I’m Done Reasoning With COVID Safety Violators Who Have a Death Wish

We're at a point in this deadly pandemic where those of us who are determined to stay safe can no longer waste our energy trying to save those who clearly couldn't care less.

An anti-mask protester at a May 15th protest in Harrisburg. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

Over the weekend, I didn’t celebrate America’s birthday, but that of my best friend.

Five friends and I dared to do something we hadn’t done in what felt like ages: dine together. The six of us had dinner, BYOB-style, at an outdoor bistro on South Street. We were masked, except when eating and taking group selfies, and were super-cautious. I back-cleaned our table with Lysol after my server did his manual wipe-down. I brought a Germ-X dispenser for the table, and my friends had extra masks and wet wipes for the occasion. We were ready.

With the exception of our initial preparations, dinner went off without a hitch. We caught up on our lives during the quarantine and talked about how much we missed getting out of the house. Although we knew we were far from a return to normal, it was great to celebrate in person — something we all promised to never take for granted. As we made it to our second course, a group of onlookers walked by, unmasked and carefree. They were loud, sweaty and lively. How dare they? We were horrified. After all the recent reports of a rise in COVID-19 at the start of the summer, you would think people would get it by now. Nope. They couldn’t care less

One of my friends turned to me and let out a sigh that could be heard across the street. I, however, was over being shocked and just said, bluntly: “Fuck it. If they die, they die.”

Channeling my inner Ivan Drago from Rocky IV, I had finally had enough of the over-the-top scolding that kicked off this pandemic. I had previously begged millennials and Gen-Zers to change their behavior, and later made a similar plea to the city at large. It didn’t matter. People are still deciding to ignore the seriousness of this deadly virus — and it seems only divine intervention will change their ways. Public shaming isn’t working, and neither is reposting a dozen articles on social media to show how fatal this pandemic is. The truth is, we have to start treating those who violate COVID-19 regulations like those who choose not to wear seat belts or motorcycle helmets — it’s beyond our control.

Public shaming may only make things worse. Those who refuse to wear a mask or take social distancing seriously are placing themselves over medicine, common sense, and, tragically, the safety of others. This level of defiance is maddening, but locking people up for not wearing a mask or publicly complaining every time we see such behavior doesn’t help. In some sick, twisted way, some of these violators believe they are standing up for the greater political good. Like teenagers going against their parents’ wishes, they feel they’re proving a point. But as my mother used to tell me when I thought being purposefully defiant was an act of bravery: The world will teach you better than I can.

Coronavirus — and all of its painful symptoms and devastation — will teach these people better than any of our preachy social media posts and public outrage will. Don’t save them; they don’t want to be saved. It’s hard to turn away, but at this point, it’s to maintain the sanity of the sane. Those who put our lives at risk by violating these health recommendations and mandates are selfish. I refuse to try to force someone who doesn’t care to give a damn. We are at a tipping point in this pandemic where those who don’t want to do better will have to learn the hard way.

Restaurants, retail shops, and other public spaces can help in this fight by banning and/or refusing to serve those who aren’t wearing masks at their places of business. The rest of us should treat such violators like they’re radioactive — not to shame them (because that accomplishes nothing), but to keep ourselves safe. Outside of such restrictions and reactions, it’s high time we let the foolish fall on their swords. It’s what they’re asking for. It’s what they deserve.

Wear a mask, wash your hands, back up and give people six feet — or choose death. It’s that simple.