Students weigh in: How coronavirus is exposing problems in USPhoto by WikimediaCoronavirus is exposing a lot of system-level problems, including lack of available free childcare and healthcare, among other things.
Stuck at home, in the midst of a global pandemic, I’ve found the time to rewatch movies and TV shows from all the way back in middle school. One movie was "Catching Fire," part two of The Hunger Games series, and there’s a certain scene where one character, Beetee, turns to Katniss and says, “There’s always a flaw in the system."
The flaw he was referring to was a small chink in a forcefield that separated the gamemakers from the tributes. The reason this forcefield was so noticeable was that the lights and holograms around it were flickering — the forcefield was sucking up too much energy, leaving everything else too weak to function properly.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is like that forcefield: It shows us where there is a flaw in the system, what flickers and leaves us in darkness. We have focused so much on this pandemic — money, thoughts, fears and prayers — and not without reason. But this panic has both unearthed disturbing issues in the U.S. and left us defenseless to other attacks against our very rights.
Alexis Simmons, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, and Allison Eisenberg, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year, shared their concerns in the time of COVID-19 with The Daily Targum. The two had a lot to say about the effects of COVID-19 on the world.
Simmons made the point that “We’re able to see the effects of how fast the system was able to change.” She went on to explain that homeless people have been given shelter, low-level prisoners released for the sake of their health and workers allowed to be home with their families. These accommodations were not made before COVID-19, but were desperately needed — homelessness in New Brunswick certainly is not a new issue. “Most systems just allow people to struggle," Simmons said.
When asked, Simmons expressed that she wasn’t hopeful these changes would stick after the pandemic passes, but she did note that if anything, the widespread issue has united us. “The virus doesn’t attack based on religion, based on race. It can attack anyone,” she said, and due to this, we’re all in the same boat.
Eisenberg took a slightly different point of view. She believes that the COVID-19 has highlighted “a lot of issues like privilege and differences in treatment for people who are wealthier versus people who are working class or lower class.” Some people can’t afford to work from home because they don’t have the savings to be temporarily unemployed, and those people will be most affected.
Eisenberg put it best when she said, “Testing is just another way of highlighting that privileged celebrities and people who are wealthy are just able to get things that are needed a lot quicker than anybody else's.”
She’s right. The US is severely behind on testing for COVID-19, which handicaps its ability to address the pandemic properly.
Eisenberg also addressed celebrities’ responses to the crisis, criticizing the videos they’ve made from their million-dollar mansions. "It's just a little ignorant to what's going on, when they think things like that can solve problems in the world,” she said. While many people do share that sentiment, some believe that celebrities sharing their own experiences raises morale. Eisenberg agrees in part with that sentiment but argues that celebrities could be doing more, like donating to hospitals in need of masks and ventilators.
With all the issues that have cropped up during this unprecedented pandemic, it’s easy to feel hopeless at home and unable to help. The most we can do is hope for each others’ safety and keep looking out for a light at the end of the tunnel.