American pride is something we celebrate every fourth of July - but in 2020, our pride may be the primary reason the COVID-19 virus has devastated and continues to devastate the population.
Although the first wave of coronavirus infections never truly ended, most state and local governments allowed businesses to reopen in May and June. Much to the dismay of Seahawks star safety Quandre Diggs, his home state of Texas has been one of the hardest hit in recent weeks.
Spending his offseason in Austin, Texas, Diggs hasn't been shy criticizing Governor Greg Abbott, who said on June 12 that there's “no real need to ratchet back the opening of businesses in the state" because Texas has "so many hospital beds available to anybody who gets ill.” The choice to open back up too early met plenty of criticism, including from Diggs, who told reporters back in May that he thought the state was opening up too fast.
Because of Abbott's ill-advised reasoning, Texas has seen a dramatic upward trend in cases, with 184,000 total cases and over 2,500 deaths. There were nearly 7,000 cases reported on June 30 alone, two weeks after the ramifications of Abbott's decision would become tangible.
Over the past few weeks, Abbott has reacted to the dramatic soar in cases by partially halting the reopening process, yet restaurants, bars, malls and other businesses remain open. In a state that prides itself on its independent nature, the Texan resistance to mask mandates and social distancing measures has exacerbated a pandemic.
"I think it's terrible," Diggs said when asked about his local and governmental response to the virus. "I've said it from the jump: I don't think we should have opened up that fast."
Diggs has even met the governor several times at Texas football games, and although the governor may not remember the Seahawks safety, Diggs says he "definitely remembers him." And he hasn't had any issues calling him out publicly.
""If you've been on my Twitter, I've been criticizing the governor and letting him know," Diggs commented. "It doesn't matter if I know you or not. If I feel like you're doing something wrong, then I'm going to let you know about it."
On July 2, Abbott instituted a statewide mask mandate, a delayed response to cases rather than the preventative measures that could have been taken months ago.
"I just don't think he should have opened the state up as fast as he did," Diggs said. "I think we should have kept the capacities down at restaurants and bars, we shouldn't have opened water parks, we shouldn't have pools open, there shouldn't be certain things like that that I don't feel are 'essential' to be open. I just think we did a lot of stuff way too fast because we were thinking we were getting over the virus, but it was just getting worse. And it was consistently getting worse, and we continued to go with it. I'm not a fan of the governor at this moment, and I'm not afraid to say that I'm not a fan of him right now."
When Diggs was asked why he believes Americans are choosing not to wear face masks, he chalked it up to a common cultural belief: Americans think they are impervious to harm, even in the face of a pandemic that has killed over 500,000 people globally and hasn't shown any signs of slowing down.
"As a country, as a whole, I feel like we're just a cocky country that feels like we're invincible, but we have the most cases in the world. At some point, we need to take that cockiness down, and I think we need to get humbled a little bit and let people know that, 'Hey, continue to wear your mask.' I feel like the mask mandate should have been in effect the whole time."
"If you were going to open up stuff, at least make the mask mandated when people are going to have to go out so you can't spread it. But when you make it a choice, then you give people the choice not to wear it, then of course the choice is going to be like, "Oh, I forgot my mask at home, but I don't need it." It's just one of those things."
Some Americans have treated mask mandates instituted for public safety as an infringement upon their rights, to which Diggs reiterates the arrogance Americans have in thinking the virus won't harm them or their families.
"It's cockiness. It's the absolute cockiness of America, of Americans, to think, 'I don't need a mask.' I don't understand it, there's nobody taking away your freedom, you're still able to go walk a street, you're still able to go into the store - just put a freaking mask on, it's not that serious."
Diggs makes the point that masks are commonly worn to protect others from getting sick, such as surgical masks worn by doctors, or an employee's decision to stay home with the flu.
"If you were sick in the first place, wouldn't you want to keep a mask on so you don't get anybody else sick? If you have the flu or you had a fever or you had something else, you would want to wear it or you wouldn't be out in public, you know what I mean?"
As Diggs points out, our idolization of individualism can be harmful when we're asked to care about other fellow Americans.
"My thing is, it's about protecting others, and as a nation, we're so self-[concerned]. We're so cocky, and we're so worried about ourselves and not worried about others and that's kind of what got us in this predicament that we're in now, with corona, with social justice, with the police brutality. We have one race worried about themselves instead of everybody just caring about each other. We do our own thing, and that's kind of what got us into this predicament now."
Diggs is more than a concerned citizen. He's a concerned father who wants to protect those most vulnerable to the virus, like his eleven-month old daughter Ariya.
"I don't want to bring anything into my house. Babies don't normally have the best immune system, so I want to stay as clear and free away from it as I can."
While talks of the regular NFL season taking place are still up in the air, Diggs is prepared to do what he must for his team - but he would like to do it as safely as possible. Based on recent discussions between the NFL and NFL players association, he's not alone sharing such sentiments.
"If I have a job to do, I have a job to do," Diggs said. "But I would prefer that, if we have to push things back because we can't get it situated, can't get a detailed plan in order, I'm all fine with pushing it back."
Without the coronavirus under control, the NFL season remains up in the air despite plans to open camp later this month. So watching football in September means fans need to pay it forward by wearing masks in July.
As we celebrate our nation's history, values and principles, it's crucial to wear a mask and limit social gatherings - the decision to skip the mask and spread coronavirus limits the freedom of your fellow Americans to live and breathe in peace. And while it shouldn't be a top priority, choosing not to do so further diminishes the chance of being able to watch stars like Diggs play on Sundays this fall.