As a Penn senior, I must admit I’m disappointed in the way this semester has turned out. I, like so many others, had great plans to make the most of my last months on campus. Our school’s athletes, actors, researchers, and students deserve such a better end.
As the former Editor-In-Chief of the Statesman, however, I cannot begin to express my disappointment in the publication’s latest article and the selfishness it promotes.
In summary, the article mourns Penn’s cancellation of classes as a major overreaction caused by President Trump’s seemingly correct distrust of China. It concludes that the coronavirus is comparable to a seasonal cold and that school should not have been cancelled.
Yes, all of us are right to be sad that our senior year will forever be cut short. We are right to be sad that we may never get the chance to say goodbye to friends and professors who impacted our lives. We are right to be sad that we will not be able to walk across the stage in a normal commencement ceremony this spring.
But not at the expense of reason.
The very nature of the coronavirus differentiates it from other diseases mankind has faced. It has a higher mortality rate than the flu in every country it has entered, with early estimates at around 1 percent. It is particularly dangerous for people older than 85 years, with around 10-27 percent of cases ending in death.
But most importantly, it takes the average person 2-14 days to demonstrate symptoms of the illness. Thus, our understanding of the growth of the virus is put on a lag. A friend of mine explained it well when he compared it to looking at a distant star — the time it takes for the light to reach your eye means that what you see is actually what it looked like years ago. So, if you think about it, any correct policy response to this virus should feel like an overreaction. After all, in many ways we are reacting to how the situation appeared two weeks ago.
All this means that we are right to take this sickness seriously. No, it is not the common cold. No, it is not the flu. And no, we, the Class of 2020, should not gather a crowd of over 10,000 for celebration this May, a crowd that would undoubtedly include elderly guests and others who are at high risk from around the world.
By now I’m sure everyone knows the goal of “flattening the curve” and what it is going to take to get there, so I won’t get into the weeds of logistic growth calculations or specific recommendations. All of those can be found in national publications and on the CDC website.
However, I will say the following: to those in my generation who trivialize this disease, it is time to grow up. To those who still party on the beach, statistically you will know someone who dies from the virus that your behavior is causing to spread. And to those who simply refuse to be inconvenienced by this global pandemic, I implore you to recognize the selfishness of your actions.
Now is the time for us to come together as a nation to protect the most vulnerable among us. As President John F. Kennedy once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”
Missing graduation this May is going to be terrible. Social distancing is not going to be easy. But if what we must endure for the coming months saves even one life, then it will be worth it.
DANIEL TANCREDI is a Wharton senior from Memphis, TN studying Finance and Management. He is the former Editor-In-Chief of the UPenn Statesman. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.