STUDENT EDITORIAL: Teens & the Coronavirus Pandemic

A Note from Mrs. Rachael A. Moss, Journalism & Communications Teacher:

Before our Thanksgiving Break, the Free Lancer Staff completed their first editorial writing project.  Each student identified an issue, proposed solutions and researched each topic utilizing reputable web-based sources.  Our students focused on editorial writing techniques used by The New York Times and other, similar, professional publications.  I am delighted to share these editorials with our community.  Some writers prefer the traditional “byline,” while others opt for attribution as only “Free Lancer Staff.”  This is in keeping with standards (again) set by publications like The New York Times.  Thank you for reading our first ever student editorials.

The actions of teenagers in Pennsylvania and across the country as they party weekend after weekend have played no small role in the upsurge in national coronavirus cases. Throughout the summer and into the fall, high schoolers have been congregating in large groups quite frequently. The fact that no one is wearing a mask is the least egregious aspect of these sizable shindigs. Perhaps they don’t grasp the gravity of this pandemic, and how their behavior has contributed to its prolonging. 

Nevertheless, it is time for the facts.

Social media serves as an inspiration for a lot of young people, and oftentimes, they attempt to emulate what they see. This has become especially harmful in recent times, when countless social media influencers or otherwise celebrities post themselves hanging out in crowds or even flying out to meet up with other influencers. Claudia Conway, teenage daughter of former Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, caused a bit of a scandal on TikTok when another person posted a video of her maskless, ginormous Sweet 16 celebration, after she’d constantly preached wearing masks and abiding by social distancing guidelines. She claimed that the party got out of hand when those who were uninvited came swarming in,  but whether her words were truthful remains uncertain.

The bottom line is that this behavior should not be normalized or posted about in a self-righteous manner. After all, people tend to go with the crowd. If said crowd continues to forgo any semblance of social distancing, then more and more people will come down with the coronavirus. That’s just how this works. 

Prior to the holiday season, Pennsylvania health secretary Rachel Levine issued a fervent plea begging everyone to stay indoors this holiday season and to limit gatherings to the immediate family. She recognized that this is a tremendous sacrifice, but a sacrifice Pennsylvanians and Americans alike must make during these abnormal times. And she had valid grounds for this entreaty.  The PolicyLab team, which examines coronavirus trends in counties across the United States, reported that Pennsylvania’s weekly cases per 100,000 people reached 95 the week of October 28, and on October 28, Philadelphia reported 362 new cases.  Since the holiday season began, Pennsylvanians watch as daily numbers exponentially increase, with the most recent figures reporting over 10,000 new cases, and deaths from the virus relative to those in the first wave (March-May).

Delaware County (fewer than three hours from Lawrence County) surmised that social gatherings have had a lot to do with the statewide spike in cases. The most common method that residents in this county, and residents in other counties, have acquired the virus has been coming in contact at a get-together with someone already having tested positive.

It used to be a common argument amongst teens that they couldn’t get the virus. Whether their immortality complex was doing the talking, or they genuinely believed that they were safe from COVID-19, this claim has been disproven. A study published in the Center for Disease Control’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report stated that kids between the ages of 12 and 17 are almost twice as susceptible to the coronavirus as are younger children. Also, since May, people under the age of 19 have experienced a threefold increase in cases.  Harvard Medical School published advice for parents of young (and older) children, and they acknowledge that as our understanding of the virus evolves, so does medical advice regarding people of all ages.

But, the teen passion for partying is more than just a contributing factor in this pandemic.

According to Pennsylvania health guidelines, people must wear masks whenever they leave the house. They can go plain or opt for a more eye-catching facial covering, but one has to be part of their attire, almost like an everyday accessory…except this one saves lives. Unfortunately, there are no masks to be seen at the typical teenage get-together, which, in addition to the crowded nature of these parties, puts everyone in attendance at risk of acquiring COVID-19. The virus is airborne, but its transmission can be reduced at distances of six feet apart or more, something that isn’t a possibility at these big bashes.

The solution to all this is quite simple—stay home, or at least limit gatherings to, at most, a handful of friends. Oftentimes, however, the simplest solutions are the best. While at home, they can educate themselves on how they are doing their part to keep those around them safe. Have faith in science, and it will be rewarded.

None of this is ideal, and in fact, it’s really a testimony to the general selfishness of the American people that Americans still have to adhere to these guidelines, wearing masks and keeping six feet apart from others when going out. Not enough people took this pandemic seriously from the start, choosing deliberately to ignore the advice of scientists and experts, and this is the result. But for there to be any hope of a return to normalcy in the future, Americans have to stick to the rules. No one looks fondly on a rulebreaker, and it’s time to bring that mindset to the COVID-19 health guidance.

Hanging with the same handful of people may inevitably get boring, and then teens will grouse, “Well, how can I see my friends?” Obviously, a Zoom party isn’t ideal, but it’s plenty safer. Check out this article for a brief but relevant discussion on other ways to have fun with friends in a safe, socially distanced manner.

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