By Claire Kenzie Seley
Goddard High School - Roswell, NM
The Influence of Ethical Principles through the Pandemic
Potter Stuart, a former Associate Justice to the Supreme Court once eloquently stated, “Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have the right to do and what is right to do.” This sentiment was put to the test in 2020, the year that will forever be associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only did COVID come as a challenge to the health of millions globally, but as a foil to the ethical fiber of these same individuals. Individuals were faced with the dilemma of sacrificing some of their own personal liberties, in exchange for the perceived safety of their fellow neighbors. This “greatest good for the greatest number” mentality proved to be a difficult path for many to travel. Yet, in such an uncertain time, by holding onto core ethical values and allowing them to guide my actions, I felt like my journey throughout the pandemic was more purposeful and deliberate.
The first step which signaled the beginning of the worldwide pandemic was when the stay at home order was issued. I was shocked. The week of spring break had just begun, and we were supposed to leave for vacation the following day. Plans were cancelled with no certainty that the trip would ever be rescheduled. A constant stream of news programs were broadcast and seemed to be dominating every form of media. The stay at home order mandated that residents were to not leave their homes, with the exception of essential jobs and trips for necessary goods. Going on vacation and spending time with friends did not fit in this criteria. It was easy to become overwhelmed and worried, but I came to understand that my actions could impact the lives of the people around me. By not reasoning ethically and following the rules, I could potentially bring illness to myself and those around me. Realizing this life or death nature of COVID gave me the determination to do everything I could to protect myself and others. My family and I chose to stay positive. We made special dinners, played board games, and watched movies, but most importantly, we stayed home.
State mask mandates came as an added precaution against the virus. Everyone was asked to trade a little of their own comfort to stop the spread. While masks could be uncomfortable, the scientific data and research was showing how they could be effective in our situation. I chose to wear a mask not because I was being made to, but because I felt it was the right decision. In a time of feeling vulnerable, wearing masks was something tangible that would make a difference.
Development of a vaccine that could keep COVID under control was a prevalent global priority. The sense of urgency was significant; as a result, several vaccines were developed. This soon was a reality in our lives, and hesitancy to get vaccinated became a widespread issue. In following the science, my parents and I gained confidence in the benefits of a COVID-19 vaccine. We understood that by being vaccinated, we could stifle the spread of the virus. Consequently, my parents received the vaccine as soon as they were eligible. With the recent approval of the Pfzier vaccine for those age twelve and above, I too can be vaccinated. In doing so, I am not only protecting myself but protecting others.
This past year has seemed long and at times frustrating. There has been much debate concerning whether all of the health guidelines were even necessary. Some had a difficult time getting past the idea that their actions could be detrimental to other people. Realizing early on that the choices I made could literally have a life or death impact made me determined to, “do the right thing.” This, of course, was not always easy, but as the curtain is hopefully closing on COVID I can say with credence that my family and I have remained COVID- free. Life will always be full of challenges, but by relying on core values, one can come out on the other side stronger.