We Are Not Taking This Pandemic Seriously Enough


Caroline Bae, Web Manager

Back in August, I took the SAT after the consecutive cancellation of two tests due to the pandemic. It was a bunch of bad experiences piled in one day; that morning, news broke that Chadwick Boseman passed away from cancer. I got an excruciating stomach ache minutes before we were supposed to leave for Columbia High School, and the test started two hours later due to a disastrous seating chart that was probably the most unorganized and inconvenient piece of paper I had ever seen. People were checking into their seats literally up to 10 minutes before we started the test at 10 am.

However, probably the worst part of that test was that there was a positive case at the testing center. Not only did I receive an email from College Board and the school, but many people I knew were in the exact area of the confirmed student, and thus had to self-quarantine. However, thanks to the seating chart, no matter how terrible it was, it was used to contact trace and get all possible information, and the virus couldn’t be spread more. Right? 



There were many problems with this sudden confirmed case; first, it was reported a week after the test, when we had already moved on with our lives and prepared ourselves for the next test and the beginning of school. At this point, although social distancing and mask mandates were still in effect, cases were relatively low in New York, and everyone felt a little more relaxed on meeting up with people, whether that was with health precautions or not. The test center was filled with almost 300 test takers that could have been exposed to the virus. Masks were mandatory, but there were at least three people (one being a teacher) that did not cover their nose with it. Desks were socially distant, but while waiting in line we were all cramped together. On the way to the testing room, two lines intersected, and there was big confusion on which was the right one, since no one knew which room they were supposed to go to in the first place. Later it turned out that the lines going to the gym and the auditorium were intersecting, meaning both rooms could have been exposed to the positive case directly. And by the time everyone received a notice of the confirmed case, it was already too late and there was a full week of potential spread to family members and other individuals. Worst case scenario, if all 300 people contracted the virus and spread it to their family, with an average of about four people per household, that could be 1,200 people that could have possibly contracted the virus, not to mention additional interactions that might have occurred during that week.


The problem also occurs in school today. Looking at all the confirmed cases notified by North Colonie, it is shown how usually the person was in the building at least 3-7 days before the school was notified of their positive status. Like in Columbia High School, those who were in close proximity to the confirmed person most likely already exposed their families, who could possibly spread it to coworkers in person, other friends, and even just random people in public that were unfortunately in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

What the school also fails to include in their contact tracing, is that there are different people in each class for each period. A positive case could have possibly spread the virus to their classmates, and with 4 periods and about 5-10 classmates per hybrid class, that’s about 20-40 people that will be directly contacted by the school. However, those 20-40 students also have classes with other students that they could expose to, and so on and so forth. At that rate, if there is one positive case and the student was in the building before, the whole school should shut down and have every student in each cohort to quarantine for 2 weeks instead of just the few students that were in that specific person’s class. What the school also fails to realize is that when students move between classes, depending on the location of their classroom and their pathing, people who usually are not in close proximity with each other can find themselves in close contact. Then, as this new hallway person is exposed, they can then bring that into their classroom, where the first scenario takes place again. It is impossible to tell which person was in close contact with the positive cases in the hallways, and so those people cannot be contacted to self quarantine for 2 weeks. With both of these scenarios happening whenever there is a positive case at school, the safest option would be to quarantine everyone that was in the building that day. However, with students and teachers still going to school, obviously no one has thought of that.

As we continue through this pandemic, many other organizations, such as the Empire State Youth Orchestra, school and club sports, and other extracurricular activities students partake in have learned to adapt to these government regulations and still have kids continue their activities in person. This is not inherently a bad decision to make; many students love to participate in these activities, and many of these activities require in person interactions to make the most of their time. They still follow government protocol by mandating masks, social distancing whenever possible, and having a maximum number of people within an area when they are working. However, when someone goes out in the public for whatever reason, they are always taking that small risk of exposing themselves to the virus, no matter how minimal it may seem. They are also taking the risk of spreading the virus to others. This risk of spreading the virus doesn’t just expand from North Cohort to South Cohort, it extends past school districts, and can cause a massive outbreak expanding from our area that cannot be controlled.

We are at a point in this pandemic where we cannot only blame anti-maskers and conspiracy theorists for spreading the virus. Someone who believes the virus is a real threat and is actively trying to protect themselves and others in public can be exposed, and due to the asymptomatic period of the virus when first infected, can go on to infect others unintentionally. It should be noted that social distancing of 6 feet and wearing masks cannot prevent someone from catching the virus 100%. The virus can enter the body through the mouth, nose, and eyes. Although we have CDC approved masks being mandated in most areas, we do not have airtight eye goggles being part of the protocol. Masks also are not 100% effective; they only reduce the spread of respiratory droplets, they cannot keep it completely sealed. The recommended social distancing in public is 6 feet, however in an episode of Mythbusters, Adam and Jamie proved that sneezes can travel as far as 30 feet at a velocity of 100 miles per hour. 

We are doing the best we can; wearing masks in public places, standing 6 feet apart (most of the time), and contact tracing COVID cases, but as long as we continue to try to go out in public, we are so far into this pandemic that we still contribute to the high numbers. Contact tracing, mask wearing, and social distancing are great, but they aren’t enough anymore.

COVID-19 has a very small mortality rate, as many have pointed out and thus relaxed, but with more and more people being infected, the number of those that get severely ill or die from the virus is going to increase. 2% of the American population dying from the disease is still over 600,000 Americans dying from the virus. We get over 150,000 new cases every day in the United States. We are doing the best that we can to minimize the spread of the virus while continuing to try to keep our old routine, but it is not enough. 

Please treat the virus as a serious threat. It is not just the flu. It is not just flu season. We are in a global pandemic. People are dying, many of which could’ve been prevented if COVID-19 were taken more seriously.  If there is a safer option, take it. Don’t wait until the infection rate reaches x% or if x number of people get infected or if x number of people have died; this is not a math class. These are real people getting sick and dying.