Mahi Wants You Healthy and Happy – A column using science to focus on physical health and myths associated with disease. This article was written during January and February. Names were changed to protect the anonymity of students
On July 26, 2020, my great uncle died of coronavirus after being on a respirator for two weeks. Withdrawing money from a bank cost him his life.
2 years later, I currently attend a school where 2 out of 3 people in my school are exposed to coronavirus every day. The number of exposures top eight hundred cases every day, despite a 96% vaccination rate.
To quote the Saratoga High School principal Greg Louie: “One of the greatest challenges for our district during the surge has been keeping up with the volume of close contact notifications. The volume has become unmanageable and quite honestly, given the frequency of these notifications, they have become meaningless in practice.” Our sister school Los Gatos High has experienced two times as many cases for two times as many people. Rates are escalating everywhere.
One teacher said that: “catching coronavirus would give [them] immunity” and that that is why they don’t wear their mask in class during lunchtime. We have so many coronavirus cases that my school no longer informs us if we have been exposed – and we currently test only once a week arbitrarily. Our school attendance has dipped to 85%, with more than 200 students out of 1200 absent every day! On average, that is 120 more students absent compared to nonpandemic times. Los Gatos High School has suffered similar cases. Students at Saratoga High School declared that “at this rate, everyone would be getting coronavirus.”
Another student at Saratoga High School Kajri Mahajan* contracted coronavirus after catching it from hanging out with her friends, despite taking precautions at home and washing her hands, and wearing a mask responsibly. Students at the high school remark that “it was not a matter of if, but when.” Contracting a disease has been normalized.
My grandparents moved from India to the US for stricter coronavirus regulations. Is getting 6 exposures per week any better?
Saratoga High School gives us no remote option. Why do they not? Louie states: “While there is always some level of risk, we believe that we can provide students and staff with an environment that is safe.”
Are two out of three positive exposures considered “safe”?
I wear an N95 mask, go to school, spray hand sanitizer before and after each class, and throw away my mask before going home. This cycle repeats every 5 days of the week. Outside of school, I have not attended a restaurant with my family in over 2 years or traveled anywhere out of my school. Groceries we buy online and all gatherings are restricted to fewer than 5 people.
At school, my peers have abandoned caution. I live in fear that my 80-year-old diabetic grandparents or my ex-cancer patient father will catch coronavirus — from me.
Throwing caution to the wind was one of my classmates, Manasi*, who went to Thailand over winter break and returned right in time for the first day of the second semester. When I asked her why she was traveling, she replied, “For fun.” Two days later she tested positive. She exposed 160 students because she chose her self-interest.
I am not bashing those who choose to travel or visit populous places. We all have different priorities. However, if our choices affect others who are more vulnerable, that is a cause of concern.
I am simply requesting this:
Let those who have less on the line attend school. Give me and all those living with immunocompromised members another option — remote learning.
It’s easy to become indifferent to the virus, and truthfully, I’m no exception. Somedays I am upset that my grandparents cannot fulfill their dream of visiting Yellowstone with me before I graduate. But it’s in those moments when my grandpa pops pills in his mouth 15 minutes before eating his poha that I remember: it’s not up to me to decide if we can eat as a family at Chaat Palace.
If you like international traveling, by all means, go ahead Manasi, but don’t come back to school without testing negative. Radha, if you like Disneyland, visit. But don’t come back to school without testing negative.
February Break just ended and we’ll see how careful students are this time…
Test before you expose. Schools, institute a remote option. This isn’t just about you. Your choices affect others.
Mahi Ravi is a senior at Saratoga High School who is dedicated to getting more vaccinators in line for the COVID shot. In her free time, Mahi leads a website The Corona Page that offers simplified research on COVID.