Judging & Blaming People For Catching COVID Has To Stop — We Need To Work Together Not Against Each Other

It's a highly transmissible virus.

COVID-19 blame faboi / Shutterstock

As COVID-19 cases resurge, death tolls rise, and fears mount, there’s another pandemic taking hold — a rise in blaming and shaming those contracting the virus at this stage in the game. 

There’s stories of people who appeared willfully ignorant about abiding by public health guidelines before contracting COVID.

A radio host who mocked vaccines and then ended up in intensive care. A former President who downplayed the virus and then met the same fate.


These stories are anger-inducing and make us want to point fingers. But doing so is dangerous both morally and practically — we need empathy, we need compassion and most importantly we need to work together. 

Why do we victim-blame people for catching COVID?

Blame is a natural response in moments of crisis and it may even feel like a logical means of enforcing public health guidelines. 

Public pressure has played a huge role in making sure many of us stay masked and vaxxed. 

But blame, in this context, takes a cruel turn when we target those who have contracted a highly-transmissible airborne virus that has infected millions. 


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We want to believe consequences are justified — that is a habit that predates COVID — we also want to believe that these things won’t happen to us. 

But that is where things get tricky since the whole trouble with this pandemic is that contracting COVID can happen to anyone. 

By blaming people and making them the cause of virus transmission, we risk excluding people from being part of the solution. 

We also deny the reality that we all play a role in curbing COVID-19 transmission — not just those unfortunate enough to catch it. 

We need more understanding about the causes of the pandemic.

The culture of blaming often deflects from the reality of why and how people contract COVID. 


These are not simply reckless anti-vaxxers going to parties or refusing to wear masks. These are people who do not work in jobs that can be done from home. 

Often, these are who cannot afford to take time off work to avoid the virus or recover from the effects of the vaccine. 

This is why we enter cruel moral territory when we cast blame on these populations. Pam Keith, a former Democratic nominee for a Florida congressional seat, even suggested we cut government benefits for those not getting vaccinated. 

Threatening financial assistance and widening the risk of medical debt hardly seems like a solution to a global pandemic, does it? 


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COVID-blaming is rooted in hatred.

Then there is the origins of this blame game, which has had adverse consequences for minority groups. 

Some of the earliest pandemic-shaming came in the form of xenophobic comments from President Trump, blaming China for the spread of the virus. 

These kinds of comments were the catalyst for spikes in anti-Asian hate crimes and violence. When we blame others for the spread of COVID we risk replicating these cruel actions. 

We need to educate, not alienate during COVID. 

As the saying goes, you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Making people feel solely responsible for catching a virus that has impacted all of us in some way is certainly not going to make people feel welcomed into a movement to defeat the virus. 


As communication expert Susan Kulakowski puts it, “Nobody "chooses" to catch COVID — although some behaviors make catching COVID more likely.” 

“We all make mistakes and sometimes we just have to learn things the hard way. However difficult it is to respond with empathy, remember that the person with COVID just got whacked by a mighty, life-threatening dose of reality.”

Vaccine science and the facts of the virus speak for themselves. We don’t need to embellish that with a hefty dose of shame! 

Seeking to inform, work together and end polarization might be the only way to save lives. 

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Alice Kelly is a senior news and entertainment editor for YourTango. Based out of Brooklyn, New York, her work covers all things social justice, pop culture, and human interest. Keep up with her Twitter for more.