Acknowledge the truth: most students don’t care about COVID

Joey Kauffman ’23

It’s been almost two years. Two years of masking, social distancing, holding events virtually—and the pandemic doesn’t seem to be stopping. Daily cases in the U.S. are higher than ever before. But when walking around campus, interviewing students, I sense a dominant attitude:

We don’t care about COVID.

Not everyone. There are certainly those who continue to take precautions seriously. But with the indoor dining, maskless indoor sports, and lack of any virtual school option, there isn’t much acknowledgment or assistance for students who don’t want to risk contracting (and spreading) COVID.

I’m not here to criticize this relaxed attitude. The isolation from the pandemic has taken a serious toll on everyone’s mental health—what The New York Times called an “​​epidemic of loneliness.” We are tired of, and maybe just oblivious to, COVID.

“After the amount of time that COVID’s been going on, everyone cares about it, but we don’t. Like, we care, like: it’s spreading, we want to keep the mask on. But at the same time, we’re like, we’re done with this,” Student A, a Fourth Former, said (I conducted anonymous interviews to ensure students’ honesty about opinions on COVID restrictions). 

Student A reveals a common attitude regarding COVID: knowing on one level that our actions are likely contributing to the spread of COVID, but on another level, not caring enough to change our actions.

“I want to say that I care about [COVID], but at the same time, like, I feel relaxed about it. I feel like it is over, but it isn’t, like with all the cases coming up now,” Student B, a Third Former, said.

 

This attitude is buoyed by the fact that many Haverford students don’t believe they would get that sick if they contracted COVID. We’re young; we’re (hopefully) vaccinated.

This attitude is buoyed by the fact that many Haverford students don’t believe they would get that sick if they contracted COVID. We’re young; we’re (hopefully) vaccinated.

“I mean, myself, personally I don’t worry about it because I’m very healthy. I don’t have any respiratory conditions, so I’m really not afraid of it cause I’m vaccinated, I got the booster, so I think I’ve done the maximum things that I could do to prevent people from getting COVID and myself from COVID,” Student C, a Fifth Former, told me as we sat unmasked in the dining hall. 

Obviously, we’re not doing the “maximum” amount of things that we could do to prevent COVID; we just do as much as is comfortable for us. Indeed, our community—and America as a whole—has failed at stopping the spread of COVID. Data from Johns Hopkins shows that at least 20% of Americans have contracted COVID at some point in the pandemic. If you haven’t gotten COVID, you certainly know someone who has. 

“A lot of people have gotten COVID at, like, our school, but no one’s really gotten too sick and died, and I don’t know anyone that’s died from COVID,” Student D, a Fifth Former, said.

Students feel like COVID is unavoidable, and many aren’t socially distant outside of school.

“I’m about to be with my friends after school. The second I get into that car, my mask is going to be off,” Student B said. 

Thus, any on-campus COVID restrictions dictated by the school have less of an effect than one might think. 

“Because most people like hang outside of school with each other, so they’re like, ‘Why should I really care about social distancing at school if I’m literally just going to be next to them outside of school?’” Student D said. 

We’re left in a strange situation. Haverford’s COVID restrictions are rendered virtually meaningless because of indoor dining, sports, and students’ activity outside of school; more and more people continue to get COVID; and yet, we don’t want to return to the isolation of last year. Students might not get seriously sick from COVID, but they can still spread it to people who will. After acknowledging this idea, Student D came to a conclusion:

“But, I don’t know. It’s kind of like, complicated,” Student D said.  

It is indeed complicated. I don’t want to shame us for not being cautious about COVID, but I also don’t want to say that student flouting of the rules is without consequences. COVID is still causing pain and destruction, from the death of loved ones to the struggle of healthcare workers at overcrowded hospitals.

We want to be with friends and see each other’s faces. There’s nothing wrong with that. But we should take responsibility for our roles in spreading COVID.

Rather than ignoring the subject or justifying our actions with dull excuses, we should acknowledge that we’re tired of feeling isolated and that our actions may cause others pain. We want to be with friends and see each other’s faces. There’s nothing wrong with that. But we should take responsibility for our roles in spreading COVID. You don’t have to look far into history to see that the condition of deluding oneself into thinking he is innocent may be more destructive than any virus.

Author: Joey Kauffman '23

Joseph Kauffman is an Editor-In-Chief for The Index, a position he assumed in May 2021. He previously served as editor of the Features section, where he won a Silver Key from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for his features piece “Students Ponder The Social Dilemma.” His review of the movie "I'm Thinking of Ending Things" also earned him second place in the Pennsylvania Press Club Annual High School Journalism Contest. Before joining The Index, Joey spent a near decade in Lower and Middle school, workshopping with his peers. When not writing articles, Joey can be found at various restaurants across the Delaware Valley.