Moral Calculations: Pandemic Coverage Obscures Individual Risk and Social Harm • Protean Magazine

Abstract

The United States has largely failed in its response to the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike other countries that have eliminated community transmission or suppressed it to low levels, US officials have allowed high levels of the virus to circulate and tolerated the subsequent mass death that has accompanied such a lax public health approach. In addition to needless, preventable sickness and death, another consequence of this state failure has been to shift the moral burden of pandemic decisionmaking onto individuals. As anyone who has tried to get a vaccine appointment lately can tell you, navigating these moral issues is not trivial: should I get a vaccine if offered, even if I’m not eligible? What if I’m eligible in a nearby state but not my home state? Should I jump the line if the risks I incur at my job aren’t factored into the eligibility determination? Is it morally defensible to jump the line in order to see friends and get back to normal?

Publication
Protean Magazine