Lloyd Kao /The Highlander

A new variant of the coronavirus was recently found in South Africa, and it is already being characterized as more of a risk than the variant found previously in England.  The U.S. needs to be the most alarmed when it comes to the new variant as the country has some of the highest numbers of the original coronavirus cases. In fact, the UK variant has already made its way into the US and in California. Of course, lockdowns in the U.S. have proven to be a failure due to pure ignorance and the selfishness of anti-maskers and others. Nevertheless, America must learn from its past mishandlings of the virus and do better if they ever expect 2021 to return to pre-COVID-19 life. 

Lawmakers have a bad habit of listening to a misinformed public in a time of crisis. As a result, whenever a small bit of progress is made against slowing the spread of the virus, people see this as a sign to roll back lockdown guidelines and reopen everything. Too soon, there have been reopenings of restaurants, shopping malls and movie theaters and consequently, people have paid the price with a case spike in their counties. It is important that Americans learn from their repeated mistakes and make sure that even if progress is made, it does not warrant them to stop active prevention altogether. If anything, Americans need to realize that in order to protect each other, lockdowns need to be more strict with little to no wiggle room for people to make excuses as to why they are not social distancing. 

There needs to be a mandate that prohibits restaurants and retail from opening their doors for the duration of the healing and vaccination process. Additionally, all outdoor lounge areas need to be closed. All too often, I have seen people get their takeout food and eat at these seating areas, which totally defeats the purpose of social distancing and staying home. Furthermore, there is no reason for shopping malls to have their doors open at all. With lines stretching on forever outside of stores like Bath and Body Works, the likelihood of someone asymptomatic spreading the virus to others is too high and not worth a nice candle. If people have the time and patience to wait outside of a store in a line for hours, then they have the time to shop online from the comfort and safety of their homes. 

Along with lockdown restrictions, there should be stricter travel restrictions. After all, the reason that new variants keep popping up in multiple countries is because people feel the need to take vacations during a pandemic. This is extremely selfish to those who are hooked up to ventilators fighting for their lives and those who have to suffer at home because ICUs are at max capacities. Hospitals are having to use waiting rooms and gift shops to treat patients, yet people are still traveling to other countries and spreading germs to others. Limiting travel will slow the spread of new variants immensely. Other than emergencies people should not be planning their next trip to the Caribbean at this time. 

Choosing to go out and shop, eat or travel is not worth continuing this never-ending pandemic. Even more disappointing is that too many people are choosing to be performative by preaching about social distancing, but when it comes to celebrating holidays or birthdays, everything seems to go out the window. Those who chastise others for seeing friends and family without making sure everyone is tested during a pandemic are the same ones who try to justify their own selfish actions with petty reasoning and are only contributing to the prolonging of the virus. This mentality is very dangerous, especially when it comes to younger people. New variants of the virus will only slow down the progress that is being made and yet, people fail to recognize the part they are playing in all of this.

For once, Americans need to think about others instead of just themselves. We should only be optimistic about the future if we are willing to put in the work to make things happen. With vaccines rolling out and a new administration willing to take the pandemic seriously, 2021 might truly be a time for healing but that will only happen if people do their part.

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