COVID-19 isn’t over just because you’re over it


Elyssa Kennedy

Downtown Los Altos appears deserted in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus has been treated as one of the biggest trends of 2020, and people not taking it seriously has led to a surge of COVID-19 cases.

Similar to the TikTok “Renegade” dance and cutting your bangs during quarantine, COVID-19 — the largest global pandemic since the 1950s — has been treated as one of the biggest trends of 2020. At first, people used social media to spread awareness about the virus, encouraging social distancing and mask wearing. As months passed, though, many got bored of all the COVID talk and began to move on. 

But the virus didn’t.

If you looked inside a hospital, you’d be able to see the prominence of the virus. For healthcare workers, COVID-19 is far from a “trend.” Their grueling workdays are clouded with countless COVID-19 cases and deaths. On platforms such as Instagram and in several news interviews, nurses and healthcare professionals have shared their experiences working with COVID-19. 

“This is a war zone.” 

“I broke down and cried today, out of exhaustion and defeat.” 

“I haven’t slept because my mind won’t shut off.” 

Teenagers’ responses to the pandemic included: claiming that their social lives are more important than COVID-19 and using phrases like “my body, my choice” to justify not wearing a mask. 

The contrast between the healthcare workers’ and the residents’ thoughts shows the ignorance of some Los Altos constituents about the virus. The healthcare workers’ words should suggest that the public would take COVID-19 safety regulations seriously, especially as many are starting to meet others. Instead, a majority of people are carelessly attending gatherings, ignoring the social distancing guidelines. 

Recently, many Downtown Los Altos stores and restaurants opened their doors, mandating masks and social distancing rules. Almost instantaneously, Downtown Los Altos was flooded with eager faces waiting to meet their friends for the first time in months. Unfortunately, caught up in all the excitement, many ended up disregarding citywide regulations about social distancing and masks. 

Contrary to what many people seem to believe, the virus has not magically disappeared just because Downtown Los Altos and other public areas have opened their doors to the public. 

The decision to open up Downtown Los Altos primarily served to give local businesses a sense of relief, while profits fluctuated due to the lockdown. But the virus is still prominent, and the reopening of downtown sends a false message that it is safe to socialize without taking any precautions. 

Keeping local businesses afloat while also maintaining public safety are not mutually exclusive, and we need to be mindful of our role in spreading the virus. 

Something as simple as local businesses more strictly enforcing mask guidelines, could reduce the growth rate of the virus by 2 percent each day.

In addition to local businesses, Los Altos residents should also strictly abide by the rules and regulations Los Altos set in place. One of the most common myths about COVID-19 is that it doesn’t impact younger people, so many of them don’t wear masks whilst downtown. It is essential that Los Altos teens wear masks while downtown, not only as a protective measure but also to influence their peers into doing the same. 

Ultimately, simply staying at home and not going downtown unless necessary is the best way to prevent the spread of the virus. No number of precautions while going out will be as safe as just staying at home. 

As residents of Los Altos, the most important thing we can do is stay educated and updated on the recent COVID-19 updates. Whether it is simply checking statistics or following legislation, maintaining knowledge about the current COVID-19 status will lead to people making more informed decisions about where they go and who they interact with, positively impacting the people around them. 

We need to take a step back and realize our privilege. A seemingly harmless outing with friends puts hundreds of healthcare workers and their families at risk. A simple gesture such as forgetting your mask could cost the life of an elderly person. Not social distancing could cost the life of an infant. While it’s tempting to meet with friends and post with the newest hashtag, we have to make sure that #death is not trending. 

Next time you go downtown for a lighthearted hang out with friends, bring your mask and make sure to remember the impact you have on other people’s lives. Or, maybe just stay home, order in, and hop on a Zoom call with your friends instead. Let’s make public safety a trend that never goes out of style.