Opinion | Students must take COVID-19 restrictions more seriously


Art by Saskia Teterycz

Christopher Vye, Staff Writer

With confirmed U.S. coronavirus infections topping an average of 200,000 per day, the rollout of new Tier 3 restrictions in Illinois and the ever-looming threat of another stay-at-home order, it is safe to say that containing this pandemic has never been as important as it is right now. In order for us to mitigate it effectively though, it is vital that everyone follows the recommendations put in place by organizations such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and their leaders. We have not been following these protocols as much as is necessary to stop the spread of the virus, and it is long overdue that we begin doing so.
The need for this to happen is only becoming more urgent as trends in coronavirus statistics worsen. In addition to the U.S. daily infection total topping an average of 200,000, a record number of new U.S. coronavirus deaths and a record number of current U.S. coronavirus hospitalizations were also reported in just the last week, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
While numbers like these are rightfully saddening, it is important for people to remember that their actions play a direct part in determining how they change. In fact, the reason we are seeing these new peaks being reported right now is largely due to the recent Thanksgiving holiday: an estimated 47.8 million Americans traveled by automobile and 2.4 million by plane to partake in the celebrations, according to the AAA.
When virtually every public health official in the country is pleading with people not to travel and many do it anyway, the pandemic is going to get worse. Too many people, however, despite knowing that what they are doing will enable the virus to spread, believe that their actions are justifiable; rather, they are indefensible. If such a large swath of the population continues to ignore safety protocals like this, case counts will rise, more people will be hospitalized, and more people will die. If we want to go “back to normal,” which is something that we all deserve to be able to do, some temporary sacrifices will have to be made before we can. If you are not at as high of a risk for serious coronavirus complications and choose to not make these sacrifices, you are telling people who are that you don’t care if they ever get to see normal again. We cannot conduct ourselves like this during this time. We need to have more empathy, and we can express this by following recommended protocols.
An upcoming coronavirus vaccine does not give people the authority to disregard safety measures either, as lots of people won’t even be able to get one until tens or hundreds of millions of people who are more in need already have. In fact, those ages 14 to 17 living in Cook County, Ill., with no compromising health risks, or, in other words, the majority of the ETHS student body, will not be able to receive one until 185.6 million Americans and 7.2 million Illinoisans already have, according to The New York Times. This timeline would put ETHS student vaccinations at the earliest sometime during the late summer of 2021, though they could very well possibly not even begin until 2022. A vaccine is definitely essential in getting out of this pandemic, for sure, but we cannot act as if we are all vaccinated now, just because one is in sight. Complying with recommended safety measures will continue to be our best bet against the virus for some time.
And let’s not forget why these safety measures are being implemented. This is not an experiment by the government to test how far it can extend its power, nor is it a personal attack on anyone’s way of life. Absolutely every restriction that has been put in place since the beginning of the pandemic was done so in the interest of protecting public health. This is why things are not normal right now. The reason there is no in-person school right now is in the interest of protecting public health. The reason we can’t eat indoors at restaurants right now is in the interest of protecting public health. The reason our leaders are recommending we don’t do things we previously considered normal is all in the interest of protecting public health. With that in mind, there is a way that we can get back to doing these things again, but it all depends on how well we regulate our own behavior for the time being.
Yet, many people, including ETHS students, remain persistent in showing little regard for even the most basic, common-sense safety measures.
“I’ve seen ETHS students going to recent sleepovers and get-togethers, inside, maskless, and in each other’s spaces: bathrooms, basements, bedrooms, all that, without being in a pod. And then they post photos about what they did. They are putting themselves in situations that they know are unsafe,” says sophomore Sammi Lewis.
This is not okay. If your life outside of school does not look much different from the way it was during this time last year, you need to reevaluate your behavior. Coming into close contact with anyone outside of your household, immediate family or pod is not worth it right now. Even if your family believes that they will be fine and that there is nothing to worry about, getting infected with the coronavirus means that you will most likely become a vector who spreads it to someone else. With the way contagion works, eventually, deaths will be able to be traced back to your infection, and you will have to carry that weight over your head for the rest of your life. You should not be willing to do this just because you personally are done with pandemic restrictions.
That being said, this doesn’t mean that we have to lockdown again, nor does it mean we have to isolate ourselves socially. There are ways, including in-person ways, that people can connect with each other right now that don’t put anyone at such a large risk. This is what we need to be doing. We need to start being more stringent with our behavior, and we need to make these changes as soon as possible. It is downright disrespectful to the doctors, nurses, public health officials and essential workers we are depending on to risk their lives for our continued prosperity if we don’t. Just wear a mask, spend most of your time at home, watch your distance and wash your hands.
We can’t let this be the darkest winter in American history.