Culture Wars/Current Controversies

How we can combat coronavirus and political division at the same time (opinion)

By Julia A. Minson


If you are like me, you have had several encounters with friends, neighbors and relatives who, in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, behaved in some way that almost made your blood boil.

These could range from general assertions that we are “overreacting,” to concrete plans to take that vacation or hold that birthday party because “It’ll be ok.” This perspective violates the scientific consensus supported by most of the medical and public health community — and is contributing to putting lives at risk by helping to spread the pandemic.

Even people who wholeheartedly agree with the scientific consensus have sometimes responded in unhelpful and dangerous ways, including hoarding face masks, toilet paper and even guns.

What do you do when in the midst of a life-threatening, economy-destroying, terror-inducing public health crisis people around you seem to disregard their government — or behave in otherwise irrational ways?

Most responses I have seen involve condescending and ever-less-patient explanations of why the person in front of you is wrong; public shaming, often on social media, often in ALL CAPS; and gradual escalation into eye-rolling and raised voices. It doesn’t help that, according to a NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released on March 14, the attitudes and beliefs about coronavirus have become politicized: for example, while 68% of Democrats believe that coronavirus is a serious threat to the health of their family, only 40% of Republicans think so.


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