The Dangers of Resuming Our Lives



An electron micrograph shows a cell infected with COVID-19. The pandemic has forced a contentious debate about when and how to reopen schools and the broader economy.

How to respond to this pandemic rests on a principle question of ethics: What matters more, the economy or human life?

To cite the CDC, it has been said that COVID-19 has a mortality rate from around 0.25% to about 0.40%. Add to that the release of the CDC’s next statistic that 94% of deaths had an underlying cause or condition, and it becomes clear why some people underestimate the danger of COVID-19. However, the 94% statistic is not as comforting as it sounds. It merely means that people with underlying conditions are dying at a higher rate than those without. It is also important to note that while some may interpret this to mean that the prior underlying conditions combined with COVID to raise one’s vulnerability, it is important to note that COVID may in fact lead to these complications. In other words, this statistic has zero effect on the death toll.

On the surface, these relatively low mortality rates may seem insignificant, but on a larger scale, as millions and millions of people get sick, the number starts to skyrocket. At this point, there have been more than 1,078,000 deaths. While most teens think they are young and healthy, many would realize that they technically fit into the category of having an “underlying condition.” This means it is important to look at your health status. Whether it be asthma or a weakened immune system, could you too have complications that may make you more vulnerable to the virus?

There is no question that Newport Beach is a red dot in a blue state. It is also apparent that our city is much less cautious in our everyday lives than most of the country or our state. Many community members do not wear or believe in masks and have not let COVID-19 affect their lives. To quote a local, “If someone is uncomfortable with me not wearing a mask, then they should just stay home.”

A quick stroll through our beaches over Labor Day weekend revealed thousands of people crowded without a mask in sight. Considering the number of tourists in town for the three-day weekend, combined with the lack of any social distancing guidelines, it becomes clear why there are so many cases in our city. Even a local physician suggested a ‘Goldilocks approach’ where, they argue, being too cautious is just as bad as not being cautious enough. But is being too cautious a bad thing?

As schools, such as our own, begin to plan for reopening, I have become skeptical of the measures taken to ensure my safety as a student. Some questions begin to arise when you seriously start to think about the logistics of the reopening. Is it safe for schools to return yet? Are we just acting out of haste due to pressure from parents in the community? Does anybody honestly believe that there will not be an outbreak in our school within the month? How many weeks do you think we will be in person before we repeat the cycle?

Additionally, I have concerns about the trust the school puts on teens to be responsible outside of the classroom. In an ideal world, high schoolers would think before they go party, effectively endangering the lives of their schoolmates’ families. However, it is unrealistic to expect this. I refuse to become another statistic.

It is also important to point out that many extracurricular activities are waiting for schools to go back to resume. This would create a domino effect, which would only further contribute to the spike in cases after schools’ reopening. 

Many students, including myself, would not even be allowed to go back to school if we did happen to switch back to in-person learning. This could be for various reasons, one of which is possibly having at-risk family members.  This will likely put the students who cannot return to school at a considerable disadvantage compared to their fellow students who would return. 

A growing number of colleges that opened for the fall semester are again beginning to close, prompted by the schools’ inevitable outbreaks. It is beginning to look like another school year may be cut short due to COVID-19, which is not ideal, but it is something that we must come to terms with. We are lucky to finally live in an age where a pandemic does not have to come between us and our education. Sixty years ago, distance learning would not be a possibility. The motivating factor for returning to school should be out of necessity, not tradition. We should learn from the mistakes of others and continue distance learning. Hindsight is always 20/20, and don’t we want to look back and be glad we played it safe rather than be sorry we didn’t?

Bram Klein is a junior at Newport Harbor High School.