The Ethical Dilemma : Traveling with Covid
Written by Nandini Narula Bajpai
UC CAAS Student- Studying in Marist College, Bachelors in Psychology and Communication
It was March 2021 when I proudly exclaimed, “it’s been a year since the pandemic started and I have successfully remained COVID free!”
Only when I was escorted back home from boarding school in 2020 as the majority of my class, including myself, tested positive for COVID-19 did the existence of the life-threatening disease, as well as the experience of living through a pandemic, feel real. The ethical dilemma of whether I should quarantine at school or come back home – where I could pass such a dangerous disease to my parents – was something I never thought I would have to deal with. In 2020 at the start of the pandemic, my parents not only saw their friends pass away, but even children my age suffer and ultimately die from the virus.
As I predicted, my parents encouraged me to return home where they could ensure my safety and well-being while also monitoring my medications and food. This meant that my father would have to pick me up from school by car, a closed space where transmission of COVID-19 is very possible despite utilizing PPE kits or even double masking. I unknowingly had COVID-19, got in a car with my father, and he contracted COVID-19 from me. The symptoms’ severity almost killed him. I blamed myself for the transmission, but if it were up to me, I would have healed myself before I came back home.
At school, all of us had the mindset that if one of us had it, all of us would eventually get it, since we lived together; we did not bother abstaining from socializing in our dorms or delegating separate areas for self-quarantine besides our rooms. We were irresponsible about the situation and it came back to bite us.
It is a rather precarious situation where we are faced with a certain dilemma when we are traveling, knowing that we may have contracted the virus. If we think about this ethically, we would resist this travel. As mentioned in ‘The Reptilian Strategy’ written by Christina Marinakis in Litigation Insight, the human brain is not just an ethical brain, at the very crux of it, we have a reptilian brain that is instinctual, selfish and acts purely for survival. That survival instinct kicks in when we are trying to decide where we need to be and what we want to achieve. However, as mentioned in a publication by The Science of Psychotherapy in their study, Prefrontal Cortex, we all now possess the prefrontal cortex that allows us to be compassionate, emotional and allows us to think about our actions and possible repercussions logically. Bouncing off the aforementioned, people who are known to be conscientious about their carbon footprints, the way they approach environmental concerns and are careful about ‘how’ they live their lives will tend to be more cognisant of not allowing themselves to act in the spur of the moment.
It is a known fact whether one wears a PPE kit, gloves or double masks, the possibility of catching the virus still remains. Linsey Marr, a researcher at Virginia Tech who studies how viruses transmit in the air affirms, “preliminary data from scientists at the University of Hong Kong has shown that omicron multiplies 70 times faster inside human respiratory tract tissue than the delta variant does. That study also found that omicron reaches higher levels in respiratory tract tissue 48 hours after infection, compared with delta.” This is why for many of us, it has now become a question of not if, but when, we will be exposed to the virus. If you feel, hear or suspect that you have been exposed, it is a moral and intelligent responsibility to refrain from traveling and quarantine, as we only partially know the repercussions for how the virus spreads in the body. There is no herd immunity on matters pertaining to the spread of COVID-19.