As the sun shines through my window and I scroll through my social media feed, post after post shows groups of smiling teens gathered at a beach or having a picnic. Perfectly normal during the peak of summer — until I remember that we are in the midst of a pandemic.

Even as health officials are strongly advising everyone to stay home, especially in initial virus hotspots such as Santa Clara County, many teens both at Palo Alto High School and across the country have refused to follow social distancing guidelines.

Though a large majority of people are taking precautions by limiting contact with others, these efforts ultimately become futile as long as there remain individuals who act irresponsibly.

According to the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, there have been nearly 22,000 cases and over 340 coronavirus deaths in the county — which amounts to a death rate of roughly 1.5%.

Though social distancing guidelines allow for nonessential excursions, students should remind themselves that just because they can engage in in-person activities with others often does not mean that they should; those who do not need to go outside should be staying at home as much as possible to reduce community transmission.


I was disappointed to see that many students … missed the note that going to the beach … does not count as an essential trip.


While watching the compilation of seniors’ summer vacation clips during the first week of school at the Paly Welcome, I was disappointed to see that many students I knew seemed to have missed the note that going to the beach in large groups does not count as an essential trip.

In contrast, I can count on one hand the number of times I have gone outside over the summer — twice for dentist appointments, once to pick up textbooks and once more to get a shirt on Senior Swag Day.

Even then, Senior Swag Day brought together hordes of students who took their masks off to take pictures with one another, failing to do the bare minimum requested by Paly administrators to keep people safe.

I spent the first 102 days of quarantine without leaving the house at all, eating cake alone on my birthday in the middle of July and waving to friends through a window as they dropped off cards and gifts. The first time I stepped out for a walk, I had almost forgotten the feeling of wind blowing on my face and hearing leaves crunch as I stepped over them.

Though in retrospect I am grateful my parents kept me home, it still hurts that I and many others who limited our excursions are forced to stay at home longer due to the irresponsibility of other teens — the same people we are trying to protect from catching the virus.

It is understandable that self-quarantining is difficult at times — remaining in one place for months on end with only a digital connection to the outside world is both mentally and physically draining.

Many students were cautious about putting themselves and others at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure towards the beginning of the summer, but with no end to the pandemic in sight, it has been difficult to keep up hope for recovery and fight the unceasing feeling of fatigue.

Unfortunately, the virus is just as deadly as it was six months ago, especially with the upcoming Halloween season that has traditionally been a time for large gatherings and parties. Now, it is more important  than ever to remind ourselves that community well-being takes precedence over our convenience and temporary fun.

Because the coronavirus has an overall death rate of 1.5% and even lower for younger people, it may seem logical to think that we won’t catch the virus or easily survive even if we do. However, we must stop reducing people to numbers and begin to empathize by thinking about the fact that our friends, family or at-risk relatives could be part of that 1.5%.

Disregarding the safety and health of others who remain at home detracts from our efforts to get back to school and regular life as fast as possible, and only prolongs online school.

Follow the guidelines, please, so that our efforts don’t go to waste.

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