“Individual Responsibilities” is Ignorantly Ineffective


Missouri Governor Mike Parson hands a packet of Kool-Aid that reads “Missouri Doesn’t Need Stay-At-Home” to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Parson believes that the disparity between the number of cases in urban areas versus rural areas in Missouri is evidence that a statewide stay-at-home order is unnecessary. Photo illustration by Jackson Estwanick.

It might seem like forever ago, but it was only four weeks ago Friday, March 13, that President Donald Trump declared a national state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, with Missouri Governor Mike Parson also declaring a state of emergency later the same day. 

Then, Missouri only had four people who tested positive for coronavirus. Now, as of 2:00 p.m. Friday, April 3, there are 2113 cases and 19 people have died, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Missouri is ranked 20th on the list of new cases in the last three weeks in U.S. states and territories. On the national scale, the U.S. has surpassed every country in the world by more than 100,000 cases each.  

Despite all the compelling evidence that the U.S. COVID-19 outbreak is out of control and shows no signs of stopping, Parson announced on Wednesday that he didn’t plan to issue a statewide stay-at-home order. Although 38 states have already told their citizens to stay home, the Missouri state government remains reluctant to do the same. Parson’s throw-in-the-towel like excuse illustrates a clear misunderstanding in our country that has exacerbated the pandemic even further. 

“It’s difficult to make a blanket policy for the state of Missouri,” Parson said during his daily press briefing. “It’s going to come down to individual responsibilities.” 

Parson said the disparity between the number of cases in urban areas versus rural areas was the reasoning behind the innaction. Currently about half of the cases in Missouri are in the St. Louis area. Be that as it may, without a statewide stay-at-home order, cases will not only continue to explode in urban populations, but also spread to rural populations. The directive requiring people to practice social distancing and banning gatherings of more than ten people clearly doesn’t work. Our state government must accept that “individual responsibilities” don’t keep us safe.

Many want to blame members of other age groups for not practicing social distancing. A CBS News clip of Brady Sluder, a college student who was partying on a Miami beach, went viral because he said he wouldn’t stop partying to social distance. Older people were particularly irritated by this comment, and who could blame them? It was a very irresponsible thing to say. So in typical bandwagon fashion, adults jumped on social media to chastise the younger generation. Yet in my experience, when I go to the supermarket, a drive thru or a park, a balanced number of every age group is still unnecessarily going out in public and not social distancing. People of all ages don’t seem to understand the gravity of the situation, or are choosing to ignore it. 

That’s why this situation cannot be about “individual responsibilities,” because when the government allows the majority of people to make choices based on wants instead of needs, on opinions instead of the best information available, COVID-19 spreads and humans die. The majority of us have the ability to stay home during this time, but because many don’t feel immediately at risk, they don’t make responsible choices. People of lower socioeconomic statuses who have less access to healthcare, transportation and food are at a higher risk because they don’t have the choice to stay home. Elders and the immunocompromised are at a higher risk because just one point of exposure to the virus could end their life. Doctors, firefighters, police officers and countless other professions are at a higher risk because they have to be in public every day to serve others. COVID-19 is not an “us-versus-them” issue. It is an “us” issue. Every person must consider themselves in the same position as someone who is at a higher risk than them.

Parson is setting a poor example that causes him and the people of Missouri to look like fools. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a statement this morning that he doesn’t understand why every state hasn’t issued a stay at home order. Parson needs to stop drinking the Kool-Aid that Missourians are safe and make decisions that save lives.