- Susan Chamling
The Need to Unite: The Impact of Coronavirus on Public Perception [UCLA Students]
Updated: May 16, 2021
May 15, 2021 ⋅ 6:30 P.M ⋅ Blogger: Susan Chamling⋅ Editor: Guadalupe Sandoval⋅
Virtually everyone has been affected by COVID-19. The pandemic has drastically changed how we communicate and interact with one another during a time when we must be mindful of the threat being posed to public health. Quarantine has been a period of reflection for America, and with the Presidential election being one of the most tense political races in recent U.S. history, the coronavirus is one of the factors which will determine the future of the country.
We asked several students about how they believe this period has changed their own perceptions on politics, and how the government’s response has given rise to hardships and sacrifices for many people. One student responded “I’ve always felt that politics were important to people’s lives, especially with the underprivileged, but I never personally felt its direct impact before COVID. Now, the importance of a politician’s convictions [and policies] is much more clear to me as our government’s many failures have caused people in and outside of my family to lose jobs, be stuck in quarantine, and more”. Another student answered “I always felt very invested in politics and felt I should as an Asian American woman. I do hold certain privileges that shield me, but I always tried to... learn and get involved as much as I could.”
The nationwide problems of an insufficient medical system and the increasing homeless population have been undoubtedly exacerbated by the pandemic.
But COVID-19 did not create these issues, as they have been long standing yet neglected concerns.
Before the coronavirus, the United States was already grappling with a lack of accessible healthcare for underprivileged groups. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, 12.4% of Americans did not have a place to go for medical care. That is approximately 40 million people who did not have adequate access to healthcare prior to the pandemic. And with more than 12 million individuals currently unemployed, even more people will be left struggling to find not only a job, but also health insurance. The increase in the homeless population is another concern that will be worsened by the pandemic. Over 567,000 individuals are homeless, and the heightened severity of the housing crisis may evict tens of millions of people from their homes. The detrimental effects of the coronavirus are further amplified for marginalized and impoverished communities, and the need for an improved and equal healthcare system as well as a housing plan has been further emphasized.
Concerning the influence of government representatives on the public, a third student remarked:
“Seeing how the two sides of the aisle acted during the pandemic, it is more clear that the actions of prominent political figures can have a significant role in how supporters of a figure can act.”
The government officials we support are also the same individuals that we put into office, and who we choose to represent some of our own beliefs and initiatives. The escalation of COVID-19 has shattered the misconceptions some previously held, notions that caring only for the wellbeing of oneself and the wellbeing of those close to them is enough to defend against a disease that can harm anyone. In place of those ideas, people are realizing that if we are to stop this pandemic, we must be united in our efforts to protect everyone, and that means allocating more resources to the communities that need it most. For Election Day, Americans who were once decided for a certain candidate changed their vote based on the idea of bipartisan cooperation and the prioritization of public health and transparency.
In some ways, this shift in perspectives may not have come about if not for the pandemic, which has served as a reminder that political apathy, inept governance, and misinformation can be harmful. In regard to this, the first student we interviewed voiced “I feel that with a more competent government, I would not have felt these effects. I am glad to have felt them though, as I am now more aware [of] the future.”
And we should all be aware of the future. Because when the pandemic eventually winds down and a sense of normality has returned for some of us, we must remember that problems such as unemployment, homelessness, racism, and poverty are far from over.
Not until we utilize what privileges we have and constitutional rights we possess to fight against these inequalities and establish lasting progress for the whole country.
Disclaimer: Student names have been kept confidential to protect privacy.
About the Author
Susan Chamling is an undergraduate student at University of California - Los Angeles.