EDITOR’S COLUMN: COVID culture we shouldn’t dismiss

While the nerves of humanity may be collectively fried after nearly three years of living through a pandemic, COVID-19 brought some positives I already see slipping away just as fast as they came.

For starters, when infected with COVID-19, it’s not only encouraged but required we take time off when we get sick. For far too long prior to the pandemic, the mentality out there was to power through it. Then, we took a 180-degree turn, and any cold or flu symptom was nearly always an instant stay-home order. Just because nearly 70% of Americans are vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control, doesn’t mean we should stop caring about illness.

Yes, COVID-19 is an ugly illness that we should absolutely prevent the spread of, but why not other viruses too? The flu can be deadly to the immunocompromised and RSV to infants. Furthermore, in general, any sickness is not pleasurable to get, so why do we encourage and outright pressure people to work while they’re sick?

An October poll taken by OnePoll on behalf of Theraflu says that 62% of Americans admit to coming to work sick. Nobody benefits from that. Not co-workers, who could possibly pick up the virus, not the ill person, as they are not able to focus on recovery and treating their symptoms and not their company, as productivity suffers as the result of illness.

COVID-19 taught us the benefit of staying home to recuperate. We recover faster when we’re not actively working against recovery and we’re not transmitting viruses to those around us. The pandemic also brought us another great thing that helps with staying at home.

Home delivery and curbside pick-up existed before the pandemic, sure, but not in this mass. If you wanted to stay afloat during the pandemic, you likely needed to offer one of these services, whether company-created or app serviced. It also pushed services like DoorDash and GrubHub to expand into more cities than ever before, even reaching Big Rapids.

This set of services had so many unintentional benefits outside of slowing the spread. They are great time savers. No longer must you browse shelves aimlessly looking for what you need. Now, tap a few buttons in an app and you can drive up, in-store pickup or get delivered anything from fast food, to groceries, to cannabis.

This is also great for people with disabilities. Whether shopping is too much physically or mentally, or it places any barriers that make it an insurmountable task, you now have options like never before. Sure, I don’t love going to stores because I’m not a fan of crowds, but also because my visual limitations make in-store shopping a bit difficult sometimes. Now, I have the option to do my shopping via an accessible app and have it delivered, something I could only dream of as recently as my freshman year.

Finally, the pandemic brought us something I’m already quickly seeing slip away, easy access to content. Whether it be live events or movies also launching in theaters, these practices allowed more people than ever to consume modern expression. It’s great that we have the opportunity to see these things in-person again, but it’s not always feasible to do so.

Take the Taylor Swift Eras Tour, for instance. It’s estimated that there are just over four million total tickets for the tour. However, the Chair of Live Nation reports that over 14 million people tried to buy tickets for the tour. Now imagine if at least some of these concerts were also live-streamed. Sure, watching it isn’t quite the same as being there in-person, but it gives the nearly 10 million disappointed fans a chance to still take part in the action.

Movies released directly to streaming have its own set of benefits as well. Right off the top, not everywhere has a movie theater. Big Rapids had two prior to the pandemic, now the closest one is over 35 miles away. A journey that’s infeasible for a lot of students. Furthermore, I’d take watching a movie in the comfort of my own home any day.

While COVID-19 took so much from us, it also pushed us to find innovative solutions to problems we were very suddenly facing. Just because our case numbers are down and vaccination numbers are up, doesn’t mean we should abandon every change born out of the pandemic. We truly did move forward in a lot of ways.