Home #FocusFocus Democracy 2020 #FOCUSDEMOCRACY: How A Worldwide Pandemic Became a Political Issue

#FOCUSDEMOCRACY: How A Worldwide Pandemic Became a Political Issue

by Drew Mumich

As the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to affect millions of Americans after over six months, there still remains a political stigma attached to the virus.

President Donald Trump was quoted by The New York Post on Feb. 28, 2020, expressing conflicting feelings surrounding the virus.

“They tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia — that didn’t work out too well. They tried the impeachment hoax. That was a perfect conversation. And this is the new hoax,” President Trump said.

An enforced quarantine began at the end of March 2020, putting in effect a strict stay-at-home order, along with other policies introduced by state legislatures across the nation. These policies spanned from requiring people to social distance, wear masks and to follow the stay-at-home order to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Tamera Leech, associate professor of the department of public health at Montclair State University, believes that the turning point of the virus was face coverings becoming mandatory in public spaces.

“In terms of [COVID-19], I think the tipping point was when we finally got something that was an easy observable shorthand, that could tell us, to be a representation of people’s attitudes and beliefs, and that was mask-wearing,” Leech said.

As explained in a Gallup survey from July of 2020, 44% of U.S. adults say they always wear a mask when outside their homes. At the same time, three out of 10 adults report wearing masks less often, including 11% saying “sometimes,” 4% saying “rarely” and 14% saying “never.”

Leech continued to share her beliefs on mask-wearing, expressing the representation she feels lies behind it.

“It’s not the act of wearing a mask, it’s the symbol behind it,” Leech said. “It symbolizes strength, it symbolizes freedom, and the people who wear the mask, they aren’t just doing it for scientific reasons. They are doing it to symbolize what they hold dear.”

Catheryne Rincon, a senior biology major, explains that some people she has encountered do not want to wear a mask.

“I understand the problems that people have but there are ways to protect yourself,” Rincon said. “I work in retail and there are just some people who don’t want to wear a mask. They don’t have a valid reason, they don’t have a health problem, they just don’t want to wear a mask.“

As explained in an opinion piece featured on USA Today by Eitan Hersh, an associate professor of political science at Tufts University, and Dr. Daniel Horn, a population health implementation expert, COVID-19 has shown how policy, politics and health are tied together.

“We need policies that facilitate mask-wearing and free mask distribution to vulnerable communities. We need adequate personal protective equipment for all health care workers. We need the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration to remain apolitical. And we need a national testing and contact tracing strategy,” Hersh and Horn wrote.

Timothy Nuzzeti, a freshman music education major, said that politics are ingrained in every part of American culture.

“It’s inherent,” Nuzzeti said. “Class, race, politics. It’s embedded into America itself. This country was founded on inequality with race, inequality with class, so we have to have these conversations.”

As the election approaches, political theories will become more frequent. As far as COVID-19 is concerned, the fall may indicate a different direction on future behavior.

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