Increased COVID case count causes tensions in SJS community


Diane Guo

Several students hold conflicting opinions about protocols for gathering safely.

*Some names of the people interviewed for this story have been changed to protect their privacy.

While staying in an El Paso hospital after suffering injuries from a fall, senior Selina’s* step-grandfather contracted COVID-19 due to the high number of cases in the emergency room. After developing the virus, the 89-year-old died within a few days, just after Thanksgiving.

The week Selina’s step-grandfather died, over 5,000 people had tested positive for COVID in El Paso. Selina says that if all El Pasoans exercised more caution, her step-grandfather might not have died.

“It’s really frustrating to watch [people] be so ignorant,” she said.

It’s really frustrating to watch [people] be so ignorant.

— Anonymous

Since campus reopened in the fall, students have held conflicting views on how to hang out with friends and family during the pandemic. Some follow the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines while gathering to protect themselves and others from contracting the virus.

“Generally, people are very respectful of COVID regulations,” senior Lauren Fulghum said. “I’ve seen classmates post on Instagram where they gather outdoors with masks on while social distancing, enjoying each other’s company safely.”

Across the country, however, guidelines have been ignored and large gatherings have been held without mask-wearing or social distancing. 

“A lot of us just want to hang out with our friends,” a student said. “We’re seniors. It’s our last chance to do anything in high school.” 

During winter vacation, multiple social gatherings took place, after which several students tested positive for COVID. Insufficient time for contact tracing forced school administrators to move juniors and seniors to virtual classes for the first week of the spring semester.

A lot of us just want to hang out with our friends,” a student said. “We’re seniors. It’s our last chance to do anything in high school.

— Anonymous

Many students sacrificed holiday traditions in order to protect others and felt disappointed that others were not as careful.

“I can’t figure out whether they socialized because they don’t care or they don’t understand,” Selina said. “It’s such a disconcerting feeling.”

Some students intend to follow CDC guidelines at social gatherings but feel pressured to do otherwise, according to sophomore Jane Meng.

“There’s sometimes a weird environment where, if you wear a mask, you’re not cool,” Meng said. “Everyone might go to a [gathering] wearing masks, but once everyone starts taking off their masks, it becomes a trend.”

Mask apathy is not limited to teens. Throughout the nation, people disagree  over whether or not to wear a mask. During the Capitol insurrection, several Republican politicians refused to follow safety guidelines while taking shelter.

Right now, it feels like if you’re the one being cautious, you’re the one being judged.

— Jane Meng

“Right now, it feels like if you’re the one being cautious, you’re the one being judged,” Meng said.

Although some students say that “administrators shouldn’t be involved in people’s personal lives” by issuing detentions or suspensions, many deem repercussions necessary.

“You’re not honoring your peers when you make those decisions,” Fulghum said.

Fulghum’s firsthand view of the dangers of COVID has shaped her attitude toward the pandemic.  

“A lot of what people feel and the way people act is informed by personal experience,” Fulghum said. “I have a family friend who has been in the hospital for months. Seeing a person not remember who you are is the biggest impact of COVID I’ve seen.”

One thing students agree on is that the virus has exhausted everyone, yet those who play it safe feel increasingly frustrated by unsafe gatherings.

“Just make decisions that are good for yourself, your peers, and especially our teachers, who are putting their health on the line to teach us every day at school,” Fulghum said.

Additional reporting by Julia Smith and Mia Hong