So two days ago, Friday, it was announced that my high school, as well as all other public schools in Santa Clara County, would be shutting down for a minimum of three weeks, effective Monday.
I was at a meeting with my school’s Dream Club when one of our members saw a news article on NBC about Bay Area schools that had been shut down due to COVID-19 concerns. The news was big, but even then it wasn’t entirely guaranteed that it would affect us for certain. As per usual, we were numb to the information.
About twenty minutes later, as I sat in my school’s mostly empty college lab during my Independent Studies 5th period, one of our three co-principals made the announcement over the PA system: starting Monday — so tomorrow — our high school would be closed for three weeks.
I texted my girlfriend, who wasn’t at school that day, to tell her what was happening. A few minutes passed, during which I processed what was happening while also casually working on my assignments. Then a friend stopped by the college lab, as he frequently does without suffering many consequences from his AP Spanish teacher.
We talked for almost the rest of the period. The main topic of our conversation, understandably, was COVID-19 and its impacts on our community in California. It hadn’t really sunk in yet just what the announcement meant for our situation and our future. There was some surreal about it, still is as I write this today, that peculiar factor of disbelief when something big finally hits so close to home. Even in the past few weeks as COVID-19 has gotten closer to the Bay Area — especially when last week our school had to be deep cleaned after it was discovered that a relative of a student tested positive for the virus — nothing has really felt that real.
But now it is. There isn’t some heart-pumping panic to exist in constantly, but there’s more than enough to proceed through the next few weeks with concern and caution.
The main point of why I’m writing this is to express my feelings about the entire situation as a student and a youth who’s living through this. I’m not even close to being an expert on anything, and the extent of my knowledge doesn’t really stem past the basics of understanding what’s going on and what to do about it.
So what am I thinking? What am I doing? What’s going through the mind of some Californian high school junior that you’ve never heard of?
What I’m thinking
Most of it is just weird.
Like, wow. Something is actually happening.
On Friday, the weather was sunny with clouds just scarcely beginning to roll in. Yesterday, after the news, it was stormy. Cold. Wind lapping against the doors of the homes we’re staying inside of. Rain pounding against the roofs. I actually like rainy weather a lot. It’s cozy, and it makes me want to curl up inside with a blanket, sweats, a thermal, and just do nothing. I love that vibe. It’s basically what I’ve been doing all of today.
So on one hand, I appreciate this time that we have to stay at home. That’s especially so as an introvert whose idea of a perfect vacation is not leaving the apartment for days on end and whose hobbies require little more of him than sitting in front of a laptop with headphones in and snacks nearby. Except for the looming threat of when I run out of food [that I actually want to eat], I’m really comfortable right now.
But, of course, I have a few things to worry about.
My school’s been shut down for three weeks. Three weeks. I’m not going to see so many people, cool teachers and casual friends, for that long. Even more pressingly, I’m not going to have normal education for three weeks.
I’ve already been talking with some of my teachers, and apparently there are going to be measures taken for “remote teaching”. I honestly have no doubt that that’s going to work poorly. If not for the already blatant problem that a majority of students don’t have simple Internet access, there’s no way to properly substitute the rigor of a structured classroom curriculum.
So many things are going to be disrupted in my education. My SAT was registered for yesterday, but it was cancelled, and there’s no word of when and where I’m going to be rescheduled. My AP US History teacher had a plan for these next few weeks on preparing us for the AP exam, as did my AP Literature teacher, and both of those plans are going off the rails. I’m friends with a lot of seniors, and I know they’re all stressed about maintaining their grades and also not being able to work with our school’s counselors for all things related to college.
I might be more lucky than many other students throughout the world. I’ve been able to stay in touch with my teachers and talk about plans for keeping up my studies. My teachers are cool people who will work with me and others on a personal level to help us stay caught up in school. Nothing’s going to be as good as normal schooling would be, but it’s the best that we can do.
Other than that, I just have no idea what I’m going to do for three weeks.
