James Hock - MRH Faculty
Masks and Morality
By Keeley H.
The world feels eerily similar to 2020. Class sizes are getting smaller and smaller every day. The girl’s swim team had to halt their season due to an abundance of quarantines. A single cough will have people clearing the proximity. COVID is back on the rise, but this time, to new heights.
The latest COVID variant, omicron, was discovered in South Africa on December 1, 2021, and by January 4, the U.S. counted a record 1 million daily COVID cases, most of which were attributed to the new strand. The less severe but highly transmissible strain’s alarming numbers have forced Americans to revisit their approach to COVID safety, but most importantly, reconsider the stigma around catching COVID.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Americans were told that it was our responsibility to “flatten the curve” by masking up, social distancing, and in later months, getting vaccinated. The majority of us did. We stayed home from school, from our grandparents, from our friends. We tried to keep our heads in the right space as we scrolled Instagram to find out the concerts we had been looking forward to for years had been canceled. We pushed as hard as we could through remote learning in hopes of one day returning to the “normal” high school experience. But the personal accountability forced on Americans by this campaign generated a sense of shame around contracting the mysterious, experience-stealing illness. By testing positive for COVID, it was automatically insinuated that people didn’t wear their masks or social distance or get vaccinated; they weren’t doing your so-called “part”. However, as the number of positive cases climbs, the shame attached to COVID needs to be eradicated from the American mindset because catching COVID is practically out of individual control, and rather a sign of government failure.
Quarantine restrictions have been shortened from 14-10 days. Mask mandates have been lifted. Rapid tests have been deemed inaccurate and PCRs have hour-long waits. As cases rise, prevention methods reduce. Americans are encouraged to return to their offices and their lives more than they are encouraged to fully recover in order to keep those around them safe. With the pandemic being the “single largest potential disruptor of the economy,” it is clear that the CDC is primarily focused on limiting COVID’s impact on America’s industries than the health of its workforce.
Yet people are still left feeling guilty about becoming one of the hundreds of thousands to contract COVID. Sydnee R. (‘23) admits that she “cried” and felt “inconsiderate” when she tested positive because she endangered her family and friends. Adams 12’s ambiguous quarantine guidelines and uncompromising due dates made her feel “insanely emotional and stressed.” Sydnee fell victim to the district’s lack of empathy and organization but still felt she had no one to blame but herself. It is inexcusable for one to feel personal blame when it should be the district and government’s priority to keep their population safe. Does this mean reverting back to remote learning? Halting after school activities? Maybe, but the lives of students will always be valued more than high school experiences.
Though it is not solely our responsibility, we still have to do “our part” to help this pandemic come to an end. Continue wearing your mask correctly, get your vaccines and boosters, and curtail social interaction as possible, but just know you are not a bad person for catching COVID.
Egan, Matt. “The Economy Is Booming. 5 Reasons That Could Change in 2022.” CNN, Cable News Network, 31 Dec. 2021, www.cnn.com/2021/12/31/economy/economy-covid-inflation-2022/index.html.
Ellyatt, Holly. “U.S. Reports over 1 Million New Daily Covid Cases as Omicron Surges.” CNBC, CNBC, 4 Jan. 2022, www.cnbc.com/2022/01/04/us-counts-over-1-million-new-daily-covid-cases-in-global-record-.html.
“How Social Distancing Can Help Flatten the Curve.” St. Luke's Health, 18 Mar. 2020, www.stlukeshealth.org/resources/how-social-distancing-can-help-flatten-curve.