People are weary of social distancing and the consequences of the shutdown in our communities: local businesses tumble and schools are unable to open. However, as the holiday season approaches, it is imperative to keep in mind that the pandemic is still taking lives every day and the death toll is 250,000 in the U.S. alone. We need to be made aware of our privilege if following guidelines is the only thing we are tired of when thousands of people have lost loved ones—members of our Lowell community among them.
Though it may be easy to separate ourselves from the gravity of the national death toll, real people in our community are grieving. Within our 50-person publication alone, COVID-19 has taken two lives. Advisor Eric Gustafson lost his aunt, and photographer Hayden Cheung lost his grandmother.
To prevent more tragic losses, Lowell students must be more diligent about following public health recommendations in order to save people’s lives and expedite our city’s recovery. Especially this Thanksgiving, it’s recommended that we only celebrate with the people in our households, as staying home can prevent the infection of hundreds, if not thousands of people. Though it will be hard to miss moments with those who are close to us, we show how much we care by protecting them and acknowledging a greater risk.
However, throughout the course of the pandemic, many students have been seeing friends without meeting outdoors, wearing masks, and social distancing. Senior Emi Tsutakawa sees on Instagram that when some Lowell students hang out with friends, they don’t stick to all the COVID-19 guidelines. “I rarely see anyone wear masks; if they do they usually don’t wear it correctly or [don’t] social distance anymore,” Tsutakawa said. Junior Sabrina Cheng sees the same behavior as well. “[Some students] plan to meet up with one person and say they will follow social distancing rules [but] another two groups join them,” Cheng said.
Some students’ cavalier behavior may be because they think that their age and vitality will help ward off the virus’s significant effects on their bodies. Sure, the death rate may be significantly lower for adolescents, but youth who contract coronavirus are admitted into the ICU at the same rate as adults, and even those who only experience mild symptoms are likely to transmit it to adults and vulnerable people who may develop serious complications or die. We must not pretend that there is no risk. People’s lives are at stake.
Together, we must follow guidelines to slow the rate at which the death toll rises. The death of a loved one during the pandemic has not provided the same sense of closure that many of us should feel when someone passes. Many people are unable to attend services, or even be at their loved one’s side in the hospital before they die. Though we may be tired of a pandemic that will impact Thanksgiving, it is paramount that we don’t give up and never forget the risks associated with this disease. If current infection rates continue, scientists predict that the total number of individuals killed by COVID-19 will reach 394,000 by February 21. To save these lives, people must wear masks and social distance, and avoid unnecessary congregations—such as a large Thanksgiving dinner.
Even if you strongly believe that the people you plan to celebrate the holidays with are COVID-negative, you could be transmitting the virus to others. Your actions can either save, damage, or end lives, and if you’re with friends, make sure they understand that as well.
If you won’t do it for yourself, please, do it for your communities. Do it for the staff members and students at Lowell who are grieving their lost loved ones.