As of today, February 22nd, it’s been two years, 11 months, and nine days since the initial closure of many schools, businesses, and homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, schools have been back in session for well over a year. Businesses have returned to in-person work, and restaurants allow sit-in dining again. Most people go about their day to day lives as if everything has returned to normal.
But COVID-19 hasn’t gone away. The CDC has reported 259,339 weekly cases in the United States as of February 15, 2023. The highest reported weekly cases in the US was just a year ago — an estimated five million last January 2022.
Sure, we’ve definitely come a long way. But when only 16% of people in the U.S. have a boosted COVID-19 vaccine, we run into trouble. A whopping 17,000 people in the U.S. are in hospitals with COVID-19 right now. And that’s an issue, just as much as it was in 2020.
It may not seem like it, but 10,813 of those living in Illinois alone currently have COVID-19 according to the CDC. What is Chicago doing to enforce precautions? Is it enough?
In a non-scientific experiment, I surveyed and interviewed seven local Chicago high schoolers on how they feel about the current state of COVID-19 in their day-to-day lives. The results were interesting.
On a scale from 1-5, one being never and five being all the time, I asked how often these students see people wearing masks in public. They all responded with a 1-3. Most wear masks themselves in public or during school, though not always.
One student from ChiArts, Zamora Quintero, said, “I do go out a lot and when I do, depending on the situation, I wear my mask around places that are very crowded or indoors.”
Many agreed that although there is not a mask mandate in place currently in Chicago, they wish there was.
Camille Buren, a senior at Senn High School, said, “I personally think there should still be some kind of mask mandate, at least in places like public transit. I take the train and the bus to school every day and the idea of not wearing a mask on them feels gross to me.
“I think that, at this point in the pandemic where less people are focusing on minimizing the spread, masks should still be worn to protect those with disabilities and those who are immunocompromised.”
“I personally think there should still be some kind of mask mandate, at least in places like public transit.” — Camille Buren
Fellow Senn senior, Stella Turek, agreed with Buren, especially about worrying about COVID-19 on public transport. “I worry about [others being sick] the most at school and on public transportation. I always wear a mask in public, and I’m very good about washing and sanitizing my hands, but that’s pretty much all I do.”
Everyone surveyed said they knew someone who has gotten COVID-19 in the past three months. When they see people who are sick at school or in public, some social distance, some increase their mask usage, some sanitize. But many comment they don’t do much.
When they’re sick, many take rapid or at home COVID-19 tests. Rarely do they get PCR testing. A student at Amundsen High School, Pip Boland, acknowledges that people should be more careful if they feel sick at all, mainly because of the gap of time between being contagious and showing symptoms.
Boland said he wishes people took COVID-19 more seriously from the start of the pandemic. He said, “A lot of people died from it even if they were following precautions because the people around them were careless.”
Quintero noted that the virus is still out here doing damage. “I understand the current state of COVID isn’t as dangerous as it once was, but it is still around, it is still spreading and it’s still killing people. I say this not to judge others on their decisions, but I personally take the extra precautions for myself and my loved ones around me.”
Quintero is right. We can all do better personally to help stop the spread of COVID-19, especially in a society where many don’t do anything. Be proactive and get vaccinated, get boosted, continue to wash your hands often, and mask up, especially in public settings. One more person doing their part can mean everything — It can mean a life has been saved.
By Caileigh Winslade, Senior, ChiArts
Instagram @fairytwist / Twitter @silverrebi
True Star Media’s content is made possible thanks to donors like you. To support the voice and perspective of youth, donate at elevate.truestarfoundation.org.