Last week, teenagers were consumed with school, sports, activities and the outcome of this season’s The Bachelor. Fast forward a week and everything has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the countless news stories, school closures and state lockdowns, many teens still seem to be unaware of the impact they could have in flattening the curve of this virus.
About a month ago, I returned from a trip that changed my perspective of the world and different cultures. I traveled to Italy with a group of 19 students from my high school where we explored Rome, Florence, and Venice, and indulged in the many wonders Italy has to offer. Each of us returned home with an enhanced passion for travel and a notable appreciation for Italian culture. Eager to share our adventure with our community, we were blind-sided by the response we received from some of our peers at school.
As the outbreak of coronavirus in Northern Italy exploded during our initial days home, the rumor mill kicked into gear and kids accused us of “bringing the virus to Greeley.” Students who went on the trip were bullied and even threatened for their attendance at school.
“Students would cover their mouths when they passed by me in the hallways or move their chairs away from me in classes,” observed fellow Horace Greeley High School student Ella Weiser, a sophomore.
There was a palpable sense of hysteria among the student body but we were very grateful to the administration. School officials made every effort to calm the storm.
With time, the turmoil settled. However, now is the time when that sense of urgency is needed most. With the current closing of schools and activities, so many kids and teens have not closed the door on their in-person social lives. Many teens are posting photos with each other on social media, with no space in between them, and captioning their posts as “social distancing.” In Florida and elsewhere this week, spring breakers flouted guidelines from public health experts, continuing to congregate on beaches packed with people, and expose themselves to becoming infected. This pandemic needs to be taken seriously by the population as a whole if we want to flatten the curve yet what type of stories are we hearing all too often? Take this example: “A group of teens were caught on camera coughing on produce at a grocery store, then posting it on social media,” a discouraging report from a Virginia news outlet relayed. Social media should be utilized to maintain good mental health, not to promote actions that support the rising of the curve.
This is a call to the younger generation to make meaningful change. We are incredibly lucky to be growing up in the high-tech world we live in. With Facetime, Snapchat, and even Zoom, our social lives do not need to end with the spreading of this virus.
Rumors and misinfromation claiming that young people are immune to the virus have deceived the younger generation into believing that their social interactions will have no negative impact. The fact of the matter is, there is so much we don’t know and so many uncertainties about the virus.
“The deadly coronavirus may be impossible to contain, and kids may be secret carriers of the disease,” warned Tom Frieden, the ex-director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In our celebrity-obsessed youth culture, as more and more of the rich and famous reveal their positive COVID-19 test results, perhaps we’ll see some progress. Maybe if stories about the Average Joe and Jane don’t move my peers to temporarily limit their in-person social interactions, the positive tests of the likes of 28-year-old former Bachelor Colton Underwood or 31-year-old NBA player Kevin Durant will. My dad is a diabetic which makes him more susceptible to serious complications from the virus if he becomes infected, and he, of course, is far from the only one. People with compromised immune systems and the elderly are also deemed high risk. It should not take positive test results of people we know in order to convince us to stay home.
Our generation is one of passion and zest, and we have the opportunity to help flatten the coronavirus curve before it’s too late. We must use our energy and channel it into our dedication to staying home. I social distance for my dad, mom, twin sister, grandparents, and all of you. Who will you social distance for?
Sophia Spiegel is a sophomore at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua. She is an aspiring journalist who has a passion for the news, entertainment, and social justice. Her social distancing activities include: Netflix, TikTok, and playing with her two dogs, Milo and Mia.