Columnist warns against gathering with friends unsafely during COVID-19 surge and debunks the false belief that hanging out with the same small group of friends without precautions still prevents the spread.

By Callia Peterson, ’22.

NOV. 1While munching on the leftover Halloween treats my family enjoyed the night before, I indulged in my admittedly perfunctory habit of opening up social media and viewing many Halloween revelers and Ohio State Football fans on Instagram and Snapchat. Knowing that Halloween and the big Penn State game were the night before, I had set low expectations for the amount of safety precautions, in regards to the raging pandemic, people were following. My stomach still sank, however, when I scrolled through picture after picture of people throwing various viewing and costume parties, unmasked, indoors and not physically distanced.

I looked over at my mother, a cancer patient currently on immunosuppressive drugs, and contemplated if I should worry her with these activities since I would be sharing classrooms and walking the hallways with many of these same party-goers later in the week. 

By Callia Peterson, ’22.

I am currently a student in the hybrid model. This was a challenging decision due to my mother’s condition. Yet, not all of my classes are offered in the Online Academy (OA) option and as a junior, I cannot push all of the classes not offered on OA to my senior year. There was also the expectation that the district would protect the lives of their students and their families; that if the conditions were really that severe for our community, they would send us back to Enhanced Distance Learning like they did for the first four weeks of the school year. 

It hasn’t just been Halloween where I’ve noticed others in Upper Arlington gathering while also not following the CDC guidelines. I also see it when my classmates pack into the same cars for lunch, or pose for photos with their coaches and teammates all while standing shoulder to shoulder, or post Snaps hugging friends, each time failing to abide by mask mandates. 

If I ever inquire about this activity, they usually provide the same reason: “Oh well it’s just my small group of friends. We only hang out with each other, and we are safe outside of that.” They claim their “bubble” of friends is an exception because they are only exposing themselves to each other.  

I do not intend to shame the people who threw these parties or drove to lunch with their friends unmasked or posed for photos with their teammates without distancing or a face covering—it is certainly not my place to judge. I do what is right for my family, and I know they are following guidelines that their families have suggested for them. 

Yet, now that Franklin County has been flagged as Purple in the Ohio Public Health Advisory System (the most dangerous color of them all and that indicates severe exposure and spread), I hope that everyone will take a moment to understand what their “bubbles” really mean and how to be safer this holiday season. As in March 2020, we are again being asked to “stay at home” and “flatten the curve”.

The bubble you think you have.

Let’s say you hang out with the same four people. Each of those people probably have 1-4 people living with them. Maybe a couple of your four friends have siblings who have their own friend “bubbles” as well, so then you have to account for all of your friends’ siblings’ friends and their families, too. Maybe the friends in your bubble have parents who are gathering with their own friends and/or are exposing themselves to co-workers everyday. Maybe your friends go to the store and catch the virus or their parents or their siblings or your sibling’s friends or the person in your AP Chemistry class who stood two feet away from you during a lab. The list goes on and on.

The bubble you actually have.

The problem is that not enough people are looking at the big picture. Therefore, what I beg of you is this: stop taking these chances. 

If you absolutely have to see your friends, I recommend doing what I do with mine: stay outside, at least 6 feet apart with masks and at least 8 to 10 feet apart unmasked (if you must eat).  

There are still many ways to stay connected with friends and family outside of your home this winter, especially in this incredible age of technology. You can keep your tradition of Friendsgiving alive with a Zoom version, bake Christmas cookies together over FaceTime and do Secret Santa through the mail.

A Zoom Thanksgiving and Christmas is a lot better than spending the holidays with sick family members in the ICU.

These small acts of sacrifice are what is going to keep our community safe. If you make the effort now, seniors may get to return to UAHS in the spring, your family and friends may stay alive long enough to be vaccinated and you may be able to throw a Halloween bash in October 2021 guilt-free.