Don’t get complacent about COVID-19

STATE AFFAIRS: As the COVID-19 case count rises, Californians must recommit to being as safe as possible

Illustration of people walking at a distance, shielding the coronavirus with barriers emitting from their phone.
Genesis Cruz/Staff

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This week, Alameda County and 40 other counties moved back into the purple tier of California’s COVID-19 framework, signifying widespread infection. And although COVID-19  cases are climbing across California and the United States, people are getting complacent. 

Over the past two weeks, the United States has hit higher and higher benchmarks of infections, with 145,000 daily infections Nov. 11 and 180,000 just three days later. Yet complacency has become just as infectious as COVID-19. A group of California state senators and assemblymembers recently jetted to Hawaii for a conference, and with Thanksgiving looming more ill-advised travel is unfortunately on the way. 

But we should not be hitting new infection highs on an almost daily basis. We should not be lapsing in our pandemic protections. We should not be forgetting that this is still a life-or-death situation for many, including front-line health care workers at overwhelmed hospitals still swimming in COVID-19 cases. In our day-to-day lives we must ponder if we are being pandemic-conscious and reevaluate how we can improve. 

If you are traveling for Thanksgiving, make a plan to get tested before you go and after you return, especially if you are traveling to an area with higher case counts than Berkeley. Traveling means potentially exposing your loved ones to the virus — minimize your risk of infection for them. 

UC Berkeley also has a role to play in encouraging students to remain COVID-19-conscious. The campus created Thanksgiving guidelines, but these were announced Oct. 22 and have since faded from memory. Campus should more strongly broadcast this information by resending this email, perhaps multiple times, and encouraging other campus authorities to disseminate this information, such as through CalCentral and bCourses.

But students must also take their role in maintaining public health seriously. As young people, most of us are not in the demographics most threatened by the virus, but we certainly do interact with and care about people who are at risk. Tightening social circles, getting tested regularly and abiding by public health guidelines to protect the masses is a social responsibility.

As part of that responsibility, all students — both at UC Berkeley and across the UC system — should opt into California COVID Notify, a contact-tracing pilot program. Using a random, anonymous Bluetooth identifier, the program alerts users when a positive COVID-19 test is reported. The program prioritizes privacy as well as public health; UC students should opt into the pilot to help the program test its technology and work out its kinks so it can be rolled out statewide.

We all have to recommit to being the safest we can be. Get tested. Opt into CA Notify. Wear your mask. Cases are spiking for a reason — don’t let it be you.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the fall 2020 opinion editor, Katherine Shok.