THE COVID SHORTCOMING

By: Adrian Duah-Mensah

Several Heritage High students are settling back into in-person school. And for some, this is a better way to learn, as they struggle in an online setting. It’s a way to get back some sense of normalcy, see friends they haven’t seen in almost a year, become more interactive and engaged in class (or not), and meet or see past or present teachers that they really enjoyed seeing. There are a couple restrictions in place, such as not going off campus to eat, the regular screenings before you enter the school, and no vending machines. When asked, to some, it’s a welcome change. To some, it won’t last a month. For others, they’re indifferent; as long as it’s school, it’s terrible. Many are nervous to go because of teacher interaction, or that it’s taking everything fun out of school. It’s important to recognize and address these feelings. But whatever your feelings are about going back to school, it’s also important to recognize that while it could be great to get back to school, it’s important to stay safe. This includes avoiding large gatherings.

To some, it looks like the pandemic is slowing down. According to Worldometer, the new worldwide cases as of February 17th sit at 229, 126, compared to two days prior, at 264,998. For the weekly epidemiology report for February 16th, the World Health Organization stated “The number of global new cases reported has continued to fall, with 2.7 million new cases last week, a 16% decline compared to the previous week. The number of new deaths reported also fell, with 81 000 new deaths reported last week, a 10% decline as compared to the previous week.” For a lot of people, this is good news, as the pandemic has been plaguing the world for over a year. It’s been about a year since restrictions, “stay at home” guidelines, and lockdowns have been put in place to slow the spread. For a lot of people, especially younger people, masks have, and possibly will continue to be a part of our daily lives. To some experts, almost every American will be able to have a vaccine by the “end of July” said Jeff Zients, the COVID-19 response coordinator for the White House. More and more people have been getting vaccines as well, with 1.7 million vaccines being administered on average per day. So, with the vaccine being administered more, and cases being on the downtrend, isn’t now a better time than ever to make up for lost time with friends? 

Well, in a small setting, continuing to follow guidelines. . . if you want to, theoretically, be my guest. But throwing a rager, with up to hundreds of people, none of whom are wearing masks, socially distancing, or even staying home if they don’t feel well? It should be common knowledge not to attend, even with cases on the downtrend. Just as slowly or quickly as those cases are falling, those cases can rise if people stop taking proper precautions. It should be understood that COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease, so if you contract COVID-19, not only are you sick, but if you don’t follow quarantine protocols, you risk many more people getting sick as well. The contagiousness of this disease can lead to people with compromised immune systems and the elderly developing major complications from the virus. In other words, all parties lose. But apparently, this doesn’t stop many celebrities from leaving an impression on their fans, and university students leaving an impression on their friends and other people around them.

There is no excuse for influencers and celebrities throwing large parties with hundreds of people, or organizers making events where so many people can attend, without proper guidelines, leaving an influence on people at home that they too can go to large parties and/or throw large parties without paying attention to guidelines. And the defenses they make for themselves after doing so despite the risks are at best laughable, and at worst, disgusting. Right now, it is simply not safe to go. But before I start to sound like a broken record, let’s look at some of the cases.

So, let’s start from the beginning. Since the early days of the pandemic, people have refused to let the pandemic disturb their spring break plans, their parties, and other large gatherings. It was around March of last year. Spring break had just started, and at the time, there were about 4,000 to 5,000 cases in the US, with 90-170 deaths during the week this occured. Former President Trump had announced new guidelines for the disease, including not eating at restaurants or bars, and avoiding gatherings with more than 10 people. But at Clearwater Beach? Not a care in the world as thousands of people gathered, laying side by side, packed in groups. No social distancing. Not a mask in sight from the many pictures taken both by beach  goers and news outlets. It was the same story in Miami, with many people smoking, passing around drinks, and not socially distancing. Brianna Leeder, a spring breaker from Wisconsin said “What is there to do here besides go to the bars or to the beach? And they’re closing all of it, it’s really messing me up.”  Brady Sluder, another spring breaker from Ohio said “We’re just out here having a good time. Whatever happens, happens.” 

So, Spring Break came and went as multiple people had probably played musical chairs with a deadly virus. You’d think after cases went up higher and higher, and some of those people unfortunately becoming infected, that maybe we’d all come together and stay at home and try to get through the pandemic together. If that’s the case, I’m really sorry. That was only the beginning. In May, Madonna had attended Steven Klein’s birthday party. This was after she had revealed that she had “coronavirus antibodies”, meaning she’d already been in contact with someone who had COVID-19. No masks were found, and there was no social distancing. In one photo, she’s hugging Klein on the couch, with again, not a mask to be seen. 

