The pandemic has revealed just how precarious maintaining a society can be, while also serving as a reminder that personal relationships are all you’re going to care about on your deathbed. Scoldingly telling people that “it’s not hard” to indefinitely avoid loved ones isn’t an effective — or honest — message.

Relatedly, there’s a world of difference between hosting a 25-person Thanksgiving dinner and seeing one’s elderly parents while taking appropriate precautions and testing negative for COVID. And taking a socially-distanced jog with a friend (currently against the rules in Southern California) is not remotely analogous to attending a crowded indoor hot yoga class.

While not as viscerally appalling as pure COVID denialism, over-shaming may be more pernicious. By presenting a black-and-white vision — rather than a spectrum of risk factors — government officials undermine their own authority, as well as the public’s faith in science.