OPINION: ‘COVID-shaming’ is unacceptable

Joy Webb

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The U.S. alone has had 28.1 million COVID-19 cases. It is very likely by now that you or someone you know contracted this virus; after all, we have been alive during a global pandemic for almost a year now.  

     Unless you are extremely privileged and can actually quarantine or have no contact with others whatsoever, then you are unavoidably exposed to the virus. Whether it is at a job where you work in order to earn a living or even in the grocery store, there are many different ways that people are getting COVID-19.  

     Last week, I had COVID-19. I am unsure how I got it, since I only go to the grocery store and the gym for the most part; I’m rarely exposed to other people. When someone I felt was a close friend blamed me for getting COVID-19 and guilted me about it, I realized that I was not the only person who had experienced this kind of “COVID-shaming.”  

     The person who shamed me was not able to party with other friends that weekend, since they had been around me, and I was the one to blame. We should be blaming the virus itself, not the people who become sick with it.  

     I feel like the stigma of having an STD is similar to having COVID-19; in both instances, you are being judged for your suspected actions. Whether it’s the belief that you did not wear a condom, or you did not wear a mask, you are being hardcore judged and blamed.  

     One of the most alarming, and often invisible, effects of COVID-19 is on mental health.  

     According to JAMA, more than 2 in 5 U.S. residents report struggling with mental or behavioral health issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, including anxiety, depression, increased substance use and suicidal thoughts. This data is also supported by new findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

     Instead of making others feel disposable when they become sick with this contagious and out of control virus, maybe we should be there for them to help them get healthy. If a friend gets sick with COVID-19, offer to make them dinner or go for a grocery run for their essentials. Offer to grab them over-the-counter medications to help with symptoms or anything else that might help them cope. Ask how they are doing and feeling instead of blaming them for getting it. 

     Isolating is one of the hardest parts of having COVID-19. FaceTime your friends if they are sick or give them a quick phone call. Check in on them as they are alone for these two weeks, because being sick and lonely can exacerbate mental health problems.  

     This pandemic is not about you or the party you wanted to go to. No one asked to get COVID-19, or for there to be a deadly, contagious virus that changed our lives as we knew them. We are all in this together, so we might as well not be assholes to each other for getting sick when it is out of our control.  

     We need to be kind to each other right now more than ever. Mental health is at an all-time low, and most everyone I know is struggling. Don’t be a dick and make people who you should care about feel guilt and shame for being sick. Maybe you should be more worried about your sick friend and their well-being more than you are worried about getting to go out and party.  

     This experience is already upsetting and traumatic enough without making people feel terrible for contracting a highly contagious and widespread virus during a global pandemic. It is not your fault. It is their fault for being selfish. “COVID-shame” needs to stop. 

Feature Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash