By Briyahna Rice

Of all of the new rules being put in place to contain the worry, paranoia, and misinformation being spread about the COVID-19 pandemic, the one that many people seem keen on bending is the one regarding social distancing. According to the NYC DOH (Department of Health), “Social distancing, in its most objective form is not gathering in large groups and keeping a distance of at least six feet from other people to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. This also applies to essential employees who are still required to come into work.”

But as of recently, people are starting to bend the rules of social distancing for one reason or another, including other essential personnel. Outside of one hospital in lower Manhattan, a mass tribute was held for all of the doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers working hard to combat the pandemic. In attendance were an abundance of people, from ordinary civilians to firefighters, and police officers. While this is a noteworthy thing to do as a thank you to all of the hardworking men and women in the medical fields, it also poses the risk of further spreading the virus.

In the video, the firefighters who are in attendance are wearing neither masks nor gloves to protect themselves. There’s even one civilian walking in clear view of the camera without the necessary safety coverings. Even if the healthcare workers know how best to prevent and slow the spread of the virus, a big risk is still being taken by having such a large amount of people gathered together.

One health care worker, Meanya Purnell, who’s employed at a doctor’s office on Queens Boulevard in Queens, NY, was able to comment on the tribute when I showed her the video:

“That was their way of showing gratitude for the nurses and the doctors for doing the jobs that they’re doing; the x amount of work and time that’s put into dealing with this pandemic,” Purnell explained. “You also have front-liners such as myself. I’m usually the one that when the patient comes in and they’re sick, I have to get their insurance card. So it takes a lot of people when you factor in something like that. You also have to think about the custodians, the people that change the linen every so often.”

Purnell then went on to explain why people would take such a big risk to attend the tribute, knowing the consequences of disregarding social distancing.

“It’s a double-edged sword with that because some people feel that they’re immune to it. But then you also have the ones that are still naïve to it, and then you have the ones that really don’t care. I know someone such as myself, I love helping other people, I love doing the best I can do. But at some point, there has to be a draw, or a fine line when it’s pertaining to my health and my safety.”

The rules of social distancing are still being challenged given the recent string of holidays that just passed, such as Passover, Good Friday, and Easter. In another video, members of the Jewish community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn gathered en mass to the point where the police were called to halt the celebration. No one was fined, but even so, the disregard for the current circumstances, the rules of social distancing, and taking such a big risk needs to be taken with the utmost seriousness if there is any hope of slowing and stopping this pandemic.