Opinion | Endangering Others by Flouting Covid Guidelines

To the Editor:

Re “Pandemic Fatigue, Meet Pandemic Anger” (Debatable newsletter, Opinion, nytimes.com, Dec. 8):

Spencer Bokat-Lindell focuses on the emotional aspects of our pandemic experience: psychological fatigue, anger, shame. Emotions are complicated. Viruses, on the other hand, are simple. They invade and recruit, wherever and whenever the opportunity arises. And opportunity is driven by human behavior.

Everywhere that large groups of humans have gotten together in small, enclosed spaces without protective equipment, they have created opportunity, and sure enough, the virus has done what it does. Journalists have done us a tremendous disservice by often failing to clearly distinguish human behavior from virus behavior and who is responsible for what.

There will be no “dreaded winter virus surge.” What there will be is a human holiday travel and festivity surge. The behavior of the virus won’t change the slightest bit. It is the human behavior that will be responsible for the tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.

We need to stop talking about the virus as if it were a sentient enemy, and stop treating our fellow humans as if there were some psychological excuse for their irresponsible, potentially homicidal behavior. We shouldn’t have to shame “those who flout pandemic safety guidance”; we should be able to dial 911. Behavior that endangers the lives of others should simply be prohibited.

David Berman
New York

To the Editor:

Re “How They Broke Quarantine, and the Price They Paid” (news article, Dec. 11):

As I read your article on various quarantine breakers around the world and the penalties they faced, one comment from the hungry Australian craving butter chicken stood out: “‘I have to risk my life to go to work, but I can’t risk my own life to get takeaway,’ he said. ‘That’s a bit unfair.’”

And that, in a nutshell, is the problem with getting people to adhere to mask mandates and the rest: They see it only as affecting their own lives, not the lives of anyone else. If health and government officials want to succeed in getting more people to wear masks, social distance, quarantine and get the vaccine, they need to somehow change the message to get individuals to understand that their “personal decision” doesn’t affect just them.

I know it’s hard to get people to “rally ’round the flagpole” when the common threat is an unseen virus that many government leaders are downplaying for political theater, but that’s what must be done. Perhaps more articles along with some public service announcements showing how Nurse A attending a wedding led to the death of Grandma Z, or how Biker B brought Covid-19 home from his rally instead of a souvenir bobblehead?

Katherine Tucker
Biloxi, Miss.

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