Fast forward to June, with these giant parties showing no signs of slowing down. In the Hamptons, a party had gone down, once again with everyone maskless, the party packed with one person even saying it looked “as if COVID never happened”. Among the 100 partygoers were Donald Trump Jr., his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, the host Joe Farell and Ramona Singer. All four were mute on social media about the event, but that didn’t stop insiders from catching all four at the party. A week before this, Novak Djokovic, famed for being the “ world number one” tennis player, and multiple other tennis stars, came under fire for their nightclub party. This shindig came just days before George Dimitrov tested positive for COVID-19. A video surfaced of the party, with in addition to Dimitrov and Djokovic, Jelena Jankovic, Alex Zvervev, Dominic Thiem, and Flip Krajinovic. The men were all smiles as the pandemic faded into thin air in their minds, with some of the men dancing, singing, and some of the partygoers even going shirtless. Djokovic had stated before that he was opposed to vaccination, stating “Personally I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel.” over Facebook Live. 

July came, as the global number of daily cases climbed to almost 300,000. In the US, during the week this occurred, the total number of cases were at around 4-4.7 million. At this point, most schools had gone virtual, concerts were long cancelled, and many countries were on lockdown. Yet that didn’t stop Goldman Sachs C.E.O, David Solomon, from hosting his Hamptons DJ gig under the moniker DJ D-Sol. With a charity event an hour prior to the main event, ironically named Safe and Sound, featured the Chainsmokers as the opening act. Before you could even get there though, you could pay up to $25,000 for good seats. Apparently, organizers encouraged the guests to wear masks and performed temperature checks. Instead, we got multiple videos of concertgoers basking in the bright concert lights, sans mask and probably three feet apart. For what it’s worth, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he was “appalled” by the scene, stating “The Department of Health will conduct an investigation.” He also added “The town of Southampton is going to have a problem. I don’t know how they approved that permit.” implying that the town of Southampton could face penalties for allowing the concert to even exist.

Along with the concert in Southampton, Jake Paul, a YouTube personality, had been in the hot seat for throwing a party in his Calabasas home, with, you guessed it, no masks or social distancing. Unfortunately, he was not the only one. Nikita Dragun, James Charles, Tana Mongeau, and Dixie D’Amelio all were also spotted at a party, which was not the first of Nikita Dragun’s birthday bashes. Days before, The Hype House had come under fire for hosting a party for Larray’s birthday. The city of L.A alone had reported 4,647 new cases and 66 new deaths, between the two parties occuring. Larray and James Charles both apologized for the parties a little while after Tyler Oakley tweeted “if your favorite influencers are at huge house parties during a pandemic (& are dumb enough to post it on social media)… they are bad influences. unfollow them.” and a few other tweets. Tana Mongeau however, had posted a now-deleted video with Erika Costell at a party (I don’t know which one) saying “Listen, we don’t —– care.”, however, she did try to clear up the video by saying she was referring to “past drama”, not the pandemic.

If you think the city of Southampton potentially facing penalties would have stopped or slowed these parties down, think again. Enter Bryce Hall,  the Sway Boys, and their infamous birthday bash in their Hollywood Hills mansion. There were over a hundred guests, but zero masks and zero social distancing, with partiers once again dancing, drinking two feet apart and recording themselves with zero cares to give. Some of these guests included Teala Dunn, Brooke Hyland, and the Nelk Boys, who had also thrown a party. Apparently, they used hand sanitizer before entering the home, but I suppose that wasn’t enough for the LAPD, who were called at 4AM over a noise complaint, and later charged Bryce Hall with a misdemeanor. This came after two previous warnings from the LAPD, one on August 8th and one on August 14th. Then, five days later, the city shut down their power. Both Bryce Hall and Blake Grey have pleaded not guilty to their misdemeanor charges, and face $2,000 fines and up to a year in jail. A week after this incident, Tristan Thompson, an NBA player, had thrown a party in his house as well. The Beibers had also thrown a house party. 

Schools weren’t faring much better either. As if celebrities throwing parties weren’t bad enough, now universities are getting mixed into the bunch. Lovely. This could potentially be worse, especially for bigger schools as now there are not only more people, but many people look up to schools like Cornell and dream of going to many of these schools. And if a few of the upperclassmen there can throw a rager, then who’s to say I can’t? This mentality can get rather problematic very quickly.  I suppose we can start with the Cornell freshman with a reputation on TikTok who had recorded herself at a party, with none of the partygoers wearing masks, because of course they weren’t. Later on, she posted an explanation to TikTok, but by then the damage had already been done, as a petition had been made to get her expelled from the school. But before that, we had University of North Georgia students who held yet another large party, with a viral video surfacing. Even before that, several Alabama students were literally participating in a contest to see who could catch COVID first. The students had all been diagnosed with COVID-19, and thought it was hilarious to play hot potato with the disease that had killed about 131,000 people in the US at the time. “They put money in a pot and they try to get COVID. Whoever gets COVID first gets the pot.” said Sonya McKinstry, the Tuscaloosa City Councilor. 

Before we knew it, September was here, and schools were seemingly getting worse than ever. Around late August to September, students of UNC – Chapel Hill, had to come back from campus after too many cases of COVID had sprung up. Many other schools had to do the same. Sadly, this did not encourage students whose campuses were still open to keep the party plumes and maskless dances to a minimum because, well, their school could be shut down as well. Oh, and you could get expelled/suspended. 

