best.
I am urging everyone to wear their masks and maintain social distancing whenever they must go out, if not for themselves, for people like myself who must go out during this pandemic to work and be at risk. Ignorance may be bliss, but in this case, it is also deadly.
Grace Stoler is a third-year UF student double majoring in political science and journalism.