Bridging the COVID-19 divide
This guest editorial was written by the Alexandria Echo Press, a Forum Communications Co. newspaper.
One in three Minnesotans have lost friends because of disagreements over COVID-19 rules.
That’s just one of the bleak findings of a survey conducted by MyBioSource.com, a biotechnical products distribution company that questioned 3,442 people.
With pandemic fears ebbing – but still lingering as new mutations continue as a constant threat – now is the time to clear the slate and work together in our own communities, the state and the nation, to heal the divide.
It won’t be easy.
The survey showed that 61% think, if there were to be another pandemic, Americans would be more divided on ways of dealing with the virus in terms of related regulations.
A spokesperson for MyBioSource.com said, “When news first emerged about a deadly airborne virus that was quickly spreading around the world, one would have thought that any divisions would be cast aside, and Americans would unite to combat a common threat. Instead, what transpired was that COVID, and more specifically how to manage it, became a political dogfight, whereby even wearing a mask represented a political statement.”
And now, the company said, after 1 million U.S. deaths, months of squabbling over stimulus aid, street protests, vaccine mandates, chronic supply problems, compulsory mask wearing and enforced social distancing, two years of nation infighting has not moved the needle for almost half of Americans.
The survey found that overall, nearly half (47%) of Minnesotans said their opinions about COVID rules and regulations have remained the same.
However, the same study did reveal that “there was a slight shift towards supporting the official regulations and how the pandemic was managed – 28% stated that they are now more in agreement with the restrictions that were implemented than they were before, compared to 25% whose views have shifted the other way.” When averaged out, this represents a 2% overall swing towards supporting the rules that were imposed, the survey said.
MyBioSource noted that a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, explained that political polarization can become irreversible. Instead of uniting against a common enemy, “the threat itself becomes yet another polarizing issue.”
Besides losing friends, the survey showed how COVID has negatively impacted other aspects of people’s social lives:
- More than 1 in 3 people, 36%, purposefully avoid talking about COVID-related topics in social settings to avoid the risk of getting into arguments. The survey noted that these kinds of topics can become particularly divisive if members of the party feel particularly strongly about their view.
- Almost 1 in 3 people surveyed have become more distant with their friends over the past two years of the pandemic, due to disagreements over COVID rules and regulations.
“Having experienced such a huge-scale shift in daily routine, work, school and social behaviors, there were bound to be topics which people found contentious, with multiple opinions on rules and regulations affecting people’s everyday lives,” said MyBioSource.com. ‘It is interesting that such a significant portion of people have altered their views positively towards these topics since the start of the pandemic, which suggests that many are willing to comply more readily. This could have to do with things like the emergence of new scientific research throughout the pandemic; personal loss; or even individual cases, whereby people became aware of the harsh reality of the virus.”
Going forward, let’s find some common ground on fighting the pandemic, together. Instead of directing all of our energy contentiously debating whether masks work or whether the government is overstepping its authority in response to the crisis, let’s at least agree that a disease should not be wrecking friendships, dictating what we say in social settings or causing us to become more distant with others.