Students should limit outings, be responsible on social media

Santa Clara County has been held in suspense for more than half a year while facing multiple surges of COVID-19 cases. The months of social isolation and constant caution have been draining for us all. Fortunately, Santa Clara County moved from the “purple” to the “red” tier of California’s COVID-19 monitoring system just last week, allowing more business and even schools in some areas to operate. This momentous achievement, along with an overall decline in cases, has led to an increase in gatherings among students and public figures alike.

However, California’s long battle with COVID-19 is far from over. Students should minimize unnecessary outings such as social gatherings, parties and events to protect themselves and their families; following social distancing guidelines and minimizing contact is the only way we can slow down infection rates. 

Even while infection rates are steadily decreasing, individual and community safety should be prioritized. As of Monday, the average COVID-19 caseload has decreased by 27.6% from the previous week, according to the California Department of Public Health. Despite this feat, which has taken time, effort and commitment, the risks of going out persist; according to the Santa Clara Public Health Center, there have been over 19,000 cumulative cases in our county alone, as of Monday. The threat of contracting the virus from an unsuspecting person or unknowingly infecting others should still encourage students to stay at home. Any unavoidable outings should be executed with extreme caution.

Furthermore, restaurants reopened for limited outdoor seating in early June, according to the Santa Clara County Public Health Center. While the risks of outdoor seating, especially with socially-distanced tables, is significantly less than that of indoor seating, the possibility of contracting the virus is still present and should not be taken lightly. One can never be sure whether the restaurant or those around you is taking proper precautions, so try to minimize dining at restaurants, especially with those you don’t live with.

To justify their group gatherings, teens often turn to the low mortality rate of their age range. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the death rate for youth ages 5-17 is 16 times lower than that of adults aged 18-29. Furthermore, many read that most of the teens infected with COVID-19 are asymptomatic and can live normally. This low mortality rate leads some to falsely believe that they can disregard protective safety measures without consequences, and has given adolescents a justification to continue partying or participating in large social events despite warnings from the CDC.

Yet at this point, teens may still serve as carriers of the virus, transferring it to more vulnerable populations. Ultimately, teens can still face serious health complications from infection, and even if they are asymptomatic, they can still be a danger to the people around them.

In addition, social media and the actions of public figures have also contributed to less cautious social gatherings. Currently, on applications such as Instagram and Tiktok, large numbers of influential creators are producing content with other creators. At times, these creators are not properly social distanced nor following guidelines. According to the New York Times, 60 to 70 guests flocked to a popular Los Angeles creator house, the Hype House, for a party in late July. Few creators sported masks in the numerous videos and pictures posted during the event. When these public figures disregard safety measures, they serve as poor role models, leading students to believe that ignoring these measures while hanging out with friends is acceptable. Consequently, they are putting themselves, their friends and their families in danger.

While social media figures play a crucial role entertaining teens, it’s important to recognize the downfalls of their visibility, especially in a global pandemic. At the peer-to-peer level, seeing friends’ posts on social media serves as an equally attractive or motivating factor to go out. Thus, mindfulness in this sensitive situation is crucial to keeping everyone safe. 

It’s no doubt that we each want to hang out, party and reopen as soon as possible. However, without following guidelines and keeping yourself safe, cases will inevitably begin to rise. Protect yourself and those around you by abiding by the CDC-suggested safety measures and by simply waiting a little longer before things return to “normal.” Go out only when absolutely essential, but be sure to follow guidelines and stay masked. Try to keep outdoors, where air circulation is better and the risk of spread is smaller, and minimize the frequency of these outings if possible. Instead of heading to that restaurant for dinner, consider getting takeout or making an elaborate home-cooked meal.

The longer we social distance and abide by CDC and county regulations, the faster we can continue to reopen without major setbacks.