Health and Safety
If I’m being completely honest, I don’t know as much about COVID-19 as I could. I probably represent the general population of teenage students in the fact that I’m aware of the current situation, of what I should be doing in basic hygiene, and of how it is most pertinently affecting my local community and a general global front. But I’m not staying tirelessly updated with the news, and a considerable amount of my knowledge comes from my time spent perusing the Internet. It isn’t the best way of being informed, but it’s a real, genuine, imperfect one, and I’m sure it applies to most of my peers as well.
What I’ve heard the most emphasis on is the concept of “flattening the curve”. From my own comprehension, the gist of it is to keep the amount of sick people at best below the capacity of the health care system. By spreading out the frequency of infection so that there isn’t some high spike in the amount of cases that jolts the health care system, the economy, general infrastructure, and so on, we make it so that we can better withstand the whole coronavirus ordeal.
What flattening the curve breaks down to is the fundamental practices of staying safe. Washing your hands. Covering your coughs and sneezes. Distancing yourself from others. Isolating yourself at home. All the regular practices of hygiene and not spreading any sort of contagious illness.
The biggest question is how seriously people like me are taking that advice.
I wash my hands. I’ve got hand sanitizer in the left pocket of my backpack that I bring practically everywhere and have occasionally been wiping down with disinfectant wipes. I touch crosswalk buttons with my sleeves and try to not touch stuff on the bus when I don’t need to — although it can’t really be helped. When sleeping in the same room as my older brother, I keep windows open so that we’re not just breathing the same funky air for eight hours a night.
I try to touch my face less. I still do it, no doubt about that, but if I do, I try to have clean hands or at least have the internal debate as to whether or not that little itch is really worth scratching.
Damn it. Writing that last paragraph made my entire face itchy. I have to admit that I scratched it. But hey, I used hand sanitizer about twenty minutes ago, and the last time I used my laptop — which was sometime yesterday morning — I wiped down the keyboard with a Clorox wipe.
It’s small things. I’m trying to be safer. I’m not trying as hard as I could be, but I’m still trying.
On Friday I was part of a panel of no more than twenty or so students at my school that talked with my city’s mayor, Sam Liccardo.
The purpose of his visit was to talk to students who were going to be affected by the shutdown and hear what their thoughts were. In a way, it was similar to what I’m expressing in this post, but that discussion was more based on San Jose and what he as a mayor could do.
My peers brought up concerns over a variety of topics, such as how small businesses would be affected (one student’s parents own a restaurant), how the school facility would be used to benefit the community, how undocumented residents would be affected by bills meant to preserve the financial standing of citizens, and so forth. It was an engaging discussion, and I added to the mix my own thoughts of how child care workers such as my mom would be impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. While CISCO enforces a mandatory work-from-home policy for its primary employees, the child care branch in which my mom works is still requiring her to show up tomorrow morning. And my older brother, who works at a restaurant, has had his hours cut. He’s losing pay.
One of the biggest questions that came from that panel was one asked by a fellow student. He asked what San Jose would look like after the outbreak passed.
The mayor, in his respectable, highly diplomatic way, basically said that he didn’t know.
What I’m doing
As far as I know, I don’t have COVID-19. Yet.
Yesterday I hung out at my girlfriend’s house for most of the day. We just chilled, watched a movie, got some ramen and popcorn and ice cream, and had a good time. Maybe not the best social distancing, since we were with each other and did go out to a few stores, but still something.
So far all I’ve done today is sleep in until nine, help my mom with some laundry, and begin writing this.
I’ve got three weeks ahead of me. I know to expect some forms of schoolwork, especially from the specific plans that I’m beginning to work out with some of my teachers. I’ve still got this blog and my other writing projects to be working on, and I’ve also got some friends and loved ones that I’m going to keep in touch with.
So that’s basically what my life’s going to look like for the next few weeks. Friends, loved ones, studying, writing, relaxing, and, of course, trying not to die. As always, I’ll keep you all updated.
Best of wishes to you all. I hope you can stay safe and comfortable over the next few weeks, and I’ll see you in the next post.