116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
I had written two other rough drafts of columns before deciding to submit this one to my editor — one that addressed the frustrating reality of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ ban on mask mandates and the other that touched on colorism and multiracial identity politics through a sociological approach.
However, neither of them sat right with me in addressing the anxieties that came with the resurgence of COVID-19 and accompanying feelings of existential dread, crippling isolation and harrowing frustration.
As a journalist, my head feels as if it’s at war with itself, oscillating between the crisis of not being good enough and the crisis of doing too much. There is a responsibility to uncover the truth and inform the public of important events and issues so they can make educated decisions about their life and foster positive change based on the stories I cover. The problem, though, is that there is little to no common ground established between journalist and audience to secure a sense of trust in the information being disseminated.
Now, part of that skepticism toward the media is warranted, as there are outlets and platforms which spread misinformation intentionally or cover sensitive issues unethically, exploiting their subjects, among other things. However, it is also true that news media is a crucial resource for the public in providing information that can be understood easily as opposed to industry jargon and political corruption.
News coverage of COVID-19 created enough social pressure on government entities to efficiently roll out a safe and accessible vaccine for a disease that was killing 3,000 people a day at the height of the pandemic in January.
Despite the consistent media coverage and available resources, medicine and technology available to protect Iowans and Americans at large, members of the public — about half of the population in Iowa — have still not gotten vaccinated, refusing to not only protect themselves, but also to protect others from infection and the very real possibility of death.
According to the CDC, 99 percent of people dying of COVID-19 today are unvaccinated.
Cases are on the rise again, matching up with numbers seen before June. The brief reprieve of hope I had that things would return to a somewhat familiar normalcy in daily activities has quickly been plunged into hopelessness. I’m exhausted and, admittedly, my mental health and emotional well-being have taken a turn for the worst.
We are reentering this ignorant darkness in the decision some make to not get vaccinated and continue to put people at risk for some arbitrary, conservative-guided delusion that COVID-19 is a hoax and the government wants to target and take away people’s rights by trying to keep them from dying of a preventable and controllable illness.
In light of this resurgence, I hope that people can learn to think of others and find hope in the little things. I’ve found that making safe connections in person with the people I care about has helped immensely in coping with the reality that life may return to the restrictive isolation of 2020. I encourage people to make new connections and think about what it means to be a human in relation to other humans — what it means to be part of a community.
Please get vaccinated and take care of yourself.
Nichole Shaw is a Gazette editorial fellow. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org