The COVID-19 Counterattack


Eighth-grader Bryant Johnston utilizes the hand sanitizer station located in the Commons. Albert Lea High School implemented these stations at every entrance, and there are two thermal scanners situated at the Pool Doors and the Commons entrance as well.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first arrived in the United States in March of 2020, we didn’t know how serious it was. The media was putting out all sorts of information, and we were left to determine what we thought was true and what was not. Some people chose to treat it as a big deal. Others shrugged it off and continued to live their lives as normal. 

I was the former. I have a family member who struggles with multiple respiratory issues, which means that I have to treat COVID-19 as something that could easily put their life in danger. While the people around me could go on with their day-to-day activities, I had to follow the instructions and guidelines that had been set by the Center for Disease Control as perfectly as I could. I had to stop working, I couldn’t hang out with friends, and leaving the house was an extremely rare opportunity. 

Like most people, wearing a mask has become a part of my life. Every time I leave the house, my mom tells me, “Mask up!” In Minnesota, wearing a mask is required whenever you enter a building. This is because masks are an effective way to limit the spread of the virus. According to CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield, “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally in a community setting.” 

Despite the expert recommendations from some of the most educated doctors and scientists, there are a number of people who are outwardly opposed to masks. I have heard people argue that they do not need to wear a mask because it is their body and their choice. While wearing a mask can prevent a person from breathing in the expelled virus particles from someone else, the main purpose of masking up is to protect those around you. When someone chooses not to wear a mask, it is not just their body that they are affecting. They are unfairly making the decision to put someone else at risk. 

Wearing a mask is not a political decision, and the pandemic is not a made-up issue. It is a public health concern that we must take seriously. The good news about this dire situation is that we do have a considerable amount of control over it. If we choose to wear our masks, follow social distancing guidelines, and stay home when we are feeling unwell, we can slow the spread of the virus until it is no longer a threat in our community. In the midst of a pandemic like this one, it is our responsibility to be considerate of not only ourselves, but of those around us who may be at a higher risk. None of the guidelines set by the CDC are outrageously difficult or impossible to integrate into our lives. Putting a mask on every time you enter a building or move within six feet of someone else is not asking too much. Staying away from friends and coworkers is not fun, but it is something we simply have to do until COVID-19 is no longer such a daunting issue. It can be challenging to take a sick day and risk falling behind on school or work when you don’t feel quite right, but it is the right thing to do to protect yourself and everyone else you could come in contact with. Refusing to follow these simple guidelines is a selfish decision, because, as I noted earlier, they have been set not only to prevent you from contracting the virus, but also to prevent you from unknowingly spreading it to others. 

We the student body have a decision to make in regards to how the rest of this school year proceeds. We can wear our masks both inside and outside of school, maintain a good distance when spending time with others, make a point of checking in on how we feel, and overall, make responsible and respectful choices each day. Doing so could only have a positive effect on our community, and it would increase the likelihood of our school returning to in-person learning by the end of the year. We could continue to play sports, start to have music concerts, and our seniors could have a normal graduation ceremony. All of this could be accomplished simply by following the recommendations of the CDC and other health experts. On the other hand, we could blow the guidelines off and try to live like we did before the outbreak. We could wear our masks below our noses, which is incorrect and unhelpful, not wear masks at all, ignore social distancing requirements, hang out in large groups of people, and make irresponsible and unhealthy choices outside of school. The results of these actions are clear. Since we would not be acting in a way that would help stop the spread of the virus, we would find ourselves watching as the number of cases in our county rises uncontrollably. The chances of our school shutting down completely and going to entirely distance learning would skyrocket. Our sports teams would not be able to practice or compete. Our music concerts would be cancelled indefinitely. There would be absolutely no chance of a regular graduation ceremony, which is something our seniors undoubtedly deserve after pushing through all of the trials and tribulations that have been thrust upon them. I don’t want that to happen. I can’t name one person who wants that to happen. We all know what we have to do, it is only a matter of following through and doing it. 

So, the next time you leave your house to go anywhere at all, grab a mask. Wear it correctly, situated above your nose and fitted below your chin. It isn’t too much to ask, and yes, you can still breathe. When you engage in conversation with someone else, don’t stand too close. If you’re unsure of how great of a distance six feet is, take another step back, just to be safe. If, for some reason, you have to directly touch someone who is not a family member, be sure to use hand sanitizer or wash your hands afterwards. Stay on top of your hygiene and your health. If you don’t feel good, stay home. It is better for you to miss a few hours of school than to risk infecting dozens of classmates and teachers by showing up. The teachers understand, and they are willing to work with you on your makeup work if you are unwell. If you get invited to a large gathering, say no, or at the very least, ensure that people are following the guidelines while spending time together. There will be plenty of other opportunities to spend time with friends after the pandemic has ended. If you have to question whether or not something you are doing could possibly put you or others at risk of contracting the virus, don’t do it. 

Lastly, don’t give up. If we follow the advice of the medical professionals who are working tirelessly to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19, our lives can and will get better again.