New Year incites a dangerous mindset around COVID-19

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Photo by Grace Livecchi '21

The mindset that 2021 will be a “clean slate” is jeopardizing our chance at preventing a repeat of the last 365 days. The new year is not time to be more lenient with our COVID-19 protocols, but an opportunity to remain diligent and make 2021 what we all want it to be.

Aidan Rogers '22, Paper Arts Editor

2021 has brought us false hope. The first day of the year was looked at with much excitement and anticipation,  as if the moment the clock struck 12:00 our lunch dividers would be put down, our masks would be ripped off and our loved ones would be taken out of their hospital beds. But, the struggles of the world don’t follow a calendar. 

The mindset that 2021 will be a “clean slate” is jeopardizing our chance at preventing a repeat of the last 365 days. The new year is not time to be more lenient with our COVID-19 protocols, but an opportunity to remain diligent and make 2021 what we all want it to be.

I have witnessed a tendency in Westport residents to feel like the conditions of the pandemic are looking up. Because we have lived in these conditions so long, they manifest a false sense of progress out of the opening of a new store or another sport being allowed to play.  By their attitudes, I could infer that the crisis is nearly over. Yet, things are truly worse than ever. 

Cases have spiked locally and worldwide as a new, more contagious strain of COVID-19 begins to spread. Yes, there is some vaccine availability. But, the vaccine is still at least a few hopeful weeks away for teachers, and it could take months to be available to the majority of students. Without the shot, risk of infection has only worsened.

So why now do we beg for the CIAC to renew our winter sports schedules? Why now are we choosing to return our middle and elementary schools to fully in-person learning? These efforts, while they are well-intentioned, run the risk of pushing normalcy of our athletic, academic and social lives further into the future.

School is important. There is no argument against it. But sending elementary and middle school students back to in-person learning seems like a most coordinated effort against progress. A building jam-packed with touchy, snotty kids will be the perfect opportunity for the virus to re-establish itself in Westport.

If we return to school and sports prematurely we also put lives at risk. The greater problem is not the teammate or student that gives a friend COVID; it’s the person who brings it home to a vulnerable family member.

In early December, my family lost my 96-year-old great-grandmother to COVID-19.  She was a vibrant and happy person, and when she turned 95, she told everyone she wanted to make it to 102. She lived in an assisted living facility that had done extraordinarily well throughout the early stages of the pandemic. That is until they had their first case. The devastation that the virus caused in their small community and the passing of my loving great grandmother changed the way I look at why we quarantine. 

Whether it be my grandparents who live down the road or my at-risk brother who sleeps in the room next to mine, the odds that reopening will end in success are nowhere near good enough for me to gamble with their lives.

Our relationship with COVID-19 works in a loop: cases increase, lockdown is intensified; cases decrease, we loosen lockdown; then cases increase again and we fall back into the same tiring cycle. Escape from this cyclical future requires continued vigilance.

Strengthening quarantine protocols and not giving so much viability to false progress will offer the greatest assurance of regularity in Westport.

I still have hope for 2021. It isn’t hope that the new year will bring us change; it is hope that we will bring change to the new year.

New Year Incites a dangerous mindset around COVID-19