The 10th of September, while I was at work, my manager received a call from an associate reporting that she’d tested positive for COVID-19.
I was already an hour into my shift when my manager pulled me aside. The store wasn’t going to close, but there was going to be a sanitation team scheduled for the following Monday, a whole weekend away. Even so, I had four hours to go for that shift. And I decided to stay. When I got home, my brother had come down with a fever and a cough. I was certain he had it, and either I had given it to him, or he’d given it to me and I’d given it to my coworker.
Luckily, my brother’s test came back negative. Another associate at my store came back positive. Still, the store stayed open. I went back to work.
According to the New York Times, COVID-19 cases have reached record highs in the Midwest. While other parts of the country are on the decline, Missouri’s numbers are rising to levels not before seen in the state. A report written by Will Wright, Mitch Smith and Lazaro Gamio stated:
“Through Friday [Sept. 11], North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri and Iowa had added more recent cases per capita than all other states.”
It’s clear that, in the Midwest, we have not flattened the curve.
And yet, because we’ve been fortunate enough to not yet see the numbers New York, Texas, Florida or California have pulled, locals believe we do not need to take the pandemic seriously. And, unfortunately, this mentality holds true even at Missouri Western.
Missouri Western has taken fire from outside, and for good reason. The report of how many in our population had tested positive was not included in the weekly email all students receive, and outsiders noticed.
A TikTok by user alexisvigario8, an account with 90.8k followers, listed Missouri Western State University among other colleges “Accused of Hiding Covid [SIC] Cases.”
Locally, KQ2 news reported an instance involving one of our sororities, Alpha Sigma Alpha, wherein the young women seemed to be “poking fun” at the mandatory mask policy. Both the university and the sorority have issued explanations that the picture was taken before masks were mandatory on-campus.
Whether masks and social distancing were mandatory at that moment the picture was taken doesn’t matter. Whether the sorority was in compliance (or not) with campus policy does not stop COVID-19 from infecting new hosts. Wearing masks simply because we’re afraid of retribution is the lowest level of moral reasoning. We should wear masks because of the lives we could affect if we don’t wear masks. We should wear them because we’re not through this yet, because the numbers are rising and they could still hit a critical point.
Whether the college eventually sent out an email with the number of cases doesn’t matter. Every contact point that isn’t recorded, becomes a contact point somewhere else. Students showed up to class without the proper knowledge of the risk they were taking. They could not have been aware of the number of cases on the campus.
If we’re not going to care about the repercussions of our actions as they affect each other’s health, we could at least do it to save our reputation in the larger community. Maybe we can’t achieve the highest level of moral reasoning, to do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do. But maybe we can achieve the second highest: to do the right thing, because our community agrees it’s the right thing to do.