How do I handle family members who are not taking this seriously?

Updated: Mar 24, 2020

There are a number of people who don’t seem to be taking the situation seriously. Whether it’s because they’re in denial or they simply don’t understand the ramifications of their actions, each one of us plays a role in the rate at which the virus will spread.

One place to start is with education. There are quite a few articles out there that address the idea of “flattening the curve.” Essentially this means that if people put the suggested precautions into practice (i.e. social distancing, hand-washing, etc), it will hopefully prevent a rapid outbreak and avoid a situation in which the healthcare systems become overwhelmed with cases, and therefore can’t treat everyone. For some people, understanding this fact, and seeing the data about how different countries have approached it, and the different outcomes, can be very persuasive.

For others, the personal posts about their experiences with COVID-19 (like this one) can be helpful.

The other approach you could take is to draw on any sense of community-mindedness that they might have. It’s true, that if the people in your family are young or healthy, they are probably at low risk of dying from the virus. Still, they can spread it to others - grandparents and others with conditions that put them at higher risk of having serious outcomes as a result of contracting the virus. In fact, this recent CNN article suggests that people who are asymptomatic could be unwittingly spreading the virus, since there can be a delay before your symptoms show.

Finally, I think that you should share with them how you feel. Let them know that you’re concerned, and that the precautionary steps that are being suggested by the CDC and WHO are for our collective safety.

Wishing you all the best.

Dr. Patricia Thompson

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