The Atlantic

The Shift Americans Must Make to Fight the Coronavirus

We are stubbornly hung up on a damaging idea of self-reliance.
Source: Cyndi Monaghan / Getty

As COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, spreads in the United States, it is becoming clear that America’s individualistic framework is deeply unsuited to coping with an infectious pandemic. Right now, one of the most important things Americans can do is deploy measures like social distancing and self-quarantining, even if they do not feel sick and are not at risk of the worst effects of the disease, in order to “flatten the curve” (epidemiologists’ term for slowing down the natural progression of an outbreak). This requires a radical shift in Americans’ thinking from an individual-first to a communitarian ethos—and it is not a shift that is coming easily to most, especially in the absence of clear federal guidelines.

[Read: When keeping your distance is the best way to show you care]

This month, along with about; some even pointed out that the danger was “only” to the elderly or people with preexisting conditions. Others subtly shamed those who were expressing concern. They joked about “freak-outs” and “germaphobes.”

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