Choose safety as a deadly winter approaches


Avery Vang

Though recent COVID-19 vaccine results have been promising, we must remain vigilant this winter. These next few months will be the deadliest of the pandemic, and we must make wise decisions in order to ensure the protection of all.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, the lingering question on everyone’s minds has been, when will we get our normal lives back? Donald Trump initially said that our lives would be normal by Easter. Easter turned into the summer and the summer eventually turned into the fall. Yet today the answer to this lingering question seems even more unclear. With more than 247,000 COVID-related deaths in the United States thus far, and a deadly winter on the horizon, we must remain vigilant and safe in the battle against this pandemic.

According to the University of Washington, the COVID-19 death toll in the United States could increase from 247,000 to 390,000 by Feb. 1 — almost 400,000 American lives. To put this number into perspective, nearly 405,000 Americans were killed during World War II, according to The Washington Post. The COVID-19 pandemic is its own type of war, one we are losing quite miserably.

Earlier this very month, the United States set multiple records for new COVID-19 positive cases. On Nov. 13 alone, there were over 180,000 new COVID-19 cases in the United States. Before November, the rate of new daily COVID-19 cases had barely peaked over 70,000. The “tough winter” Dr. Anthony Fauci warned us about back in early October has already arrived.

The already alarmingly high number of COVID-19 cases will continue to rise over the coming months, prolonging our return to a normal livelihood. Even with promising vaccine results from Pfizer and Moderna, it is unlikely that this vaccine will be widely available to Americans this winter. In a recent interview with CNN anchor Jake Tapper, Dr. Anthony Fauci claimed that a vaccine could be widely available to Americans by April at the earliest. The numbers and science are stacked against us, and that is why we all need to choose safety this winter in order to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our neighbors.

In recent months, the CDC has recognized that COVID-19 can be spread through aerosols within a closed room. Aerosols refer to the suspension of tiny particles or droplets in the air. Since COVID-19 can be spread through aerosols, the virus can survive in a room over a prolonged period of time, which allows it to potentially affect those in a room, even if they are not in the close presence of others.

As the weather grows colder, gatherings that were formerly held outdoors will transition to an indoor setting. However, indoor gatherings this winter will be cesspools of the coronavirus and significant sources of infection. This holiday season, families will likely need to make the difficult decision to cancel in-person family gatherings.

Is a large Thanksgiving with an extended family really worth it this year? Is cutting an overcooked and overstuffed turkey amongst family worth the risk of exposing a grandparent to the coronavirus? Is the joy of children’s faces as they open presents from distant cousins more important than the life of a family member with a pre-existing condition?

The answer is no. The coronavirus does not take a day off. The virus itself does not discriminate. We are all at risk.

The coronavirus will continue to take a toll on our lives this winter. However, if we prioritize our safety, as well as that of others, we can significantly lower the projected death rate. The University of Washington report also indicates that if all Americans wear masks this winter, around 75,000 American lives can be saved. Public safety and health measures are the best way to ensure the safety of our fellow neighbors, our families and our essential workers.

This winter is the optimal time for us to band together and aspire to help the greater good. The pandemic will loom large this winter, but our choices can effectively help us inch closer back to normality while also saving precious lives.