Today, I attended online classes all day and then curled up with the new Bob Woodward book, Rage. Rage is what I feel about the mishandling of COVID that led to all of my classes being online.

Relatively speaking, I’ve got it good. I am financially secure, and I’m not at high risk for COVID. Of course, even a relatively good life right now is still impacted by the pandemic. I live in near total isolation, and university hiring freezes have devastated the academic job market. If it’s still bad in a year, I’ll be in trouble.

Also, I’m single and at an age where a year of quarantine might mean I don’t meet the love of my life before I’m too old to have children. Still, compared to others, I can’t complain. I am alive and safe.

My colleagues and students are not all equally lucky. This semester, the school brought the students back, COVID rates spiked, and the school immediately canceled in person classes for two weeks. They’ve already canceled spring break.

A few dorms are quarantined. Some students are attending school remotely from other countries, and their classes are all in the middle of the night for them. Whatever college experience our undergraduates dreamed of, this isn’t it.

My own personal mental health strategy during COVID has been to block out most information that isn’t immediately relevant to me. Whatever is happening in the world, however bad it is, I need to focus on putting one foot in front of the other and doing the next right thing.

If I’m focused on writing the next lesson plan or answering the next email, I’m not despairing about nearly 200,000 dead from COVID in the U.S. or the terrible job market. I’m grateful for my solitary walks to the park, the pint of Ben and Jerry’s in my freezer, and my cat. My world has become very small.

I keep myself going by forcing myself to ignore the daily reality that we wouldn’t be here if our leaders had acted more responsibly. Bob Woodward documents and reveals that Donald Trump knew early on — in January and February — that COVID was going to be as bad as it is, and he didn’t take action.

Back then, there was still time to prevent the disaster we’ve been living in since March and the terrible choices we all must make: trading off between the economy, seeing friends and family, and attempting to stay healthy. \

How many people have died because of this incompetent leadership?

How many more people have lost jobs because of it? How many students couldn’t attend college? How much suffering has this country faced because our president was told early on about an impending disaster and didn’t take the steps he should have to prevent it?

Given the spread of COVID around the world, it’s unrealistic to assume that early action could have entirely prevented an outbreak in the U.S., but how much better off could we have fared if we got an earlier start, with a coordinated effort from the top?

Instead we got a president speculating about injecting bleach, promoting unproven medications as a cure, telling the American people it’s like the flu, and spreading anti-Chinese racism. I’m willing to do my part to get through this pandemic with the rest of the nation, but if we’re doing our part, our leaders should do theirs too.

Four years ago Trump told us we’d be sick of winning if he was president. The U.S. has the most COVID cases in the world and I am sick of winning.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

OtherWords commentaries are free to re-publish in print and online — all it takes is a simple attribution to OtherWords.org. To get a roundup of our work each Wednesday, sign up for our free weekly newsletter here.

Jill Richardson

OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is pursuing a PhD in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.