Opinion | Individualism is why COVID-19 is still a problem

Our national worship of freedom has led us to forget that our freedoms can harm others.


Jenna Galligan

Photo Illustration by Jenna Galligan

Hannah Pinski, Opinions Columnist

We are reaching the end of the year, and COVID-19 is still dominating our lives. Hospitals are overwhelmed,  cases are still spiking, and lives are still being lost.

So why is it getting worse instead of better? Why, months later, can’t we get control of the virus despite the fact that America was ranked by the Global Health Security Index as the top country to deal with a pandemic?

Here’s the reason why: America values individualism too much.

Lack of government response because of individualism and some people’s decision to choose personal freedom have cost the lives of others.

America has always taken pride in its freedom and emphasis on personal rights. However, we have taken this value and somehow twisted it into an excuse for lack of empathy and compassion. This has become an issue for both government and citizens.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ refusal to take adequate action has contributed to Iowa’s outbreak. The CDC clearly states that people need to wear masks because it helps stop the spread. A mandate wasn’t put in place until she decreed one with many exceptions in November when we were months into the pandemic.

People still refuse to wear a mask and have thrown fits. Some claim they “don’t like being told what to do and it’s their choice.” I may be the only one who thinks this, but that’s pretty selfish. I don’t know how someone can choose individual right to not wear a face covering over protecting the lives of others.

There isn’t even an outline for workplaces. It was left up to them on how to handle COVID-19 measures.

The choice to let workplaces have that freedom instead of taking the safer route of creating a clear and consistent plan is why Iowa Tyson Food managers have been suspended because of lawsuits. It’s part of the reason why they were possibly allowed to get away with encouraging workers to come in sick, which ultimately spread the virus to over 1,000 workers and someone’s death.

However, it’s not just our government that is causing the problem. It’s the fact that some people have the mentality of thinking that these guidelines are somehow taking away their freedom. No one’s goal in creating these guidelines was to rob personal choice. It’s about keeping others safe, and it’s sad and disgusting that it has gotten twisted into personal freedom.

I have seen this mentality with some of my peers who are going out to parties. During the election, our president’s choice to host large rallies that promoted this idea is linked to causing 30,000 cases. We have no national plan, and some of us are making choices that endanger the lives of others.

Has this mentality been promoted by our leaders? Yes, but in a way, we also have the choice whether or not to follow it.

Hospital workers are struggling. Families’ hearts are being broken over losing the loss of a loved one and not being able to say goodbye. We need to stop and think of what personal freedom has become. We, as well as our government, have to put an end to valuing individualism to the point where it justifies lack of empathy and making choices that hurt others.

We have to start taking proper action and precautions, but the only way is if our mindsets change. To those of you who value your freedom so much, I am begging you to make use of it and make the choice to choose empathy.

Choosing compassion is the scientifically and morally correct decision. Without it, we’re not going this pandemic under control.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.