Pro/Con: Should MoCo Move Into Phase III?

The Coronavirus pandemic continues to impact everyone across the state. As citizens face rising cases and state- and countywide restrictions on day-to-day activities are tightening, many Americans find themselves uncertain as to whether any plans to move into Phase Three are plausible. Will reopening now be beneficial to the people than locking down again, or will it result in drawbacks? Is it safe? Is it necessary to take certain health risks? There are pros and cons to every move our state government makes during these unprecedented times, and here’s our breakdown.

Pro:

As we know, COVID-19 has been our worst nightmare. It has affected pretty much everything — especially the economy. Some people think we should move into Phase Three, while others disagree. Moving into Phase Three does not mean opening up or going back to normal immediately. Reopening would be slow-paced and we would only be reopening places such as movie theaters, museums, religious facilities, etc. “On Tuesday, Hogan said movie theaters and live entertainment venues can reopen at 50% capacity, or up to 100 people at indoor venues or 250 people at outdoor venues” all this including health and safety guidelines. Also “Retail shops, churches and other houses of worship can increase their capacity from 50% to 75%.” These are just a few examples of what would happen moving into Phase Three. We wouldn’t move into Phase Three immediately, we would just likely continue to modify.

It’s commonly thought that if we reopen and move into Phase Three, we’d be putting more people at risk. But, we can move into Phase Three safely and with caution. We could take safety precautions when reopening certain places. We could continue to wear our masks when reopening. We could control the number of people in an area, and we could continue the same safety practices that we have now. And let’s be real, we don’t know when we will truly get “back to normal” after this whole pandemic. So, why should we be held captive by this pandemic?

If you want to stay safe and take extra precautions then you can remain indoors or avoid certain places. And if you are not going to follow the safety precautions for Phase Three reopenings, then simply stay home and avoid putting others at risk.

Furthermore, reopening certain things would also be a great way to provide a distraction from everything that has been happening. We’ve been forced to keep a six foot distance from those we love all while having to deal with fear and stress. According to the Washington Post, recent data has shown a difference in reported depression and anxiety since the beginning of the pandemic. A federal emergency hotline,  “Substance abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, for people in emotional distress registered a more than 1,000 percent increase in April compared to the same time last year. It also mentions that the effects of mental health on others saying it “could further harm the economy as stress and anxiety debilitate some workers and further strain the medical system as people go to emergency rooms with panic attacks, overdoses and depression.” 

While we wait for a vaccine, we can’t let our mental health be at risk. The CDC says, “Public health actions, such as social distancing, can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety.” Even with coping mechanisms to get through stress,anxiety or depression we still need social interactions and it is crucial to be able to have a support system when you are dealing with certain mental health issues. Many people would dwell on the past and the things we used to do and be reminiscent of the days before COVID-19. Entering Phase Three would allow those suffering with mental health to have something to look forward to and could really help.

Overall, moving into Phase Three could be a huge benefit for those suffering with their mental health and be a benefit for certain industries. My dad owns a small business and I know that he is struggling right now with getting customers. His business involves providing transportation for people with disabilities or injuries. I remember at the beginning of the pandemic, he was getting less rides and this also affected how much money he was making. My dad said, “We lost 60% of ridership in the beginning pandemic. Although we were still considered to be an essential business, certain facilities closed that we serviced.” 

I think that we would be able to move on to Phase Three safely and doing so would be the best move.

Con:

We all want life in Montgomery County to return to normal. We want to visit our favorite stores and see a movie at our local AMC. We want to step back into our libraries and attend live performances. We want to see people without masks covering half their faces and a mandatory six feet of space keeping them away. Although the thought of that happening once we move into Phase Three is tantalizing, it won’t be at all how we envisioned.

Barrelling forward into Phase Three at such a critical time will do nothing but stunt our chances to reopen in the long-term. All across the country, cases are soaring. About 127,316 Americans tested positive Nov. 9, a number that is more than 50% higher than it was back in May. I know it feels like the virus has settled down, but it’s still looming over our society. The more we relieve our restrictions, the worse it will get.

I will admit, our state has done a phenomenal job in flattening the curve, which is why we should work to keep it that way. Getting comfortable and easing our regulations will only lead to a rise in cases. We’ve only just begun recovering from the first wave and moving into Phase Three will propel us deeper into the second. Before we know it, we’ll be exactly where we were seven months ago when this all began.

Montgomery County already has the second highest number of cases in Maryland. Additionally, we are the largest county in the state by population, yet the fifth largest by area. Moving into Phase Three will likely have more repercussions for us than it will for larger, but less populated counties like Dorchester and Garrett.

Yes, politicians will continue to encourage us to reopen, but more often than not, their eyes are glued to fantasies of economic gain. They want people working in unsafe conditions, where the risk of catching COVID-19 is always hanging above their heads, if only so they can rescue our drowning financial system. 

Be that as it may, the American economy will benefit from a relief in regulations, but American lives will not.

If we open up further, we’ll still be wearing masks, we’ll still be six feet away, we’ll still be limited in some way, shape, or form, and we’ll still run the risk of transmitting a virus that could end up dooming an entire household. There will still be fear and doubt hanging in the air, and COVID-19 will still play a significant role in our lives. 

Additionally, the sense of normalcy won’t last long. Stepping into Phase Three is a temporary relief, one that will do the county no good. 

I know we miss our outdoor venues, our theaters, our public gatherings, and our indoor dining; but moving forward too fast will only hurt us and every other member of our community — especially our older citizens who have been impacted the most by this pandemic. Our elders have been ostracized from the outside world due to the risk factors that come with catching COVID-19. The number of visitors they have been allowed to receive has been limited, their outdoor experiences have been constrained, and the interactions that might’ve been the highlight of their day can no longer take place for their own safety. Our senior citizens are, in a way, depending on us and our state government to act responsibly, so that they can return to their normal lives as soon as possible.

Which is why we must wait it out. For your safety, for my safety, and for the safety of our county.