Opinion: Teens need to take social distancing more seriously

Sofie Zalatimo, Senior Staff Writer

When schools shut down in March, many of us remained oblivious to the implications COVID-19 would have on our social lives. We quickly turned to Zoom and FaceTime, relying on screens to facilitate the conversations we once enjoyed face-to-face with our friends. We flooded social media with pre-quarantine photos of the moments we took for granted, interspersed with pictures of masked friends enjoying each other’s company from a distance. 

But as the pandemic drags on, our actions are shifting faster than the guidelines, and only months later, many teenagers are tired of the restrictions. Becoming increasingly adventurous and risky, they are resuming the in-person gatherings that were previously pushed onto Zoom. Now, scrolling through social media, we are bombarded with photos of classmates posing side-by-side, unmasked and indoors. 

Despite the difficulty of not seeing our friends, we have an obligation to behave responsibly. We must adhere to the COVID-19 guidelines to keep ourselves and our community safe and healthy. 

While the case numbers may not be as drastic as they were in March, we can’t fail to recognize that the pandemic is far from over. According to the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, those ages 19 and under account for 17.4 percent of COVID-19 cases in the county. Evidently, whatever we’re doing is far from enough to stop the spread.

Teens and children who contract COVID-19 are much more likely to be asymptomatic or exhibit very mild symptoms compared to adults, but are equally capable of transmitting the virus, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. So while your friend might feel completely healthy, they could be infected, and those few hours of unmasked contact could be enough for you to contract the virus. Some students also live with elderly or high-risk family members, and failure to follow sufficient protocols could spread it to their families.

Still, social media is now full of photos of friends having parties in their living rooms, with arms around each other and masks nowhere in sight. Some students seem to post photos with a different person everyday, always mask-less and only inches apart. Not only is this behavior unsafe for those involved, but it also perpetuates the idea that the pandemic is no longer happening.

While nothing can replace our in-person time with our friends, we must prioritize the containment of the virus over our social lives. COVID-19 has not become less contagious or less dangerous simply because we miss our friends. But the more seriously we take our prevention effort, the sooner we can return to the lunchtime Trader Joe’s runs and Boba Guys trips.

This doesn’t mean that we have to isolate ourselves in the meantime. There are plenty of outdoor activities that allow us to safely enjoy our friends’ company, such as going on a socially distanced hike or picnic. Additionally, wearing a mask is an incredibly simple task that can make a world of difference in eliminating the spread of the virus and keeping the community safe. 

When faced with the choice between standing five feet closer to your friends and possibly saving lives, the answer is obvious.