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Several bars in Athens,Georgia opened back up on Monday, June 1, 2020. Though Gov. Kemp has permitted bars to reopen at 35% capacity, some bars like Bar South have chosen to keep their doors closed.(Photo/Sophie Yaeger)

Back in April, I was among those people who sat in front of their televisions and rolled their eyes when yet another sappy commercial came on about how we will all get through this together. Now, I find myself missing that sense of unity.

Weeks of rising coronavirus caseloads have begun to translate to rising death rates both in Georgia and the U.S. Although growth in new confirmed cases seems to have slowed, the United States is still reporting on average more than 60,000 new cases every single day. If we are going to get life back to normal and minimize human suffering, we need to all show more compassion in our actions.

In an op-ed for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Faith Settipani, a University of Georgia student who is immunocompromised, expressed her frustration when she sees other young people not taking the coronavirus seriously.

“While the news is focusing on the middle-aged protesters who line the streets with signs advocating for their right to get a haircut, there’s little attention on the college kids who couldn’t care less if grandma dies in the name of a shot-gunned Bud Light,” Settipani wrote.

She is right. If we want to save lives and get back to normal as soon as possible, everyone — including young people, who drove the June spikes in cases — needs to take the necessary precautions. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Maintain six feet of social distancing whenever possible. These little lifestyle changes will add up to hopefully make a big difference and reduce the rising case numbers.

I do feel some sympathy for those who want to venture out after spending months at home social distancing. No one should enjoy giving up their daily routine or seeing friends. Even the most avid homebody can get tired of isolation. But we have to show compassion and think of others as well as ourselves.

I am less sympathetic to those who are choosing to go to bars, nightclubs and large parties. We have lived through the pandemic for months now. We know what the stakes are, and we know what we should and should not be doing. These careless actions put more unnecessary lives at risk and contribute to this seemingly never-ending pandemic.

Bars, nightclubs and parties are responsible for much of the uptick in cases that occurred across the country in June. It is not hard to see why. All of them invite large crowds of young people where social distancing is hard or even impossible to maintain. And in bars, you cannot drink while wearing a mask, meaning the usage of face coverings is limited.

Even worse than those taking unnecessary risks are those who are intentionally getting the virus for fun. Some people have thrown COVID-19 parties, where the goal is to get infected. These parties probably are not widespread, and they have probably contributed to fewer cases than bars and nightclubs. Even so, they reflect an eagerness to ignore public health guidance that can save lives.

It is understandable to want to go back to normal, and I do not think maintaining full lockdowns until there is a vaccine is at all practical. But while we live through a pandemic that has already killed almost 150,000 people in the U.S., we need to make some sacrifices. We all know what we should be doing. Now we just need the resolve and compassion to do it.

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