Our Ethical Duty to Practice Social Distancing

By Nicole Prozan, Opinion Editor

// Pictures of Acalanes students at the beach, in San Francisco, and generally out-and-about flood my Instagram feed with captions ranging from “Coronacation” to “3 weeks of spring break!” While the cancellation of school may seem to be an excuse to treat the next few weeks as a vacation, we must understand that this is not for fun.

“Public health officials share with us that a school closure at this juncture can have a negative impact on public health and certainly not ‘flatten the curve’ if students do not stay home and practice social distancing. You should not have normal social interaction with peers and the community. Please do your part, so our school closure contributes to our community health and efforts with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Superintendent John Nickerson shared In an email sent out to the district on the evening of Friday, March 13.

AUHSD moved to cancel school to limit interaction, therefore, slowing the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) within our community. If we, as students, do not follow the guidelines of social distancing, this school cancellation will do nothing to protect us, our parents, our grandparents, and any other people we come into contact with.
Let’s be utterly clear: this is a pandemic, unlike anything we have lived through before. Though death rates among individuals younger than 60 years old pale in comparison to those older than 60, young people can still be infected with the virus. Even more problematic is the fact that younger people infected are generally asymptomatic. Because younger people do not exhibit symptoms of the virus, they can more easily carry it to high-risk individuals.

According to the CDC, the virus can spread between people who are less than six feet apart. In restaurants, coffee shops, and even within the homes of our closest friends, it is almost impossible to keep a six-foot distance between people. The only way to ensure that you and your loved ones are protected is to isolate and create distance.
As of Sunday, March 15, Contra Costa County had 29 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Additionally, Governor Gavin Newsom called for the closure of all bars, nightclubs, and wineries in California.

We have an ethical obligation to practice social distancing. Our desire to spend time with friends or go out to dinner is not nearly as important as the health and safety of our Acalanes community, as well as the American community as a whole.
Though we may not view spending time with friends as a threat to our community, that is simply not the case. Even going to spend time at a friend’s house increases the risk of the virus spreading, as engaging in unnecessary contact allows the virus to spread increasingly through our community. On Jan. 14, the U.S. had 0 cases of the virus. Now, only a month and a half later, we have over 3000 confirmed cases according to a New York Times Database. If we do not take action now, that number will grow exponentially and the consequences will be dire.

The U.S. faces a case of an overwhelmed healthcare system forcing extensive triage, similar to Italy, if we do not take immediate action regarding social distancing. The United States has about 45,000 intensive care unit beds. Additionally, a recent report from the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins found that about 160,000 ventilators are currently available for patient care. Estimates of the spread with no precautionary measures reach as high as 9.4 million, according to the New York Times.
By implementing social distancing practices, we can slow the spread of the virus and lessen its impact on our healthcare system by avoiding one huge outbreak. This will eliminate the need for triage, and allow for patients to receive better care.

Luckily, we live in a time where technology provides ample resources to continue our daily life with only mild interruption. Students in this area are generally well equipped and need to use technology to limit social interactions. We can order food on DoorDash or Instacart (support small, local businesses!), complete our assignments through google classroom, and use apps such as Skype or Facetime to keep in touch with family and friends.

For the sake of our community, our healthcare system, and our nation, please stay home and limit time with other individuals. If not for yourself, do it for your loved ones and other members of our community. Nothing, not even an instagrammable beach day or outing with your friends, is more important than slowing the spread of this pandemic.

Leave a Reply