But I suppose that didn’t stop these Purdue students, who weren’t the first of many university partying scandals. The threat of expulsion didn’t threaten these students, as the fourteen had thrown a party in the residence hall. The group had been suspended, but this wasn’t Purdue’s first case of reckless students, as thirty-six others had been suspended a month prior. A little while later, multiple Salem State University students had partied yet again despite the pandemic. This came around the same time as Milton High School students threw a party with 50 to 100 teens in attendance, risking hybrid learning. Just a few weeks earlier,  Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School had faced a party that ultimately made them decide to go fully remote. The party featured underage drinking, and no masks and no social distancing. Not too long after this, about two dozen Boston University students had held an outdoor party, with, as usual, drinking, no masks and no social distancing. 

October had rolled around, and while some were looking for ways to enjoy a pandemic-style Halloween, others were hosting parties and packing bars. Such was the case at Florida State, where many students had recorded the apartment just minutes away from campus hosting a party. At the University of Central Florida, the Kappa Delta sorority had thrown a party, with many of the students claiming that coronavirus didn’t exist in now-deleted videos. Many more Florida colleges had received countless complaints about the parties. In addition, Cardi B had held a massive birthday party, mask and social distancing free, in a party that was also attended by Kylie Jenner, Megan Thee Stallion, and Teyanna Taylor. 

In November, former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had thrown another ‘pandemic party’. Later in the month, Jake Paul was under fire again for throwing yet another party after winning a fight against Nate Robinson. Among the partygoers were Logan Paul and Tana Mongeau. At this point, Mongeau was done defending her actions. Cardi B threw a Thanksgiving party. But perhaps one of the most egregious of the bunch though, was Dr. Mike. A doctor/influencer who was one of the leading voices in informing others of the spread, had attended a boat party. Blasted for being a ‘hypocrite’, he later went on to apologize, but again, the damage was already done. Earlier in the month, Lele Pons had hosted a party so large that people flew from different parts of the country to attend it. Among those partiers were the Dolan Twins, Diplo, and Juanpa. 

December had come, and Cardi B had thrown her fourth party, celebrating Offset’s birthday. And yeah, no one was wearing a mask. January came, and the vaccine with it. While the vaccine was a welcome step in the right direction, that didn’t mean everything could go back to the way it was. I guess Jake Paul missed the memo once again though, as in late January he attended a birthday party on a yacht. A little bit later, in early February, Kylie Jenner had faced backlash over throwing a huge party for her daughter Stormi. A little later on, students at UNC – Chapel Hill had rushed Franklin Street despite warnings from the university not to. And then two days later, Tony Lanez was under fire for hosting a large pre-Super Bowl party.

So, after all of this, why are people still going to large gatherings? Well, for some, it’s the sense of community. These are still some scary, trying times, and for a lot of people, all they want is a sense of community. It can be hard to socially distance when you want to hug your friends, and it can be hard to not see the people you love grow up, through birthday parties, proms, or graduation parties. It’s a hard concept to grasp that just yesterday you were hugging your best friend, and now you can’t even see them besides through a Zoom call. It’s hard to cope with, and many people still want to go to their friend’s weddings, their sibling’s graduation parties, and more. It’s been a hard few years for everyone, and some people throw caution to the wind and rather than adhering to the guidelines, rebel and throw parties anyway. It may seem selfish, and it shouldn’t be excused, but everyone misses someone right now. There are a lot of people that not everyone can see right now. Just the effects of isolation alone can be incredibly difficult, and it’s understandable that you want to see the people you love and miss.

At the same time, it can be hard to remember that there are things much bigger than us. It can be hard to see that if you don’t wear your mask, your grocer, your cashier, your doctor, or your delivery guy could get COVID, and bring it to their families, which could lead to them losing a loved one. It could even lead to they themselves dying, as having a healthy immune system does not exclude you from getting hit hard by the effects of COVID. Masks do help, even if a tiny bit, as even a little bit can slow the spread of COVID. There are many things that can be done to slow the spread. It’s a sordid thing to think about, but people have lost their siblings, their parents, their grandparents, their friends, their cousins, their extended family. Over 500,000 people had lost their lives to this disease. Even though the vaccine is decreasing the number of cases, the work is not done and the pandemic. 

It’s important to remember the three Ws when going out: 

  • Wear a cloth mask over your nose and mouth.
  • Wait 6 feet apart. Avoid close contact.
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.

And it’s also important to recognize that if you are going to hold or attend a small gathering, then there needs to be less than 10 people, everyone has to socially distance, and everyone has to wear a mask. Until the pandemic is over, it’s important to follow these guidelines.

Because when the lights are off, the balloons are all popped, and the trash is thrown out, the worst feeling after the party is when you discover that someone or their loved ones were put at serious risk because of the 100+ people party you threw with drinks, darts, and danger.

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